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Russia Begins Troop Karabakh Withdrawal04/23 06:23

   

   MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian forces are being withdrawn from Azerbaijan's Karabakh 
region, where they have been stationed as peacekeepers since the end of a war 
in 2020, officials of both countries said Wednesday.

   In a conference call with journalists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov 
confirmed reports of the withdrawal but did not give further details. Hikmet 
Hajiyev, the head of foreign policy in Azerbaijan's presidential 
administration, also confirmed the withdrawal, saying it was agreed to by both 
countries.

   Hajiyev did not say why the forces were being withdrawn, but their presence 
appeared superfluous after Azerbaijan regained full control of the region last 
year.

   The Karabakh region had been under the control of ethnic Armenians until a 
war in 2020 that resulted in Azerbaijan regaining control of parts of the 
region.

   That war ended with a Russia-brokered cease-fire that called for placing 
about 2,000 peacekeeping troops in the parts of Karabakh that were still held 
by Armenians. The forces' duties were to include ensuring free passage on the 
sole road connecting Karabakh with Armenia.

   But Azerbaijan began blocking the road in late 2022, alleging Armenians were 
using it for weapons shipments and to smuggle minerals, and the Russian forces 
did not intervene.

   After months of increasingly dire food and medicine shortages in Karabakh 
due to the blockade, Azerbaijan launched a lighting blitz in September 2023 
that forced the Karabakh Armenian authorities to capitulate after one day in 
negotiations mediated by Russian forces.

   After Azerbaijan regained full control of Karabakh, which had a population 
of around 120,000, more than 100,000 of the region's ethnic Armenians fled, 
although Azerbaijan said they were welcome to stay and promised their human 
rights would be ensured.

 
 
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