The Kremlin said Putin phoned Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev late on Saturday to discuss “practical aspects of implementing the agreement” announced by them on November 10.
“The parties expressed satisfaction over the observance of ceasefire and a fairly calm situation along the contact line,” it added in a statement.
The agreement came six weeks after the outbreak of large-scale hostilities in and around Karabakh that left thousands of soldiers from both sides dead and displaced tens of thousands of civilians.
Azerbaijan agreed to halt offensive military operations in return for an Armenian pledge to withdraw by the end of this month from three districts around Karabakh. Baku regained control over four other districts, which had been occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in the early 1990s, during the latest war.
The truce accord also calls for the deployment in the conflict zone of around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Putin announced on Friday that the Russian government will set up an Interagency Center for Humanitarian Reaction to assist in the return of the refugees and reconstruction of civilian infrastructure damaged during the war. He said the center will also provide “humanitarian aid to residents of districts that have suffered from the hostilities.”
The Kelbajar district sandwiched between Armenia and Karabakh is due to be handed back to Azerbaijan by Monday. Virtually all of its 3,500 or so ethnic Armenian residents have left their homes in recent days. Many of them have burned down their houses and other properties.
Kelbajar is also home to the 12th century Armenian monastery of Dadivank. RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent Susan Badalian reported from there on Saturday that scores of grief-stricken worshippers held farewell ceremonies as clergymen removed bells and traditional Armenian cross stones in advance of the area’s handover to Azerbaijan.
The monastery abbot, Father Hovannes, insisted at the same time he has no intention to leave Dadivank. “I’m going to stay in my church,” he told reporters.
Later on Saturday, a spokeswoman for the Armenian Apostolic Church said that the Dadivank clergymen will stay put and continue to hold religious services there. “Dadivank is now under the control of Russian peacekeepers and not at risk,” Father Vahram Melikian wrote on Facebook.
Russian soldiers set up a post just outside the monastery on Friday as they continued to enter Karabakh as part of their peacekeeping mission.
According to the Kremlin statement, Putin also discussed with Aliyev the fate of the Christian churches in areas handed over to Muslim Azerbaijan.
“In this context he stressed the importance of ensuring the preservation and normal operation of those holy sites,” the statement said. “The President of Azerbaijan expressed understanding in this respect and said that Azerbaijan will certainly act in this spirit.”