Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has expressed his regret and apologized to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the death of Russian peacekeeping troops in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin said on Thursday. The incident occurred on Wednesday, when a Russian military vehicle came under fire near a village in the disputed region, killing the servicemen inside.
The Kremlin said that Aliyev assured Putin that a thorough investigation will be conducted and those responsible will be punished. The two leaders also discussed the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the implementation of the trilateral agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia in 2020 to end the six-week war over the territory.
Russia deployed peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh last year as part of the deal, which saw Azerbaijan regain control of most of the region that had been held by Armenian separatists since the 1990s. The peacekeepers are tasked with monitoring the ceasefire and facilitating the return of refugees and displaced persons.
However, tensions flared up again this week, when Azerbaijan launched a military operation to take over several villages that it claimed were within its borders but were still controlled by Armenian forces. Armenia denounced the move as a violation of the agreement and accused Azerbaijan of killing civilians and destroying cultural heritage sites.
The attack has raised tensions between Azerbaijan and Russia, which are both members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led military alliance. Some analysts have questioned the viability of the CSTO in light of the recent clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, which have exposed the diverging interests and loyalties of its members.