Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Moscow Rejects Armenian Criticism of Russian Peacekeepers

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MOSCOW (RFE/RL) — Responding to criticism by Armenia, Russia said on April 15 that its peacekeeping forces did not breach any agreements when they refused to allow Armenian opposition parliamentarians to visit Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this week.

The deputies representing Armenia two main opposition groups had headed to Karabakh on April 12 as part of their campaign against far-reaching Armenian concessions to Azerbaijan. Russian peacekeepers manning a checkpoint in the Lachin corridor connecting Armenia and Karabakh did not allow them to proceed to Stepanakert.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the peacekeepers’ actions, saying that they run counter to the terms of the Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in November 2020. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan echoed the criticism on April 13.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the Russian soldiers acted “in strict conformity” with the truce accord. Claims to the contrary “do not correspond to reality,” she said.

“We expect that given the incidents that have taken place both in the zone of responsibility of the [Russian Peacekeeping Contingent] and at certain sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, both sides will refrain from steps that could further aggravate the situation in the region,” Zakharova added in written comments. She did not clarify the reason for the travel ban.

Armenian opposition leaders claim that they were barred from entering Karabakh at the behest of Armenia government. They argue that lawmakers representing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s party condemned the trip when it was announced by their opposition colleagues beforehand.

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The government has denied any responsibility for the unprecedented ban.

Pashinyan and the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan have also criticized the peacekeepers for not preventing Azerbaijani troops from seizing a village in Karabakh and nearby hills late last month. They have repeatedly called on Moscow to investigate the peacekeepers’ “inactivity.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to dismiss the criticism after holding talks with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan in Moscow on April 8.

“Calls for bringing this contingent to account and conducting an internal inquiry, which are sometimes voiced, do not reflect the real attitude of the Armenian people and leadership towards the huge role that the Russian peacekeeping contingent plays in maintaining stability in this region,” he said.

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