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Armenian Leader Asks Putin For Help With POWs Held By Azerbaijan

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 6.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on April 6.

Armenia's prime minister has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in releasing dozens of prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijan during last year’s brief war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Speaking on April 7 during a trip to Moscow, Nikol Pashinian also said Armenia was interested in acquiring more Russian-made Sputnik-V vaccines.

Last fall's war between Armenia and Azerbaijan was waged over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the early 1990s.

The six-week war concluded with a Russian-brokered cease-fire, under which a chunk of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by ethnic Armenian forces.

The agreement also led to the deployment of around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers along frontline areas and a land corridor connecting the disputed territory with Armenia.

More than 6,000 people died in the fighting.

The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved.

There are no official figures of how many Armenian POWs are being held by Azerbaijan, but the RBC news agency said there were about 140 Armenians still being held in Azerbaijan. It's unclear how many Azerbaijani POWs there are.

"I would like to note that in this context there is a very important issue that has not yet been settled," Pashinian told Putin. "This is a question of prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees."

“As we have repeatedly discussed…all hostages, prisoners of war, and other detainees should be returned to their homeland, but, unfortunately, we still have detainees in Azerbaijan,” the Armenian prime minister added.

In his meeting with Putin, Pashinian said the first shipment of 15,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine was expected to arrive in Armenia on April 6, but the country needs more than 1 million doses in all.

"The first shipment was, so to speak, a symbolic shipment. We hope to acquire a large amount of the Russian vaccine, because it has proven its efficacy," he said.

Pashinian’s trip to Moscow came as Armenia prepares for early parliamentary elections in June, triggered by opposition demands the prime minister step down over his handling of the war with Azerbaijan.

With reporting by Reuters

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