(Updates with Azerbaijan’s comments)
BAKU, March 26 (Reuters) – Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday Azeri armed forces had entered a zone policed by Russian peacekeepers in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, in a violation of an agreement, but Azerbaijan challenged these claims.
Russia said it had called on Azerbaijan to pull out its troops, and was “applying efforts” to move forces to their initial positions. It also said Azerbaijan had carried out four drone strikes in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s defence ministry refuted Moscow’s version of events and described Russia’s statement as “one-sided”.
It said that “illegal” Armenian armed units attempted an act of sabotage, but had to retreat when “immediate measures” were applied. It reiterated Azerbaijan’s commitment to the “three-way statement” – a deal it signed with Armenia and Russia in November 2020 to end the military conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region after more than a month of bloodshed.
Azerbaijan emerged as the victor in that conflict, having recaptured territory it had lost in an earlier war between 1991 and 1994.
But many questions remain unresolved, including the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Armenians who live there.
Moscow deployed almost 2,000 peacekeepers to the region after the ceasefire, reaffirming its role as policeman and chief power broker in a volatile part of the former Soviet Union where Turkey also wields increasing influence thanks to its close alliance with Azerbaijan. (Reporting by Reuters reporters, Nailia Bagirova, Editing by Christina Fincher)