Zelenskyy culminates Washington visit with a White House pledge of $128m | Russia-Ukraine war News

Zelenskyy culminates Washington visit with a White House pledge of $128m | Russia-Ukraine war News

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made his second visit to Washington, DC, since Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of his country.

But unlike in his first trip to the United States Capitol, Zelenskyy faced a congress less inclined to back the war effort with large aid packages, despite pledges from top Democrats to “stand behind” Ukraine.

In brief public remarks before the White House Cabinet on Thursday, Zelenksyy struck a note of gratitude, calling his negotiations in Washington “productive” and “strong”.

“Thank you for all these 575 days,” he said, referencing the length of time since the Russians invaded in February 2022.

“Thanks to the American people, all these days they are together with us, with Ukrainians, with ordinary people, all of us.”

He also highlighted new military assistance, worth $128m, announced by US President Joe Biden on Thursday.

“It has exactly what our soldiers need now,” he said, calling it a “very powerful package”.

Biden, a Democrat, used his presidential “drawdown authority” to authorise the aid, as further funds for Ukraine prove to be a sticking point in the US Congress.

“Today, I approved the next tranche of US security assistance to Ukraine, including more artillery, more ammunition, more anti-tank weapons,” he said. “And next week, the first US Abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine.”

US President Biden shakes hands with Ukraine President Zelenskyy in the White House.
US President Joe Biden committed an additional $128m in weapons and equipment to Ukraine [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The Cabinet meeting culminates a whirlwind charm offensive from the Ukrainian president, who travelled to New York earlier this week to rally support among world leaders at the United Nations.

But as Zelenskyy faced US leaders on Thursday, the stakes were particularly high.

Since the full-scale Russian invasion began in 2022, the US has committed more money than any single country to aid Ukraine, with much of that support taking the form of military assistance.

The US Congress itself has approved aid amounting to over $113bn. But the last time Congress voted on an aid package was in December – and control of the House of Representatives has since switched hands, from Democrats to Republicans.

Nevertheless, Biden has called on Congress to approve an additional $24bn for Ukraine aid, a request that some Republicans, particularly on the far right, have baulked at.

Some have called instead to slash funding for Ukraine, in favour of domestic priorities and limited government spending.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is escorted by Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Hakeem Jeffries as he arrives to meet privately with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other congressional leaders on a visit to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 21, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, centre, walks through the US Congress with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on September 21 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

That perspective was on full display on Thursday, as Zelenskyy toured Capitol Hill.

US media reported that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused Zelenskyy’s request to address a joint session of Congress during his visit, as he had last December.

And while the Ukrainian leader was meeting with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, 28 Republican Congress members signed and published a letter on Thursday opposing additional expenditures for Ukraine.

The US Congress is facing a September 30 deadline to pass budget legislation or face a government shutdown.

“The American people deserve to know what their money has gone to,” the 28 Republicans wrote. “How is the counteroffensive going? Are the Ukrainians any closer to victory than they were 6 months ago? What is our strategy, and what is the president’s exit plan?”

They added it would be “an absurd abdication of congressional responsibility” to grant President Biden’s request for more aid without answers first.

Al Jazeera correspondent Kimberly Halkett said the contrast to Zelenskyy’s first wartime appearance in Washington, DC, last December was stark.

“There is a lot more pushback on Capitol Hill than Volodymyr Zelenskyy is used to,” she said from outside the White House.

“Initially, he had received a warm welcome, bipartisan support in terms of approvals for funding for Ukraine’s defence and standing ovations all around. But this time there have been questions about how that money will be spent, where the past money has gone, and even whether the US can afford it.”

She warned that “war fatigue” among the US public would be an ongoing hurdle to Zelenskyy’s cause.

Still, Congressional Democrats rallied in support of Ukraine spending, echoing the party’s commitment to “stand behind” the war-torn country.

“This is a struggle between Ukraine and Russia,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in his weekly press briefing on Thursday.

“But it is also a struggle on the global stage between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and tyranny, between truth and propaganda, between good and evil. And it’s important for us to stand behind Ukraine until victory is won.”

Biden echoed those sentiments later at the White House Cabinet meeting.

“The entire world has a stake in making sure that no nation, no aggressor, is allowed to take a neighbour’s territory by force. The American people will never waver in their commitment to those values,” he said.

As Biden shook hands with Zelenskyy and prepared to leave the Cabinet meeting, a reporter shouted from the sidelines to ask whether the Democrat believed the US Congress would ultimately pass the requested aid for Ukraine.

Biden paused before responding. “I’m counting on the good judgement of the United States Congress,” he said. “There’s no alternative.”

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Traditional autumn fair brings colour and joy for Romania’s poor | In Pictures

Traditional autumn fair brings colour and joy for Romania’s poor | In Pictures

It’s a festival of joy that offers an escape from everyday hardships for some of Romania’s poorest residents.

The traditional autumn fair is again drawing huge crowds of visitors in the eastern European country after the event was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

The fair near the central city of Titu, northwest of the capital of Bucharest, has existed for nearly 200 years — a testimony to its importance to the community.

And though much has changed since the 19th century, when autumn fairs like the Titu Fair were the sole public events in rural Romania, the purpose of the tradition — bringing the local community together — has remained the same.

Over the weekend, visitors flocked to the fairground, set up in a field in the small village of Hagioaica outside Titu, hungry for entertainment — smiling children clutched toys, men swirled on merry-go-rounds and families mingled.

Deafening music blared from the fairground as amusement park lights flashed, drawing smiles on people’s faces.

Carousels offered rides on pirate ships, white horses or huge pumpkins; wide-eyed children immersed themselves in a world of imagination and play as they rode in circles.

Overwhelmed, a baby boy fell asleep in his mother’s arms. Older children, however, wouldn’t miss a thing, from Spider-Man balloons to huge inflated playgrounds.

Typically, there were also strength-testing punching balls or target shooting to win stuffed animals.

For many, the fair was a chance to earn and save money — some residents set up stalls to sell toys and other goods, while others stocked up on supplies of vegetables and other household items for the upcoming winter.

Though prices are lower than in stores, fair visitors said they have spiked since the pandemic and the start of the war in Ukraine, one of Romania’s neighbours.

A European Union member state, Romania has come a long way in boosting its economy in comparison to the post-Soviet transition era, but many among its 19 million people still struggle to make ends meet.

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Russian air attacks hit Ukraine cities from east to west, at least 14 hurt | Russia-Ukraine war News

Russian air attacks hit Ukraine cities from east to west, at least 14 hurt | Russia-Ukraine war News


Reports of attacks on Ukraine’s Cherkasy, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskiy, Rivne, Vinnytsia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv regions.

At least 14 people have been injured in a large-scale Russian air attack on at least eight regions in Ukraine, according to local officials.

Seven people were reported injured in the capital, Kyiv, including a nine-year-old girl, city’s Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said on Thursday morning. Some residential and commercial buildings were damaged.

Missile debris fell in central Kyiv and non-residential buildings were damaged in the east, causing a fire, he said.

Officials and local media reported blasts also in Ukraine’s Cherkasy, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskiy, Rivne, Vinnytsia, Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions.

At least six blasts hit the Slobidskyi district of Kharkiv, damaging civilian infrastructure, regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.

Two people had been sent to hospitals, according to reports.

Five people were injured and at least one person was buried under rubble in the Cherkasy region, regional Governor Ihor Taburets said.

Air attacks were also reported in Rivne city in the region of the same name, Governor Vitalii Koval said without providing details.

More to follow soon.

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Armenia protesters demand PM resign after Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire | News

Armenia protesters demand PM resign after Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire | News

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has come under fire after Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to disarm.

Thousands of protesters have gathered in the Armenian capital to denounce the government’s perceived failure to support Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh, after the breakaway region was forced into surrender by Azerbaijan.

The protesters gathered on Wednesday at Republic Square, in the heart of Yerevan, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who presided over the defeat to Azerbaijan in a 2020 war and now the final collapse of Karabakh’s Armenian authorities.

Opposition politicians gave speeches from a stage denouncing Pashinyan, who took power in a 2018 revolution during which he addressed rallies on the same square, while some protesters threw bottles and stones at his office and scuffled with police.

“Russia washed its hands in Artsakh, our authorities have renounced Artsakh,” opposition politician Avetik Chalabyan told the crowd, using the Armenian name for Karabakh.

“The enemy is at our doorstep. We must change authorities to change national policy,” he added.

Lawmaker Ishkhan Saghatelyan called on parliamentary opposition forces to launch an impeachment procedure against the prime minister.

Azerbaijan on Wednesday announced it had halted its offensive, which it described as a “counter-terrorism operation”, after Armenian separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh agreed to a ceasefire whose terms signalled the area would return to Baku’s control.

Azerbaijan said that it wanted a “smooth reintegration process” for Karabakh’s Armenians and rejected accusations that it wanted to “ethnically cleanse” the region.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev that his nation “restored its sovereignty” by waging an offensive against Armenian-backed separatists on its territory and signalled a possible future peace treaty with Yerevan.

“Illegal Armenian units have begun the process of withdrawal from their positions. They accepted our terms and began surrendering their arms,” Aliyev said in a televised address.

Both sides agreed to hold talks on reintegrating the breakaway territory into the rest of Azerbaijan on Thursday in the city of Yevlakh, Azerbaijan.

Aliyev said the Armenian government had, “surprisingly, showed political competence” by agreeing to the terms of the ceasefire.

“We value this … the developments that took place yesterday and today, will have a positive impact on the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” he said.

Russia, which has had peacekeeping troops on the ground in Karabakh since the end of the 2020 war, said it hoped for a “peaceful” resolution to the conflict, without mentioning a ceasefire agreement.

“We are in close contact with all the sides of the conflict: with authorities in Yerevan, with [separatist Karabakh] authorities in Stepanakert and in Baku,” President Vladimir Putin said during a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

In a statement giving an account of a phone call between Putin and the Armenian prime minister, Pashinyan, the Kremlin said the Russian president had “noted with satisfaction that it was possible to overcome the acute phase of the conflict, and welcomed the agreement … on a complete cessation of hostilities and the holding of negotiations on September 21”.

The Kremlin had already said it considered Baku’s lightning offensive an internal action on its own sovereign territory and had dismissed allegations from Armenia, Moscow’s ally, that Russian peacekeepers had done too little to protect Karabakh’s Armenian population.

Putin said Russian peacekeepers would mediate the upcoming talks between Armenian separatists and Azerbaijan on Thursday.

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Full text: Zelenskyy’s speech to the UN General Assembly | Russia-Ukraine war News

Full text: Zelenskyy’s speech to the UN General Assembly | Russia-Ukraine war News

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy travelled to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly in person for the first time since Moscow began its full-scale invasion of his country in February 2022.

Dressed in his trademark khaki green shirt, he urged member states to come together to oppose Russian aggression and stressed the need for a peace recognising Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Here is the full text of Zelenskyy’s speech from September 19.

Zelenskyy makes a point to UN members in New York
Zelenskyy was speaking at the UN in New York for the first time since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022 [Mary Altaffer/AP Photo]

I welcome all who stand for common efforts! And I promise – being really united we can guarantee fair peace for all nations. What’s more, unity can prevent wars.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Secretary General! Fellow leaders!

This hall saw many wars but not as active defender against the aggressions. In many cases, the fear of war, the final war, was the loudest here – the war after which no one would gather in the General Assembly Hall again.

The Third World War was seen as a nuclear war. A conflict between states on the highway to nukes. Other wars seemed less scary compared to a threat of the so-called “great powers” firing their nuclear stockpiles.

So, the 20th century taught the world to restrain from the use of the weapons of mass destruction – not to deploy, not to proliferate, not to threaten with, and not to test, but to promote a complete nuclear disarmament.

Frankly, this is a good strategy.

But it should not be the only strategy to protect the world from this final war.

Ukraine gave up its third-largest nuclear arsenal. The world then decided Russia should become a keeper of such power. Yet, history shows it was Russia who deserved nuclear disarmament the most, back in 1990s. And Russia deserves it now – terrorists have no right to hold nuclear weapons.

But truly not the nukes are the scariest now.

While nukes remain in place, the mass destruction is gaining its momentum. The aggressor is weaponising many other things and those things are used not only against our country but against all of yours as well.

Fellow leaders!

There are many conventions that restrict weapons but there are no real restrictions on weaponisation.

First, let me give you an example – the food.

Since the start of the full-scale war, the Ukrainian ports in the Black and Azov Seas have been blocked by Russia. Until now, our ports on the Danube River remain the target for missiles and drones. And it is a clear Russia’s attempt to weaponise the food shortage on the global market in exchange for recognition for some, if not all, of the captured territories.

Russia is launching the food prices as weapons. The impact spans from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Southeast Asia. This is the threat scale.

I would like to thank those leaders who supported our Black Sea Grain Initiative, and program “Grain from Ukraine”. United, we made weapons turn back into food again. More than 45 nations saw how important it is to make Ukrainian food products available on the market… from Algeria and Spain to Indonesia and China.

Even now when Russia has undermined the Black Sea Grain Initiative, we are working to ensure food stability. And I hope that many of you will join us in these efforts.

We launched a temporary sea export corridor from our ports. And we are working hard to preserve the land routes for grain exports. And it is alarming to see how some in Europe play out solidarity in a political theatre – making thriller from the grain. They may seem to play their own role but in fact, they are helping set the stage to a Moscow actor.

Second, weaponisation of energy.

Many times, the world has witnessed Russia using energy as a weapon. Kremlin weaponised oil and gas to weaken the leaders of other countries.

Now the threat is even greater.

Russia is weaponising nuclear energy. Not only it is spreading its unreliable nuclear-power-plant-construction-technologies, but it is also turning other countries’ power plants into real dirty bombs.

Look what Russia did to our Zaporizhzhia power plant – shelled it, occupied it and now blackmails others with radiation leaks.

Is there any sense to reduce nuclear weapons when Russia is weaponising nuclear power plants? Scary question.

The global security architecture offers no response or protection against such a treacherous radiation threat… And there is no accountability for radiation blackmailers so far.

The third example is children.

Unfortunately, various terrorist groups abduct children to put pressure on their families and societies. But never before the mass kidnapping and deportation would become a part of the government policy. Not until now.

We know the names of tens of thousands of children and have evidence on hundreds of thousands of others kidnapped by Russia in the occupied territories of Ukraine and later deported. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrant for Putin for this crime.

We are trying to get children back home but time goes by. What will happen to them? Those children in Russia are taught to hate Ukraine, and all ties with their families are broken… This is clearly a genocide.

When hatred is weaponised against one nation, it never stops there.

Each decade Russia starts a new war. Parts of Moldova and Georgia remain occupied. Russia turned Syria into ruins. And if not Russia, the chemical weapons would have never been used there in Syria. Russia has almost swallowed Belarus. It is obviously threatening Kazakhstan and the Baltic states… And the goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our resources into a weapon against you – against the international rules-based order.

Many seats in the General Assembly Hall may become empty if Russia succeeds with its treachery and aggression.

Ladies and gentlemen!

The aggressor scatters death and brings ruins even without nukes but the outcomes are alike.

We see towns and villages in Ukraine wiped out by Russian artillery. Levelled to the ground completely! We see the war of drones.

We know the possible effects of spreading the war into the cyberspace. The artificial intelligence could be trained to combat well – before it would learn to help the humanity. Thank God, people have not yet learned to use climate as a weapon. Even though humanity is failing on its climate policy objectives – this means that extreme weather will still impact the normal global life and some evil state will also weaponise its outcomes.

And when people in the streets of New York and other cities of the world went out on climate protest – we all have seen them… And when people in Morocco and Libya and other countries die as a result of natural disasters… And when islands and countries disappear under water… And when tornados and deserts are spreading into new territories… And when all of this is happening, one unnatural disaster in Moscow decided to launch a big war and kill tens of thousands of people.

We must act united – to defeat the aggressor and focus all our capabilities and energy on addressing these challenges.

As nukes are restrained, likewise the aggressor must be restrained and all its tools and methods of war. Each war now can become final, but it takes our unity to make sure that aggression will NOT break in again.

And it is not a dialogue between the so-called “great powers” somewhere behind the closed doors that can guarantee us all the new no-wars-era, but open work of all nations for peace.

Last year, I presented the outlines of the Ukrainian peace formula at the UN General Assembly. Later in Indonesia, I presented the full Formula. And over the past year, the Peace Formula became the basis to update the existing security architecture – now we can bring back to life the UN Charter and guarantee the full power of the rules-based world order.

Tomorrow, I will present the details at a special meeting of the UN Security Council.

The main thing is that it is not only about Ukraine. More than 140 states and international organisations have supported the Ukrainian Peace Formula fully or in part. The Ukrainian Peace Formula is becoming global. Its points offer solutions and steps that will stop all forms of weaponisation that Russia used against Ukraine and other countries and may be used by other aggressors.

Look – for the first time in modern history, we have the chance to end the aggression on the terms of the nation which was attacked. This is a real chance for every nation – to ensure that aggression against your state, if it happens, God forbid, will end not because your land will be divided and you will be forced to submit to military or political pressure, but because your territory and sovereignty will be fully restored.

We launched the format of meetings between national security advisers and diplomatic representatives. Important talks and consultations were held in Hiroshima, in Copenhagen, and in Jeddah on the implementation of the Peace Formula. And we are preparing a Global Peace Summit. I invite all of you – all of you who do not tolerate any aggression – to jointly prepare the Summit.

I am aware of the attempts to make some shady dealings behind the scenes. Evil cannot be trusted – ask Prigozhin [the former head of the mercenary Wagner group] if one bets on Putin’s promises.

Please, hear me.

Let unity decide everything openly.

While Russia is pushing the world to the final war, Ukraine is doing everything to ensure that after Russian aggression, no one in the world will dare to attack any nation. Weaponisation must be restrained. War crimes must be punished. Deported people must come back home. And the occupier must return to their own land.

We must be united to make it.

Слава Україні! [Translation: Glory to Ukraine!]

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What we know about the Azerbaijan offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh | Explainer News

What we know about the Azerbaijan offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh | Explainer News

Azerbaijan launched what it called “anti-terrorist activities” in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh and demanded the “complete withdrawal” of ethnic Armenian forces as a condition for peace in the disputed territory.

Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has meanwhile called on Russian peacekeeping troops in the Armenian-majority region to intervene and stop what it said was Azerbaijan’s “full-scale aggression” against the local population.

Here’s what we know so far.

What triggered the latest offensive?

Baku’s statement announcing the offensive came a few hours after Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at least six people had died in two accidents in the Azeri Khojavend district, allegedly due to landmines installed by Armenia’s security forces.

But in recent weeks, Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of building up troops and decried a blockade of its only land link to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia claimed Azerbaijan was behind a months-long humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh after Baku last year blocked the sole road linking the mountainous region with Armenia. It is called the Lachin Corridor, and Russian peacekeepers police it.

On Monday, trucks loaded with humanitarian aid entered Nagorno-Karabakh after Armenian separatists and the central government agreed to use roads linking the region to both Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to Baku.

What have been the developments so far?

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday that “local anti-terrorist activities carried out by the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan were ongoing.”

In the same statement, it said that “as part of the activities, only legitimate military installations and infrastructure are targeted and incapacitated using high-precision weapons”. It added that it has created humanitarian corridors to allow the evacuation of civilians.

Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan urged Russia and the United Nations to take action to stop the fighting.

Al Jazeera’s Robin Forestier-Walker, who has extensively covered events in Nagorno-Karabakh, said reports from inside the region spoke of “large-scale attacks in the form of potential rocket attacks and shelling” while the sound of small-arms fire could be heard in videos posted on social media.

Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, told Reuters that Azerbaijani forces have broken through a line of contact with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh in several places and are determined to fulfil their strategic goals,

Armenia has denied having any forces in the area. However, many Armenians have in the past volunteered to fight for Nagorno-Karabakh.

(Al Jazeera)

What is the possible fallout?

Reporting from Moscow, Al Jazeera’s Yulia Shapovalova said that the recent aggression could lead to further escalation and the outbreak of a new war between the two sides.

“According to Pashinyan [the prime minister of Armenia], Azerbaijan is trying to drag Armenia into yet another war, but Armenia is not going to launch any military operations,” she said, adding that for Baku the only route to peace is a complete withdrawal of Armenian troops from the area – a condition Armenia refuses to meet.

Al Jazeera’s Forestier-Walker said there was “great fear” that Tuesday’s operations could be the start of another large-scale war between the two neighbours.

He noted that the situation has been “dire” for months for the population of Nagorno-Kabarakh.

“They have been cut off from the main roads supplying Karabakh from Armenia,” Forestier-Walker said.

“Things have been shifting recently. The authorities in Azerbaijan were able to get some aid into Karabakh from the Azeri side of control, but they were still putting pressure on the access of Karabakh from Armenia because the Azeri authorities have claimed for a long time that this route is being used to smuggle in weapons and mines into the territory that is still under ethnic Armenian control.”

How has the world reacted?

Russia expressed deep alarm at “the sharp escalation” in the contested region, the TASS news agency reported, citing Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova. She said Azerbaijan had warned Russian peacekeepers in the region about military action just minutes before launching it.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric also expressed concern. “It’s very important that all the activities cease and both parties go back to a sustained dialogue to avoid any further clashes,” he told Al Jazeera.

The European Union condemned the escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh and called on Azerbaijan to stop its military activities, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“We call for the immediate cessation of hostilities & Azerbaijan to stop the current military activities,” he said on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Azerbaijan had broken its promise by resorting to military action in Nagorno-Karabakh, while Paris called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting to end the crisis.

A United States official said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold urgent talks Tuesday with all sides to end the “egregious” operation by Azerbaijan.

After the opening of an aid path on Monday, “We were hopeful that we were going to be able to adapt to the longer-term issues,” said the official.

What is the history behind the tensions?

Renewed fighting in the region comes almost three years after a brief but brutal war with Armenia over the area, in which more than 6,000 people were killed.

The ex-Soviet Caucasus rivals have been locked in a decades-long dispute with large-scale hostilities breaking out in the 1990s and in 2020.

The last large-scale conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh lasted for six weeks in 2020 before a Russian-brokered truce. The ceasefire saw Armenia cede swathes of territory it had controlled since the 1990s.

The two sides have since been unable to reach a lasting peace settlement despite mediation by the European Union, Russia and the US.

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