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Russia deploys peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh as war draws to close

“A Russian peacekeeping contingent is being deployed along the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh and along the corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with the Republic of Armenia,” Putin said in a televised statement on Tuesday.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it had begun dispatching 1,960 servicemen, along with their equipment and vehicles.

“The fifth Il-76 military transport aircraft with Russian peacekeepers on board took off from the Ulyanovsk-Vostochny airfield. Personnel from the peacekeeping unit, armored personnel carriers, and materiel are on board,” the ministry said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia signed a statement on ending the war in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh. The ceasefire agreement came into effect overnight.

Azerbaijan and Armenia had been fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh since September. Russia was attempting to mediate an end to the war.

Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is held by ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia since 1992, when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.

The aftermath of recent shelling is seen in the city of Stepanakert, in Nagorno-Karabakh, during a military conflict over the breakaway region, on November 6, 2020. (Handout via Reuters)

According to Putin, the two warring sides would exchange prisoners of war and the war dead, and all economic and transport links in the area would be reopened.

Under the deal, Azerbaijan will reportedly get to keep all of its territorial gains, and ethnic Armenian forces must hand over control of a number of other territories between now and December 1.

Putin expressed hope that the deal would pave the way for a lasting political settlement of the conflict in the region.

“We are operating on the premise that the agreements will create the necessary conditions for a long-term and fully-fledged settlement of the crisis around Nagorno-Karabakh on a fair basis and in the interests of the Armenian and Azeri peoples,” the Russian president said.

Azerbaijan, Turkey discuss Russo-Turkish peacekeeping force

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said Turkey — which is an ally of Azerbaijan — would also be involved in the peacekeeping efforts.

Earlier on Tuesday, Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, discussed creating a joint Russian-Turkish peacekeeping center to monitor the truce.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara was continuing discussions on how to observe and monitor the ceasefire.

Cavusoglu told reporters that the deal would ensure that the seven regions around Karabakh are handed to Azerbaijan.

Russia denies agreement on Turkish peacekeepers

Separately, the Kremlin said on Tuesday that there was no agreement about the deployment of Turkish peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“I will comment on it like this: there is not a [single] word about it in the text of the joint statement, the three sides never negotiated it, and the presence of Turkish troops in Karabakh was not coordinated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Peskov said that a center to monitor the ceasefire, located outside Nagorno-Karabakh, was subject to a separate agreement.

‘Ceasefire was unavoidable’

Nagorno-Karabakh’s leader Arayik Harutyunyan said the ceasefire was unavoidable.

“We lost Fizuli, Dzhabrail, Qubadli, Zangilan, and the Hadrut district, parts of the Martuni and Askeran districts, and, most importantly, Shushi. The fighting was already on the outskirts of Stepanakert, at a distance of 2-3 kilometers. At this pace, within days, we would have lost all Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh],” Harutyunyan wrote on Facebook.

The deal followed three failed ceasefire attempts and relentless advances by Azeri troops.

‘The army said it was necessary to stop’

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said, “The decision was made based on a deep analysis of the combat situation and in conjunction with the best experts.”

“This is not a victory, but there is no defeat until you consider yourself defeated. We will never consider ourselves defeated, and this shall become a new start of an era of our national unity and rebirth,” Pashinyan wrote on social media.

He said that Yerevan had agreed to the deal after “the army, in fact, insisted on doing it.”

“You can imagine the situation when the army says that it is necessary to stop, ” he said.

“Military resources were not completely efficient,” he added, noting that some fighters on the front-line had not taken any rest in a month.

The defense ministry of the disputed region said on Tuesday its total military death toll had risen to 1,302 since the latest wave of fighting erupted.

Military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh ceased

Armenia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh had ceased completely.

Ministry spokeswoman Shushan Stepanyan said the situation in the conflict zone had been calm since early morning.

Protesters storm Armenia parliament

Following Pashinyan’s statement, hundreds of protesters angry at the deal stormed Armenia’s parliament in the early hours of Tuesday and seized control of its chamber to decry the country’s leadership.

Taking the seats of parliamentarians, the protesters shouted “Resign!” or “Out!”

Armenians protest against the country’s agreement to end fighting with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, inside the parliament in Yerevan, Armenia, on November 10, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Earlier, thousands of protesters had gathered outside the government headquarters in Yerevan and stormed the building to protest against the deal, shouting “We will not give it up.” They also vandalized offices.

According to local media outlets, Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan was physically assaulted.

Pashinyan said Mirzoyan had suffered injuries after being beaten up by protesters, adding that his wounds were not life-threatening.

As the night wore on, the number of protesters got smaller, but some of them remained inside the parliament.

Pashinyan urged demonstrators to go home. “At this difficult time, we must stand shoulder to shoulder,” he wrote on Facebook.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Armenia’s Defense Ministry and General Staff urged the people to refrain from taking actions that could undermine the statehood, stressing the significance of strengthening the army.

Armenian opposition also began gathering signatures to call a parliament meeting on the deal.

“We are collecting signatures to convene an extraordinary meeting in order to cancel this decision,” Iveta Tonoyan, a member of the National Assembly for Prosperous Armenia, told Sputnik.

Amid the mounting anger in Armenia, President Armen Sarkissian said he had learned about the deal from the press.

“From the press I also learned about the conditions. I did not take part in any negotiations,” the Armenian president said.

Sarkissian added that he had started consultations to address people’s concerns.

Meanwhile, the agreement was welcomed by Azerbaijanis, who took to the streets of the capital, Baku, to celebrate in the early hours of Tuesday. They carried flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey, Baku’s main military ally.

People take part in celebrations in a street following the signing of a deal to end the military conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in Baku, Azerbaijan on November 10, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

‘30 years of pain coming to end’

The Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement on Twitter, “The pain experienced 30 years ago is coming to an end today.”

“Our heroic brothers showed their strength in the battlefield and won a victory by fighting bravely. The bad days are over. Today is victory day,” the ministry said.

In a post on Twitter, Cavusoglu also hailed the “significant gains” achieved by Azerbaijan in the field and at the negotiating table. “I wholeheartedly congratulate this blessed success,” he said.

Senior Nagorno-Karabakh official quits

The secretary of Nagorno-Karabakh’s security council quit in protest at the ceasefire agreement.

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