Coming a mere day after Azerbaijan apologized for the ‘accidental’ downing of a Russian military helicopter which was flying near the border over Armenian airspace, killing two pilots, what looks to be a significant and far-reaching ceasefire has been signed between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“I have signed a statement on the termination of the Karabakh war with Russian and Azerbaijani presidents from 01.00 pm,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashiyan announced on Facebook Tuesday.
Unlike prior three attempts at ceasefire, all which failed almost immediately with the resumption of shelling in Nagorno-Karabakh, this one looks to have muscle given Russian servicemen will immediately enter Nagorno-Karabakh to act as peace keepers.
Reuters confirms the following on Tuesday:
The Russian defence ministry said on Tuesday it has started deploying 1,960 servicemen in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The peace keepers are being airlifted from Russia following a peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The ceasefire appears to have held for hours in the day Tuesday. Fighting has raged since September 27 over the breakaway Armenian ethnic autonomous zone which is internationally recognized as within Azerbaijan’s national borders. It’s believed several thousands are dead and wounded on both sides, including civilians.
Despite the ceasefire there’s still outrage among the populations over the deal, with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan saying that signing it remains “unspeakably painful for me and for our people”. He’s facing popular outrage which upon news of the ceasefire saw hundreds of people storm Armenian parliament in Yerevan, angrily denouncing the peace.
Sky News reported that “Arguments and scuffles have broken out in Armenia’s parliament as protesters angry at a ceasefire deal with Azerbaijan seized control of its chamber to denounce the country’s leadership.”
Ararat Mirzoyan, Speaker of the Armenian Parliament, was reportedly beaten severely by the protesters. There’s also outrage that Prime Minister Pashinyan appears to have scapegoated the army:
“I made such a decision after the army had, in fact, insisted on it. You can imagine a situation where the army says that it is time to stop,” he said.
This after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev touted that it amounted to a “capitulation” by the Armenian side which had been suffering catastrophic losses. Aliyev could even be seen in a video mocking the Armenian leader, who he said signed the accord “unwillingly”. Azerbaijan’s army had been by all accounts making significant gains on the ground in the past week.
President Putin announced of the deal that “the achieved agreements will create necessary conditions for a long-term and full-fledged settlement of the crisis around Nagorno-Karabakh on a fair basis and in the interests of the Armenian and Azerbaijani people.”
It’s likely that the Russian helicopter downing on Monday gave Moscow immense leverage in finally imposing its will on both parties to the conflict.