Russia said Monday its peacekeepers halted a weekend clash in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region disputed by ex-Soviet arch foes Armenia and Azerbaijan, that left five people dead.
The South Caucasus countries have fought two wars that claimed tens of thousands of lives for the control of Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated enclave of Karabakh, in the 1990s and 2020.
Russia deployed peacekeepers to the part of Karabakh still under Armenian separatist control following fighting in 2020, but Armenia has repeatedly accused the Russians of failing their mission.
On Sunday morning, “servicemen of the armed forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan fired at a car with law enforcement officers of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Russia’s defence ministry said.
Three people in the car were killed and another injured in the incident that also left two dead and one wounded on the Azerbaijani side, according to Moscow.
“Through the efforts of Russian peacekeepers, the clash was stopped,” the ministry added in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Pro-Armenian separatist authorities on Sunday accused a “sabotage group” of the Azerbaijani army of opening fire at a police car and killing three police officers.
Azerbaijan denied that account, saying its forces were trying to stop vehicles carrying weapons, when “Azerbaijani servicemen were fired at,” leaving two of them dead.
There has been a fragile truce between the neighbours since the 2020 war that left more than 6,500 dead and forced Armenia to cede territories it had controlled for decades.
Since mid-December, a group of self-styled Azerbaijani environmental activists has barred the only road linking Karabakh to Armenia, the Lachin corridor, to protest what they say is illegal mining.
Yerevan has accused Baku of creating a blockade there.