Russian peacekeeping troops deployed to the war-ravaged enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early hours of Tuesday as part of a ceasefire deal President Vladimir Putin said should pave the way for a lasting political settlement of the conflict there.
The deal, agreed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, ushered in a full ceasefire from midnight Moscow time on November 10, freezing a conflict that has killed thousands, displaced many more and threatened to plunge the wider region into war.
Unrest broke out in the Armenian capital, as several hundred protesters gathered in front of government buildings to protest against the deal
The territory is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but populated and, until recently, fully controlled by ethnic Armenians who have been relentlessly pushed back by the armed forces of Azerbaijan in six weeks of heavy fighting.
Under the deal, Azerbaijan will get to keep all of its territorial gains, including the enclave’s second city of Shusha/Shushi, and ethnic Armenian forces must hand over control of a slew of other territories between now and December 1.
Russian peacekeepers will stay in place for at least five years. Putin said they would be deployed along the frontline in Nagorno-Karabakh and in a corridor between the region and Armenia.
Unrest in Armenia
Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, said Turkey would also be involved in peacekeeping efforts. There was no immediate word from Ankara.
In Armenia, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan tried to put a brave face on the situation.
“The decision was made based on a deep analysis of the combat situation and in conjunction with the best experts,” he said of the deal on social media.
“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.”
Unrest broke out in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, however, as several hundred protesters gathered in front of government buildings to protest against the deal and demand to see Pashinyan.
They shouted “We will not give it up,” referring to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Video posted on social media showed dozens of people breaking into a government building and smashing up furniture inside. Pashinyan said anyone involved in the unrest would be severely punished.
The deal followed three failed ceasefires and relentless advances by Azerbaijan’s forces.