Russia says criticism of Karabakh peacekeepers ‘unacceptable’ amid Armenian anger


TBILISI (Reuters) – Russia said on Friday that “public attacks” on its peacekeepers deployed around the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan were “unacceptable”, a day after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan criticised the contingent.

Azeri civilians identifying themselves as environmental activists have blockaded the only road between Armenia and the predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave since Dec. 12. Nagorno-Karabakh officials say food, medicine and fuel are running short.

On Thursday, Armenian news site Hetq quoted Pashinyan as accusing the Russian peacekeeping force of “becoming a silent witness to the depopulation of Nagorno-Karabakh”, having failed to reopen the road.

Pashinyan said that if the Russian troops were unable to ensure stability and security in Nagorno-Karabakh, they should make way for a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Russia foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “We consider any public attacks and provocations against our peacekeepers as unacceptable and deliberate actions that cause tangible harm to the process of Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization.”

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but its inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Armenian and it broke away from Baku’s control in a war in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating.

In 2020, Azerbaijan retook territory in and around the enclave after a second war that ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire. Russian peacekeepers deployed along the Lachin corridor, the only road route between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

(Reporting by Felix Light; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Philippa Fletcher)