Armenia urges Putin to take action against Karabakh blockade

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Tuesday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to take “necessary” steps to reopen a key transit corridor between Armenia and the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Since mid-December, a group of Azerbaijanis have been blocking the only route to Karabakh from Armenia to protest against what they claim is illegal mining by the Armenian population of the region.

Due to the blockade, the mountainous region of some 120,000 people lacks food, medicine and fuel.

Armenia has repeatedly expressed dismay at what it sees as Moscow’s reluctance to end a “humanitarian crisis”.

In telephone talks with Putin on Tuesday, the Armenian leader “underlined the importance for Russia to take the necessary measures” to overcome the crisis, his office said without being more specific.

“In this context, the activities of the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh were discussed,” Pashinyan’s office said in a statement.

The Kremlin, in a terse statement, said the two leaders discussed the current situation, stressing the importance of implementing all agreements negotiated by Russia.

Moscow is seeking to maintain its role as an intermediary between the former Soviet republics despite being bogged down in its own offensive in Ukraine. The Kremlin hopes its delicate balancing act in the South Caucasus will ensure good relations not only with its traditional ally, Armenia, but also with Azerbaijan and its backer, Turkey.

Armenia has accused Azerbaijan, its sworn enemy, of carrying out a “policy of ethnic cleansing” and forcing ethnic Armenians out of the breakaway region.

Azerbaijan has dismissed accusations that it orchestrated the blockade, insisting that civilian transport and goods can move freely in and out of the region.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh split from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed an estimated 30,000 lives.

Another outbreak of violence in 2020 claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered truce that saw Armenia cede territories it had controlled for decades to Azerbaijan.

Russia news

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