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Russian aid truck arrives in Karabakh from Azerbaijan

file photo: armenian military volunteers undergo training in yerevan
File photo: Armenian military volunteers undergo combat training at a camp, in the course of a military conflict against Azerbaijan's armed forces over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in Yerevan, Armenia

A Russian Red Cross truck crossed from Azerbaijani-held territory into the ethnic Armenian-populatedNagorno-Karabakh region on Tuesday, the first time in 35 years that the breakaway enclave had allowed such access.

The local authority said the truck had reached the territory’s capital Stepanakert, bringing relief to hungry residents blockaded since December but also increasing their fear that the enclave could be ceded to Azerbaijani control.

Although internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, Karabakh broke from Baku’s hold in a war as the Soviet Union collapsed, and for decades survived with direct support from Armenia thanks to control of a land link, the Lachin corridor.

But in a second war in 2020, Azerbaijan reconquered territory in and around the mountainous region and Armenia lost control of the corridor, leaving the road policed by Russian peacekeepers until it was blocked in December.

The truck’s arrival,agreed by Karabakh authorities on Saturday amid acute shortages of food, fuel, and medicine, fulfils a key demand from Baku by reopening a transport link into Azerbaijani-held territory that had been closed since 1988.

A Reuters correspondent saw the truck set off after being held up for several days in the city of Barda, and the Armenian news agency Armenpress published a photo of the vehicle in Stepanakert.

It quoted the official InfoCenter of Nagorno-Karabakh as saying the truck allowed in “contains Russian-made essential products”.

It also quoted Hayk Shamiryan, mayor of the border town of Askeran, as saying Armenian residents had initially protested before eventually letting the truck use the long-blocked road.

It was not immediately clear whether Azerbaijan had also allowed aid to enter simultaneously from Armenia through the Lachin road, as promised in the agreement struck on Saturday.

Azerbaijan has said it intends to maintain its checkpoint on that road – something that has also severely strained relations between Armenia and Russia, which Yerevan has long looked to for its security needs.

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