MOSCOW, (BM) – Russia has begun sending Mi-8 and Mi-24 combat helicopters to carry out its peacekeeping operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Eight of the machines are already at Yerevan airport, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing Bulgarian news agency Segabg.com.
“The helicopters will be deployed (…) to carry out air monitoring in the ceasefire and military control areas,” the statement said. Earlier, the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces announced that 414 Russian peacekeepers and several dozen units of armored vehicles, as well as helicopters and drones were sent to Nagorno-Karabakh in a day.
Russia’s entire peacekeeping mission will include 1,960 military small arms, 90 armored personnel carriers, 380 vehicles and other equipment, helicopters and planes. Armenian Defense Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan announced that Armenian air defense and Russian peacekeepers have already completely closed the country’s airspace and Artsakh [the Armenian name for Karabakh]. All flights are prohibited, except for military and ordered and pre-approved civil aviation.
At the same time, protests against the decision to sign the armistice with Azerbaijan have not subsided in Armenia for the second day, which is why Yerevan must cede the Kelbajar, Lachin and Agdam regions in Karabakh. Ten opposition leaders were detained during last night’s protests, according to the website of the Special Investigation Service. They are suspected of “organizing and holding a meeting in violation of the established legal order.”
Among those detained are former National Security Service chief Artur Vanetsyan; Prosperous Armenia party leader Gagik Tsarukyan; the leader of the National Security Party Garnik Isagulyan; the political scientist Suren Surenyants; the representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation “Dashnaktsutyun” Gegam Manukyan and Ishkhan Sagatelyan; former Deputy Speakers of Parliament Ara Sahakyan and Eduard Sharmazanov; the founder of the United Armenia party Artur Kazinyan; the oppositionist David Ambartsumyan.
Some of them are also suspected of violating the temporary restrictions imposed by the martial law in the country and are threatened with imprisonment for up to 5 years. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on the occasion of the rallies organized by the Armenian opposition that it was trying to speculate on the issue with the agreements on the cessation of hostilities.
Lavrov also said there would definitely be no peacekeepers from Turkey in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to him, the so-called Russia’s and Turkey’s monitoring center on the disputed area will operate only in “remote mode, using drones”. “The limits of mobility of Turkish observers will be limited only to the premises of the monitoring center, which will be determined by the Azerbaijani side on its territory and not on the territory of the former conflict. As for the statements made in the Turkish parliament that “The Turkish forces will work on the same grounds as the Russians – this is exclusively a peacekeeping center that will work remotely, without any missions. This center is located on the territory of Azerbaijan,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian and foreign media. “No Turkish peacekeepers will be sent to Nagorno-Karabakh” also he said.
The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh escalated on September 27, active clashes are taking place in the disputed territory. Martial law was introduced in Azerbaijan and Armenia, and mobilization was announced. Both sides reported killed and wounded, including civilians. In Baku, they announced the control of several Karabakh villages and strategic heights. Yerevan also reports about the shelling of the territory of Armenia.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been in conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh since February 1988, when the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan SSR.
During the armed conflict in 1992-1994, the Azerbaijani side lost control of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven areas adjacent to it. Since 1992, negotiations have been conducted within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group on a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The group is led by co-chairs – Russia, USA and France.
In 1994, Azerbaijan, Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, through the mediation of Russia, signed the Bishkek Armistice Protocol. At the same time, military operations did not stop there, which periodically renewed. The most significant exacerbation of the conflict was the four-day war of 2016. Then hundreds of soldiers on both sides became victims.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during a meeting with the President of Azerbaijan last year, called for a rhetoric that would go against the fundamental principles endorsed by both sides and enshrined in the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act when resolving the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh. At the same time, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry admitted that much more needs to be done to achieve a long-term political settlement.
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