A view of the village of Khnapat in the Askeran district of Nagorno-Karabakh, March 11, 2022

Fighting Continues in Karabakh

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STEPANAKERT (azatutyun.am) — Fighting continued in Nagorno-Karabakh on Saturday, March 26, with military authorities in Stepanakert accusing Azerbaijani forces of trying to push deeper into Karabakh’s eastern Askeran district.

The Karabakh Armenian army said that its troops are “taking appropriate measures to stop the enemy’s advance.” It said it is also working with the Russian peacekeeping contingent stationed in the Armenian-populated territory to try to stop the hostilities.

The Karabakh state minister, Artak Beglaryan, spoke later in the afternoon of an “unsuccessful” Azerbaijani attack on one of the Karabakh Armenian positions in the area.

Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry claimed, meanwhile, that Armenian forces tried to launch a sabotage attack on one of its frontline positions but were pushed back. Karabakh’s Defense Army was quick to dismiss the claim as a “complete lie” designed to cover up the Azerbaijani truce violations.

Tensions along the Karabakh “line of contact” rose dramatically on Thursday after Azerbaijani forces reportedly captured a village in Askeran and tried to advance to strategic hills to the west of it. Three Karabakh Armenian soldiers were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded in the area on Friday.

An Armenian police officer patrols as the truck of Russian peacekeeping forces moves past him at their checkpoint outside Askeran, November 20, 2020

The US State Department expressed serious concern over the Azerbaijani troop movements, calling them “irresponsible and unnecessarily provocative.” The French Foreign Ministry similarly urged Baku to withdraw its troops to the positions occupied by them before Thursday.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan discussed the situation in Karabakh in a phone call late on Friday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the following morning that the two leaders also spoke by phone on Thursday. He did not comment on Russia’s possible responses to the escalation.

Armenian officials have said that they expect the 2,000 or so Russian peacekeepers to do more to ensure Baku’s compliance with the ceasefire regime and withdrawal from the village of Parukh.

According to Beglaryan, the Russian peacekeepers are maintaining their presence in Parukh as well as the nearby village of Khramort. They have made “considerable efforts” to prevent further ceasefire violations, said the Karabakh official.

Earlier on Saturday, Karabakh’s leadership announced that it has appealed to Putin to deploy more Russian soldiers in Karabakh. It said that the existing peacekeeping contingent is too small to carry out its mission in the current circumstances.

The Russian peacekeepers were deployed in Karabakh under the terms of a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in November 2020.

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