Armenia has accused Russian troops deployed along the blockaded Lachin corridor of failing to fulfill their duties.
Russia has labeled “public attacks” on its peacekeepers deployed around Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh as “unacceptable”, a day after Armenia accused the contingent of failing to fulfill their duties amid a blockade there.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned on Friday that criticism from Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan a day earlier threatened to “inflict tangible damage on the process of Armenian-Azerbaijani normalization”.
“We consider all public attacks and provocations against our peacekeepers unacceptable,” Zakharova said.
“Russian peacekeepers are doing everything they can to improve the situation on the ground,” she added.
On Thursday, the Armenian news site Hetq quoted Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as to blame the Russian peacekeeping force that has become “a silent witness to the depopulation of Nagorno-Karabakh”, which in recent weeks has failed to reopen the only road between Armenia and the predominantly ethnic-Armenian enclave.
Azerbaijani citizens who identify as environmentalists have blocked the road – known as the Lachin Corridor – since December 12. Nagorno-Karabakh officials say food, medicine and fuel are running low.
The Azerbaijani government says the protest — ostensibly due to illegal mining in the region — is spontaneous and civilian transport is free to move in both directions between Armenia and Karabakh.
But Yerevan has accused Baku of organizing the demonstrations.
Pashinyan said that if Russian troops were unable to ensure stability and security in the disputed region, they would have to give way to a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
The current dispute marks the latest flashpoint decades of tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The mountainous enclave is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but its inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Armenian.
It broke away from Baku’s control during a war in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the former Soviet Union was disintegrating. About 30,000 people died in the conflict.
In 2020, Azerbaijan retook territory in and around the area after a second war that ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers along the Lachin Corridor.
The leaders of both countries have since met several times to try work out a treaty intended to build lasting peace.
Such an agreement has not yet been reached and violations of the 2020 ceasefire remain commonplace, with more than 200 soldiers killed on both sides during an outbreak of fighting in September.