Russian peacekeeping troops deployed to the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday as part of a ceasefire deal to end six weeks of heavy fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces. Under the deal, Azerbaijan will keep territorial gains made in the fighting, including the enclave’s second city of Shusha. Ethnic Armenian forces must give up control of a slew of other territories between now and Dec. 1.
Azerbaijan has said it has recaptured the symbolic town of Shusha, a claim denied by Armenian officials as fighting in the bloody six-week-old battle over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory appeared to reach an apex. As many as 5,000 people have died since Azerbaijan launched an offensive in late September to reclaim Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory but under the de facto control of Armenians since a ceasefire was agreed between the two former Soviet neighbors in 1994.
About 600 people are now reported to have died in clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The contested territory’s military said 16 more of its service people were killed in fighting on Tuesday – bringing the total number of those killed to 532 since fighting started on 27 September. Azerbaijan is yet to disclose its military fatalities – but authorities reported that 42 civilians had been killed.
A Russian-brokered humanitarian ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh was under severe strain on Sunday a day after it was agreed, with Azerbaijan and Armenia accusing each other of serious violations and crimes against civilians. The ceasefire, clinched after marathon talks in Moscow advocated by President Vladimir Putin, was meant to halt fighting to allow ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azeri forces to swap prisoners and war dead.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and France’s Emmanuel Macron have called for an immediate ceasefire between ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan, as the official death toll passed 100 and the two sides said they would continue fighting. The two sides are engaged in the heaviest fighting in years over Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian province that broke away from Azerbaijan in the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed.