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

Russian Peacekeepers to Boost Presence in Karabakh Hotspot

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By Artak Khulian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh said on Tuesday, March 29 that it would deploy more soldiers in and around a local village that was occupied by Azerbaijani forces last week.

In a social media post, the contingent’s command said the deployment of its “reserve forces” is aimed at preventing the Azerbaijani army from pushing deeper into Karabakh’s eastern Askeran district.

Azerbaijani troops captured the Askeran village of Parukh and advanced towards a strategic mountain to the west of it last Thursday, meeting with stiff resistance from Karabakh Armenian forces. Deadly fighting there stopped by Saturday evening following the intervention of the Russian peacekeepers.

The peacekeepers took control of Parukh on Monday after Moscow warned Baku to leave their “zone of responsibility.” According to Karabakh authorities, although Azerbaijani forces withdrew from the village itself, they continue to occupy a section of the Karaglukh mountain.

Karabakh’s Defense Army said on Monday that it is also taking “additional containment measures” to avert further Azerbaijani advances in the area about 35 kilometers east of Stepanakert.

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Arayik Harutiunyan, the Karabakh president, said, for his part, that the authorities in Stepanakert keep trying to ensure a full Azerbaijani troop withdrawal with the help of the Russian peacekeepers.

In what may have a related development, Baku unblocked on Monday supplies of natural gas from Armenia to Karabakh.

The supplies were cut off on March 8 after a section of a pipeline passing through Azerbaijani-controlled territory was knocked out by an apparent explosion, leaving most Karabakh residents without winter heating and forcing the temporary closure of local schools. Armenian and Karabakh officials say the disruption was part of Baku’s efforts to compel Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population to leave the disputed territory.

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