The Kremlin today expressed concern over rising tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, while Armenia’s prime minister described the situation in the enclave as “critical”.

Armenia in recent weeks has repeatedly accused Azerbaijan of deploying forces around Karabakh, which Baku has blockaded since December 2022, triggering an acute food crisis in the region. The agreement reached last weekend to unblock the roads leading to Karmapah has not yet come into full effect.

In a telephone conversation with journalists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Of course, we are concerned that the tension is not abating and in some areas it is even increasing.”

He also said that Russia will continue contacts with both Yerevan and Baku and will remain a reliable guarantor of security in the South Caucasus. Moscow has expressed its annoyance with the two countries in recent days.

Karabakh is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan, but is inhabited overwhelmingly by Armenians. With the support of Yerevan, the region gained de facto independence from Azerbaijan after a long war in the early 1990s.

Azerbaijan recaptured large tracts of land in and around Karabakh in a second war in 2020, leaving the region dependent on a single road connecting it to Armenia. This road has been closed since December 2022, causing shortages of food, fuel and medicine inside Karabakh.

Armenian state news agency Armenpress reported today that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the humanitarian situation inside Karabakh is desperate. He said a Russian aid truck, which Karabakh authorities allowed to enter the region from Azerbaijan on Tuesday, was unable to ease the crisis.

Armenpress also reported that Pashinyan said that Azerbaijan continues to build up troops along the border lines with Karabakh and Armenia, an accusation Baku has repeatedly denied.

Twice today, Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said its forces had come under fire from Armenian units along the two countries’ shared border. Armenia’s Defense Ministry denied that it opened fire on Azerbaijani positions.