'Russia does not want to leave Karabakh'
In a collegial meeting on December 19, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu asserted that Russian peacekeepers are the "main guarantor of peace in Karabakh." However, these claims have sparked skepticism, particularly in light of recent developments in the region.
Two months ago, the separatist leader in Karabakh declared the dissolution of the unrecognized "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic," with Azerbaijani officials subsequently announcing the restoration of sovereignty. UN mission reports indicate a significant decrease in the Armenian population in Karabakh, and Armenian officials have disavowed any territorial claims to Azerbaijan.
Amidst these dynamics, Russian peacekeepers' role as guarantors of peace has faced criticism. Elman Mammadov, a member of the Milli Majlis Committee on defense, security, and fight against corruption, expressed dissatisfaction in an interview with Turan, emphasizing that the Russian military presence was no longer needed. Mammadov alleged that the peacekeepers had not focused on ensuring peace but were instead involved in other activities.
One notable concern raised by Mammadov pertains to landmines, posing a threat to Azerbaijani citizens. He claimed that some mines discovered in post-war periods were traced back to Armenia and manufactured in 2021, suggesting that separatists may have brought them into Azerbaijani territory with the assistance of Russian peacekeepers.
Accusations against the Russian peacekeeping contingent extend beyond their alleged involvement in mine-related incidents. Mammadov also claimed that Russian passports were found on Armenians leaving Azerbaijani territories at the Lachin border crossing post.
Azer Gasimli, head of the Institute of Political Management, in an interview with Radio Azadlig expressed uncertainty about undisclosed agreements between Azerbaijan and Russia. He raised the possibility of the peacekeeping mission evolving into a military base, emphasizing that doubts persist regarding the true nature of the arrangements.
Gasimli suggested that the Russian leadership sees the Karabakh issue as unresolved, with plans to facilitate the return of the Armenian population. He claimed that Russia aims to influence the political landscape in Armenia, potentially seeking a change in government to further its objectives in the region.
While these concerns circulate, attempts to clarify the situation with the Russian Embassy in Azerbaijan have been unsuccessful. Despite occasional statements emphasizing Russia's interest in establishing peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, questions persist about the true nature and duration of the Russian peacekeeping mission in Karabakh.