Russia has moved truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers into a land corridor it controls between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh as its peacekeeping forces secure new territory for a deal struck over the enclave last week.
This was reported by Reuters.
Moscow brokered an end to six weeks of fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the enclave, an accord that prompted the deployment of almost 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to the area, a process that is continuing.
The Russian defense ministry said on Monday it had set up seven temporary observation posts in the Lachin Corridor, which runs from the edge of Armenia to the enclave inside Azeri territory, to ensure the safe passage of Russian peacekeepers to Armenian-controlled parts of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Reuters reporters saw two Russian truck-mounted Grad multiple missile launch systems in the Lachin Corridor. The Soviet-era system can fire 40 rockets in around 20 seconds and their deployment suggests Moscow is not taking any chances with the security of its peacekeepers.
Both Grads were manned by Russian crews and the servicemen confirmed to Reuters that they were from Russia.
One of the Grads had a Russian military license plate with regional code 94, indicating it belonged to the Transcaucasian military district. The other Grad had no license plate, but was accompanied by a Kamaz military truck with a Russian license plate from the same military district.
Reuters reporters also spotted a Russian tank in the area.
A statement about the Russian deployment on the Kremlin website says the armed peacekeepers will be accompanied by armored personnel carriers and other vehicles and hardware. It made no specific mention of rocket systems.
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict: Background
- On September 27, fighting resumed between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Both countries blamed each other for shelling as a result of which they suffered casualties.
- Armenia and the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic declared martial law and general mobilization.
- Azerbaijan, in turn, introduced martial law on September 28. Partial mobilization was announced in that country.
- The UN Security Council has called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to immediately stop the fighting.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced he signed a peace deal with Azerbaijan and Russia to end the war over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh starting from November 10, 2020.
Nagorno-Karabakh war: History
- The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region began in 1988, when the predominantly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
- In 1991-1994, the bloodshed conflict continued in the region, which ended with the signing of a ceasefire protocol. Nagorno-Karabakh proclaimed itself an independent "republic." Azerbaijan did not recognize this, considering the territory to have been occupied by Armenia.
- In 1994, the Bishkek Protocol on the ceasefire was signed between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on the one hand and Azerbaijan on the other. However, armed conflicts continued along the line of contact.
- In April 2016, the situation escalated when Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other of violating the ceasefire. Then, as a result of the shooting at the border, at least several dozen people were killed.