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Tensions Rise as Russia Pulls Peacekeepers from Nagorno-Karabakh

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Yonhap News

On the 17th local time, the Kremlin announced that Russian peacekeeping forces are withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

During a briefing on the same day, Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, confirmed reports from Azerbaijani media that the Russian peacekeeping forces had begun to withdraw, stating, “Yes, it’s true.”

Following the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia that lasted six weeks in September 2020, Russia stationed peacekeeping forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a mediator in the peace negotiations.

Although internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, the region had been occupied for about 30 years by Armenian residents who declared it a republic.

However, last September, Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh through a large-scale air strike, causing around 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee to Armenia.

Armenia protested that Russia did not support them during this incident. Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military and security cooperation body led by Russia.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan expressed his dissatisfaction in February by not appointing a permanent representative to the CSTO and not participating in high-level events.

When asked whether Iran, which has close ties with Russia, warned before attacking Israel on the 13th, Peskov, the spokesperson, neither confirmed nor denied, saying, “I have nothing to say about this issue.”

He stressed, “I don’t want to talk about the escalating tension of this conflict. It does not serve the interests of Israel, Iran, or the entire region,” urging all countries in the Middle East to exercise reasonable restraint.

He continued, “Russia maintains close and constructive practical contact with Iran. We also have constructive contact with Israel. We are discussing the need to de-escalate tensions.”

He also said, “I would not call the conflict between Israel and Iran indirect. It’s hard to call it an indirect conflict when a country’s consulate has been destroyed.”

After its consulate in Syria was bombed by Israel on the 1st, Iran retaliated against Israel’s mainland with drones and missiles on the 13th and 14th. Israel is considering a counterattack against Iran.

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