A view shows a Russian military aircraft transporting Armenian prisoners of war after landing at Erebuni military airport in Yerevan. Reuters
Armenia and Azerbaijan have begun exchanging groups of prisoners of war, part of an “all for all” swap mediated by Russia after a bloody conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday.
The six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region and its surrounding areas was brought to a halt by a Russian-brokered ceasefire deal last month.
The fighting locked in territorial gains for Azerbaijan and has stoked anger in Yerevan, prompting street protests against Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
Russian peacekeeping forces have deployed in the region.
Late on Monday, Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said a group of 44 Armenian prisoners had returned to Armenia after Russian mediation, the Interfax news agency reported.
A Russian military aircraft also flew a group of 12 Azeri prisoners to Baku as part of the same swap, Rustam Muradov, the commander of Russia’s peacekeeping forces, said in a defence ministry video published on Tuesday.
Azeri authorities confirmed their arrival.
"This is my house, I can't leave it to the Turks," as Azerbaijanis are often called by Armenians, said one resident as he threw burning wooden planks and rags soaked in gasoline into a completely empty house.
Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed on a deal with Russia to end weeks of fierce clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday, after Russian peacekeeping troops deployed to the war-ravaged enclave of the region.
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly said there would be no halt to fighting until Armenian troops withdraw and vowed to continue the intervention until his army captured all of Karabakh.
Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces clashed in several areas of Nagorno-Karabakh on Friday, hours before talks were due to start in Washington to try to end the deadliest fighting in the mountain enclave for over a quarter of a century.
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