MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian military officer has been killed by an explosion while working to clear mines leftover from six weeks of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, officials said Friday.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the mine-clearing expert died Thursday on the way to a hospital after hitting a mine on a road near the town of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the region under a Moscow-brokered peace agreement that took force Nov. 10, ending 44 days of fierce fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Nagorno-Karabakh. The officer's death marks the first casualty among the Russian forces.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That war left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands.
During the latest fighting that began in late September and left more than 5,600 people killed on both sides, the Azerbaijani army forged deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept last month’s peace deal.
Russia deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the agreement and to facilitate the return of refugees. Russian military engineers were sent to the area to clear minefields.