Russia urges restraint after shootout near Nagorno-Karabakh

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia said Monday that its forces helped end a deadly weekend clash between Azerbaijani soldiers and the police of Nagorno-Karabakh, urging all parties to show restraint.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. In 2020, Azerbaijani troops routed Armenian forces in six weeks of fighting that ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal allowing Azerbaijan to take a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh and reclaim nearby areas which had been in Armenian hands for nearly two decades.

Tensions soared again in December when Azerbaijani protesters claiming to be environmental activists blocked the main road between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving its 120,000 residents short of food and other basic supplies.

Last month, the United Nations’ highest court ordered Azerbaijan to allow the resumption of free movement along the so-called Lachin corridor, but the situation has remained tense.

On Sunday, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said a shootout occurred when Azerbaijani soldiers went to check vehicles suspected of transporting weapons along an auxiliary dirt road that links Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia’s Interior Ministry dismissed the claim and described the shooting as an “ambush,” saying that three police officers from Nagorno-Karabakh were killed.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that its troops patrolling the region as peacekeepers under the 2020 Moscow-brokered deal moved quickly to halt the clash. The ministry confirmed that three Nagorno-Karabakh police officers were killed and added that two Azerbaijani troops also died in the shootout.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern about Sunday’s shooting and urged all parties to show restraints and make steps to de-escalate the situation.

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