Nagorno-Karabakh: Russia peacekeepers move in as body exchange begins

Russian peacekeeping troops have moved into Nagorno-Karabakh after the country secured a peace deal with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Moscow-brokered ceasefire secured territorial advances for Azerbaijan around the ethnic Armenian region within Azeri borders, where Azeri troops have been battling ethnic Armenian forces over the past six weeks.

Moscow agreed the accord without consultation with the US and France who have been its partners in an international group overseeing the region.

Russian border guards have placed five posts in Nagorno-Karabakh, two of them on the border with Iran.

It is also prepared to send a further 150 rescue personnel to the region, where the bodies of dozens of ethnic Armenian fighters were discovered by the side of roads.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the United Nations will be involved in humanitarian issues related to the settlement of people driven from their homes by the conflict.

“The UN is very interested in coordinating their actions with our peacekeepers, with our border guards and with those who will solve humanitarian problems,” he told an online meeting led by president Vladimir Putin.

“We are in contact with our Armenian and Azeri colleagues at the request of the UN structures in order for them to deploy their presence in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Russia’s TASS news agency cited him as saying.

Mr Putin said at the meeting that more than 4,000 people have been killed on both sides, including civilians, with 8,000 wounded and tens of thousands driven from their homes.

The process of exchanging the bodies of those killed began on Friday, Arayik Harutyunyan, Nagorno-Karabakh leader, wrote on his Facebook page.

The exchange is being coordinated between Russian peacekeepers, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Rescue Service of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, which now joins eight other former Soviet republics where Russia has a military presence.

The conflict has spanned over 25 years and both Armenia and Azerbaijan have repeatedly accused the other side of attacks, amid global appeals to end the hostilities and initiate peace talks.

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