“This is a tragedy,” Putin said in his first televised comments on the large-scale hostilities that broke out on September 27.
“People are dying, there are numerous casualties on both sides, and we hope that this conflict will end in the very near future,” he told Russian state television.
Putin also stressed that Russia remains committed to its defense pact with Armenia but has no plans yet to directly intervene in the fighting taking place along the Karabakh “line of contact.”
“Armenia is a member of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization),” he said. “We have certain obligations within the framework of that [CSTO membership] treaty. But the hostilities which, to our great regret, continue to this day are not being carried out on the territory of Armenia.
“As for Russia’s fulfillment of its treaty obligations ... we have always fulfilled, are fulfilling and will fulfill our obligations. As you know, I am in constant, working contact with the prime minister of Armenia. But Armenia’s leadership has no questions about the quality of Russia’s fulfillment of its defense obligations.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained separately that Russia is obliged to defend Armenia against foreign aggression. But he said these “CSTO obligations do not extend to Karabakh.”
Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian spoke on Monday by phone for the fourth time since the outbreak of the Karabakh war. Pashinian expressed confidence afterwards that Moscow will provide necessary assistance “in case of a threat to Armenia’s security.”
Many in Armenia feel that Russian military support is critical now that neighboring Turkey supports Azerbaijan diplomatically and militarily. Russia has a military base in Armenia.
Moscow last week implicitly accused Ankara of sending “terrorists and mercenaries” from Syria and Libya to fight in Karabakh on the Azerbaijani side. The Russian foreign intelligence chief, Sergei Naryshkin, warned on Tuesday that the region could become a “launch pad” for Islamist militants to enter Russia.
Peskov told journalists that the reported presence of foreign fighters in the conflict zone is a “cause for deep concern.” Asked whether it could prompt Moscow to launch an “anti-terrorist operation” in Karabakh, he said: “I am not aware of that at the moment.”
Turkey has denied recruiting Turkish-backed Syrian rebels for the Azerbaijani army. Baku also denies their presence in its army ranks.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev spoke with Putin on Wednesday for the first time since the start of the war. Putin’s 68th birthday anniversary was the main official reason for the phone call. Aliyev’s office said the two leaders also discussed the Karabakh conflict.
Peskov also gave no details of the conversation. According to Russian news agencies, the Kremlin official said only that Aliyev and Putin agreed to “continue the dialogue.”
Pashinian also called Putin to congratulate him on his birthday anniversary. His office said the two men also agreed on the need for a “quick end to the hostilities.”