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Meeting on resolving humanitarian issues in Nagorno-Karabakh

November 13, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Emergencies Minister Yevgeny Zinichev and FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov.

During the meeting the President told the participants about the formation of an Interdepartmental Humanitarian Response Centre to facilitate the resolution of humanitarian issues and the restoration of the civilian infrastructure in Nagorno-Karabakh.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

We have met to discuss the situation that has taken shape in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. I hope we will no longer use the term – “the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

I hope that we will soon move on to the discussion of other issues but one of them is fairly topical. I will tell you about it now.

At the beginning of our meeting I would like to ask the Defence Minister to report on the developments in the zone of responsibility of our peacekeepers.

Go ahead, please.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu: Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief,

In accordance with your Executive Order, a Russian peacekeeping contingent consisting of 1,960 troops, 90 armoured personnel carriers, and 380 vehicles and special equipment is being deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin Corridor.

The 15th separate motorised rifle brigade of the Central Military District forms its core.

The Lachin Corridor was taken under control during November 10 and 11. The peacekeeping units entered Stepanakert at 5 pm yesterday and set up four observation posts outside the towns of Stepanakert and Shusha. Today, we are completing the deployment of observation posts at the South area of ​​responsibility. There will be nine of them there. Another peacekeeper unit is deployed in northern Nagorno-Karabakh. Tomorrow, we plan to complete the deployment of eight posts in that area.

We continue to transport equipment and materiel at a rate of 25 flights per day by military transport aircraft. In three days, 73 flights were made with 1,103 troops and 1,168 pieces of equipment transported.

The Defence Ministry’s operational group has been deployed, and direct communication channels have been established with the defence ministries of Azerbaijan and Armenia, with which work continues to clarify the parameters of the peacekeeping operation.

The Russian peacekeeping forces are controlled from the command post deployed in Stepanakert. The situation is monitored around the clock, and the ceasefire continues in the area of ​​the peacekeeping operation.

The command of the peacekeeping contingent has taken the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the Russian servicemen.

I would like to note separately that the humanitarian problem is deteriorating every day, including transport and the return of refugees, as well as other humanitarian issues.

Thank you, that concludes my report.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

Mr Bortnikov, part of the responsibility has been assigned to the FSB Border Guard Service. How are things in places where our border guards are on duty?

FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov: Mr President, in accordance with your instruction, the Federal Security Service has deployed five additional border posts with the help of the FSB Border Guard Department in the Republic of Armenia: two posts on the border of Armenia and the Nakhchivan Republic (Yeraskh and Paruyr Sevak); two posts on the border between Armenia and Iran (Meghri and Sygyr); and the fifth post, Tegh, on the border.

The necessary steps have been taken as agreed with Armenia’s border authorities, and we are in contact with the Azerbaijani border guards. We have established the necessary contacts, are exchanging information, and the border guards are on duty in the state border protection mode.

We have no further issues to discuss as of this moment.

Vladimir Putin: Good.

Mr Lavrov, I asked you to inform our partners, primarily our OSCE Minsk Group partners and co-chairs, about the current developments in connection with this problem, to contact international organisations. How is this work progressing?

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: Mr President, we have provided detailed information to our colleagues, primarily from France and the United States as co-chairs – alongside us – of the OSCE Minsk Group.

I spoke with the French Foreign Minister and explained to him in detail the situation and the efforts that you have undertaken. I also spoke with my US colleagues. In New York, the UN Security Council has been fully updated about Russia’s efforts that made it possible to conclude the November 9 agreement.

We remain in contact with international humanitarian organisations, primarily, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme.

These agencies have an established presence in the region, but not in Nagorno-Karabakh per se. In contact with our Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues and at the request of the UN agencies, we are working to have them deploy their presence directly in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The UN is interested in coordinating its actions, in the event of such a deployment, with our peacekeepers and border guards, as well as with those who will provide humanitarian aid as part of Russia’s mission.

In addition to the UN agencies and their requests, namely, to provide access to Karabakh and people in need, they also want to have accurate data on the number and destinations of the refugees and displaced persons. We also need to work on these numbers ourselves, also in conjunction with Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In addition to the UN, there is also the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been operating in the region for a long time now and has had a permanent mission in Stepanakert for many years. After the outbreak of hostilities, they had to evacuate the mission to Yerevan. They are now back there and have resumed their work and are also interested in establishing coordination with our representatives.

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer will be in Russia on Tuesday. We will set up a meeting for him at the Foreign Ministry, and also with our military, the Emergencies Ministry and border guards.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

Now about the Emergencies Ministry. Mr Zinichev, if additional assistance is needed for civilians, and I am sure it is needed and will speak about this now, what can the Ministry do as an immediate response?

Emergencies Minister Yevgeny Zinichev: Mr President, we are ready, within eight hours after the decision is made, to transport a combined group there consisting of the central office’s task force and 150 personnel of rescue teams, as well as 17 units of equipment.

If need be, we are ready to send an airmobile hospital with 50 personnel, including medical workers, for rendering medical aid to civilians.

We are ready.

Vladimir Putin: All right, thank you.

Indeed, colleagues, the issue of helping the people who were impacted by the hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone return to normal, peaceful life is very important and urgent.

The trilateral statement adopted by the President of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Russia on November 9 has made it possible to stop the bloodshed and stabilise the situation. The shooting and armed clashes have ceased completely.

A Russian peacekeeping contingent is being deployed along the contact line and the so-called Lachin Corridor in conformity with the statement.

It is necessary to pay attention to the serious humanitarian problems in the Nagorno-Karabakh area. We have just received reports to this effect. As a result of the hostilities, the number of dead, including civilians, has exceeded 4,000. Over 8,000 people have been wounded. According to different estimates, there are tens of thousands of refugees. The civilian infrastructure and many cultural landmarks have been destroyed.

To help the people of the region resolve the most urgent problems I consider it necessary to establish an Interdepartmental Humanitarian Response Centre. The centre will use the resources of the Defence Ministry, the Emergencies Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the FSB Border Guard Service and other departments of the Russian Federation.

The centre will support the return of refugees to the places of their permanent residence; cooperate with government bodies of Azerbaijan and Armenia on restoring the civilian infrastructure and creating the conditions for normal life in Nagorno-Karabakh; and coordinate the work of government agencies and, I am hoping and relying on this very much, the efforts of public organisations on rendering humanitarian aid to the residents of the districts hit by the hostilities. The centre will also provide assistance to the government bodies of Azerbaijan and Armenia, if they need it, of course, and I think this assistance will be very helpful, considering their complicated history in the past, in developing cooperation with international humanitarian organisations and between themselves.

I would like to ask the Foreign Ministry to continue informing our partners in the OSCE Minsk Group about the adopted decisions. It is also necessary to report them to the International Red Cross, the Red Cross Committee, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is necessary to develop constructive, full-fledged work with these agencies, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Our colleagues from UNESCO must be contacted. I am relying on their support very much as well.

I hope that all these agencies will give comprehensive support to the activities of the Interdepartmental Centre.

We also hope for a contribution and help from the Commonwealth of Independent States. We will maintain close cooperation with all potential participants in this important work.

I would like to thank all participants in our meeting for what has already been done. I am counting on your effective concerted efforts, that is, cooperation both between your agencies and with colleagues from Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Thank you.

November 13, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region