Russian military setting up humanitarian response center in disputed Nagorno-Karabakh as hundreds of refugees on the move

Military vehicles of Russian peacekeepers being deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh Sputnik / Russia's Defense Ministry Military vehicles of Russian peacekeepers being deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh
Following the Moscow-brokered armistice between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Russian military has begun setting up a humanitarian response center in Stepanakert, the de facto capital of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The conflict over the disputed region, which had been raging since late September, came to an abrupt end on Monday, after Russia managed to persuade Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to sit together around the negotiating table. As part of the truce, Russian peacekeepers moved into Nagorno-Karabakh to separate the warring sides and curb any possible provocations. 

The Russian military has already started setting up a humanitarian response center in Stepanakert, a statement by the Defense Ministry read. Scheduled to be fully operational in a week’s time, the center will see the military, the emergency services, and other Russian agencies working hand in hand to ensure civilians can move around safely as the terms of the Azerbaijani-Armenian truce come into effect.

The Russian troops in Nagorno-Karabakh’s largest city will also be boosted by border guards, and rescue personnel from various federal agencies in the coming days. 

The first units of peacekeepers that arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this week have already been working to assure the safe return of those who fled the hostilities in the region, which is populated by ethnic Armenians but considered by Azerbaijan to be part of its territory.

The area has been a bone of contention between the South Caucasus neighbors for decades, and they had already fought a bloody war over it between 1988 and 1994. 

On Saturday, Russian troops accompanied nine buses carrying 250 people through the Lachin Corridor, with some 450 more refugees expected to make the same journey on Sunday. 

With control over some areas in Nagorno-Karabakh being passed to Azerbaijan as part of the armistice, the 6km-long mountain pass is the only remaining route connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. The Russian peacekeepers will be protecting this vital artery for at least the next five years.

The ceasefire was upheld along the entire contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday, the Defense Ministry said. Russian peacekeepers have been monitoring the situation from 18 observation posts set up across the region, it added, sharing a map of the two “areas of responsibility” (in green and orange), in which the Russian troops are active.