Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 28 October 2020
Putin, Erdogan Discuss Caucasus War And Mercenaries
Armenia and Russia have blamed Azerbaijan for using Muslim mercenaries in the current phase of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from its beginning. Turkey is believed to deliver hired guns from Syria. In their phone talk, the presidents of Russia and Turkey broached that topic, too. Many signs are that their conversation failed to bring any breakthrough to the whole case.
Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a phone talk on October 27. The conversation was held on the Turkish side’s initiative, the Kremlin press service informed. Putin expressed deep concern over the ongoing hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin said in a statement. This topic was brought to the spotlight. Although Putin did not directly accuse Ankara of deploying mercenaries to the Caucasus, he insisted that more and more “terrorists from the Middle East” are taking part in the war, thus implicitly pointing to Turkey. The Putin-Erdogan talk has had no impact on the conflict – at least not for now. The next day, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of killing people in a missile strike near the city of Barda. The separatist authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh blamed Azerbaijan for attacking the capital city of Stepanakert and killing at least one person. Several dozen separatist fighters died, bringing the total death tally to 1,068 since September 27 when the fighting broke out. So far, both sides to the conflict made three attempts to broker a ceasefire, also after the U.S. and Russian mediations, yet each truce did not last even a day.
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Moscow does not take such a firm stance on the Armenia-Azerbaijan fighting as Ankara did. While Turkey lends full support to Azerbaijan, offering military hardware and perhaps also mercenaries, Russia remains far more cautious. On October 22, Vladimir Putin said that Moscow would benefit from the trust of both sides, adding Russia had in the past had special relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. But in this conflict, Baku is hoping to side with Turkey. When Putin held talks with Erdogan, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev gave an interview to the Italian TV broadcaster RAI. The leader dismissed allegations from Russia, the United States, and France – all three being part of the OSCE Minsk Group – that Azerbaijan has deployed foreign fighters. “After all, we do say how many weapons Russia send to Armenia,” Aliyev told journalists, implying Russian moral and political aid to Armenia. “From the Russian military base in Gyumri, Armenia, the Armenian side regularly receives supplies,” he added. Aliyev also denied any Turkish involvement as an Azeri proxy in the war.
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