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    5. Nagorno-Karabakh leaders demand security promise to stop separatists

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    Nagorno-Karabakh leaders demand security promise to stop separatists

    Samvel Shahramanyan was elected in September as the new president of the breakaway region. Photo: REUTERS/PHOTOLURE

    The ethnic Armenian leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh has demanded security guarantees before separatist fighters can surrender their weapons, warning of potential “genocide” by Azerbaijani forces in the disputed region.

    David Babayan, adviser to the president of Nagorno-Karabakh.

    David Babayan, adviser to the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, called the Republic of Artsakh, said that the approximately 120,000 ethnic Armenians who inhabit the region cannot be left to die, so security guarantees are needed.

    “At any moment they can destroy us, commit genocide against us,” he warned.

    Armenian authorities in the exclave have agreed in principle to a ceasefire with Azerbaijan following its lightning offensive, but key details of the agreement remain to be worked out, Mr. Babayan said on Thursday.

    Mr Babayan, an adviser to President Samvel Shahramanyan, told Reuters: “A final agreement has not yet been reached.”

    “There are still a number of issues to be resolved,” he added after talks between two countries. parties in the Azerbaijani city of Yevlakh.

    Mr Babayan's remarks come amid growing fears of further bloodshed in the breakaway region, where witnesses reported gunfire in the capital Stepanakert, as Armenians call it, on Thursday morning and said Azerbaijani forces were advancing.

    Citizens of Armenia are protesting against their government’s actions regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo: NAREK ALEXANYAN/Shutterstock

    Videos released from a town called Khankendi on the Azerbaijani side appeared to show people frantically running for cover while gunshots rang out in the background. It is unclear who is responsible for the shooting.

    Azerbaijan, which claims the territory as its own, has rejected the reports as “totally false.”

    Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, in an address to the people, said that peace is vital to guarantee the survival of his country.

    on Thursday.

    His comments came a day after Azerbaijan announced it had returned Nagorno-Karabakh to its control after decades of conflict.

    'Unspeakable physical suffering'

    Mr Pashinyan acknowledged that Armenians are “enduring untold physical and psychological suffering,” but said his country ultimately needed “an environment free of conflict.”

    “Peace is a factor that ensures and guarantees security, as well as independence. and sovereignty,” he said in a speech delivered on Armenia’s independence day, without directly mentioning Nagorno-Karabakh.

    “(Armenia) must follow this path for the sake of independence, for the sake of statehood, for the sake of the future.”

    Mr Pashinyan, who led Armenia after a peaceful revolution in 2018, has been accused by critics of being too soft on Azerbaijan and allowing it to subjugate Nagorno-Karabakh.

    Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will investigate the deaths of Russian peacekeepers Photo: ROMAN ISMAILOV/Shutterstock

    Armenian officials say at least 32 people have died as a result of intense shelling in the region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but enjoys de facto independence since since it broke away in war in the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed.

    However, a separatist Armenian human rights official in Nagorno-Karabakh put the death toll at more than 200, including 10 civilians. The Telegraph was unable to verify any of the figures provided.

    An undisclosed number of Russian peacekeepers died in a vehicle ambush on Wednesday after they were deployed to the region following the war in 2020.< /p>

    The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed the deaths late Wednesday, saying a contingent of troops had come under fire.

    Moscow has not released any further details of the attack, but veterans' organizations in northwestern Russia on Thursday issued a message of condolences to the deputy commander of the Russian peacekeeping mission, Ivan Kovgan, saying he died in the incident.

    “Those responsible will be brought to justice “

    Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told Russian leader Vladimir Putin that his country would “conduct a thorough investigation” into the incident and promised that “all those responsible will be brought to justice,” the Kremlin said on Thursday.

    Mr. Aliyev also offered to pay compensation to the families of the dead soldiers, he added.

    Nikol Pashinyan warned that peace is vital to the future survival of his country. Photo: PAN PHOTO/REUTERS

    Later on Thursday, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman as saying that Azerbaijani authorities had arrested an unnamed commander of an Azerbaijani unit operating in the area.

    Baku had no immediate comment on the matter. reports.

    Many in Armenia, a traditional Russian ally, have directed their criticism at Moscow over the latest skirmish in Nagorno-Karabakh, accusing the Kremlin of failing to fulfill its peacekeeping mandate.< /p>

    In an apparent attempt to deflect accusations, Putin raised the issue of “guarantees of the rights and security of the Armenian population of Karabakh” during his call with the Azerbaijani leader on Thursday.

    Meanwhile, in scenes reminiscent of the fall of Karabakh, Kabul in 2021 thousands of people in the region rushed to the airport in an attempt to flee Azerbaijani forces and a feared campaign of ethnic cleansing.

    Russia's Defense Ministry said on Thursday that more than 1,340 civilians had received grants. to take refuge from their peacekeepers.

    But Vladimir Putin's spokesman sought to downplay fears of possible reprisals against local Armenians.

    'Ethnic cleansing'

    Dmitry Peskov told Russian state media: “We don't have any There are no reasons yet to talk about ethnic cleansing, and this is precisely why direct bilateral contacts are needed, and we have conveyed our concerns (to Baku).

    “We are convinced that the security and rights of the Armenian population of Karabakh must be protected,” he added he.

    Many local residents fled the area after the six-week war in 2020, fearing reprisals from Azerbaijan.

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