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Armenia, Azerbaijan exchange prisoners of war

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A view shows a Russian military aircraft transporting Armenian prisoners of war, after landing at Erebuni military airport in Yerevan, Armenia, on December 14, 2020. (Photo via Reuters)

Armenia and Azerbaijan have started a prisoner swap, under a ceasefire deal that was brokered by Russia last month to put an end to weeks-long fighting between the two countries over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that Baku and Yerevan had begun exchanging prisoners of war.

A Russian military aircraft flew a group of 12 Azeri prisoners to Baku late on Monday, said the commander of Russia’s peacekeeping forces in Karabakh, Rustam Muradov.

Baku also released a group of 44 Armenian prisoners on Monday, according to Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan.

After six weeks of deadly fighting in and around the disputed Caucasus region, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to end hostilities under the Russian-brokered deal in early November.

A view shows a bus transporting Armenian prisoners of war, on arrival at Erebuni military airport in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on December 14, 2020. (Photo via Reuters)

Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it has been occupied by ethnic Armenian separatists backed by Armenia since 1992 when they broke from Azerbaijan in a war that killed some 30,000 people.

The latest fighting re-erupted in late September.

Under the ceasefire deal, Azerbaijan regained some of its territorial claims and Russia and Turkey sent peacekeeping forces to jointly monitor the truce.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have, however, accused each other of violating the ceasefire.

Armenian-backed forces and Azeri troops engaged in fighting in the southeastern part of Nagorno-Karabakh over the weekend.

Six Armenian soldiers were wounded, according to the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The provocations of Azerbaijan continued today in the direction of the villages of Mets Shen and Hin Shen in the Hadrut region," the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Azerbaijan reported a casualty toll of four.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Azerbaijan took control of the two villages of Hin Taghe and Khtsaberd in the fighting.

Azerbaijan said it launched two operations on Friday and Saturday in the villages after its forces came under two deadly attacks by Armenia over the past three weeks.

But Russian peacekeepers reported no major fighting in the region. They said there had only been one ceasefire violation over the weekend.

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