Russia has accused Azerbaijan of violating a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh and called for the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces from an area in eastern Karabakh occupied by them this week.
The Azerbaijani army on Thursday reportedly captured Parukh, a village in Karabakh’s Askeran district, before advancing towards strategic hills to the west of it controlled by Karabakh Armenian forces. Fighting in that area continued for the second consecutive day on Saturday despite the presence of Russian peacekeeping troops.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Azerbaijani army units “entered the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent” in breach of the 2020 truce accord. It also confirmed that they used Turkish-made combat drones to strike Karabakh Armenian positions near Parukh.
“At present, the command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent is taking measures to resolve the situation and return the troops to their original position,” added the statement. “A call for the withdrawal of the troops was sent to the Azerbaijani side.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said, meanwhile, that it is “extremely concerned” about the rising tensions in Karabakh. It urged the warring sides to “show restraint” and avoid ceasefire violations.
Earlier on Saturday, the Armenian Foreign Ministry urged Moscow to “issue a clear demand” for the Azerbaijani withdrawal. It said Yerevan also expects the Russian peacekeepers to take other “concrete, visible steps to resolve the situation.”
The United States also expressed serious concern over the movement of Azerbaijani troops in Nagorno-Karabakh and considers these and other escalation moves irresponsible and provocative. Jalina Porter, Principal Deputy Spokesperson at the U.S. Department of State, told reporters on Friday.
“The United States is deeply concerned about the movement of Azerbaijani troops in Nagorno-Karabakh. The movement of troops and other escalation moves are irresponsible and create an unnecessary provocation,” she said.
“We are closely monitoring the situation along the line of contact,” Porter said. “Armenia and Azerbaijan need to use direct channels of communication to immediately de-escalate,” she said.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to exercise restraint against the backdrop of the escalation of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The Secretary-General is concerned about reports of new fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. The Secretary-General calls on the parties to refrain from any actions and statements that could lead to an escalation of the situation and to resolve all issues, including those of a humanitarian nature, through direct dialogue within the existing formats,” a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric told a press briefing.