Russia begins to withdraw its peacekeeper forces from Karabakh

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Russian forces are being withdrawn from Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region, where they have been stationed as peacekeepers since the end of a war in 2020, officials of both countries confirmed on Wednesday.

Hikmet Hajiyev, the head of foreign policy in Azerbaijan’s presidential administration, did not say why the forces were being withdrawn. But he said their presence appeared superfluous after Azerbaijan regained full control of the region last year.

The Karabakh region had been under the control of ethnic Armenians until a war in 2020 that resulted in Azerbaijan regaining control of parts of the region.

The war ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire that included placing about 2,000 peacekeeping troops in parts of Karabakh still held by Armenians.

The forces’ duties included ensuring free passage on the only road connecting Karabakh with Armenia.

But Azerbaijan began blocking the road in late 2022, alleging that Armenia was using it for weapons shipments and to smuggle minerals. Russian forces did not intervene.

After months of increasingly dire food and medicine shortages in Karabakh due to the blockade, Azerbaijan launched a lighting attack in September 2023 that forced Karabakh’s Armenian authorities to capitulate after one day of negotiations mediated by Russian brokers.

Almost all of Karabakh’s 50,000-odd ethnic Armenian residents fled the region in the subsequent days.

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