MOSCOW — Russia has appointed a new head of its peacekeeping force in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) as tensions remain high between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting the Armenian-populated region with Armenia.

The Russian Defense Ministry on April 26 announced the appointment of Aleksandr Lentsov to replace Andrei Volkov, without providing a reason.

The announcement came hours after a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan during which the Lachin Corridor and the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh were discussed, according to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, citing government information.

A statement from the Russian Defense Ministry said the discussion between Putin and Pashinyan focused on “resolving practical tasks to ensure stability and security in the region.” It added that they confirmed the importance of observing previous agreements reached by Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

Lentsov is already in Nagorno-Karabakh, and on April 26 was to hold negotiations with the Azerbaijani side regarding the removal of a checkpoint on the Lachin Corridor, according to Samvel Babayan, leader of Nagorno-Karabakh’s United Motherland party.

“From today, they should start the negotiations and start the actions, in my opinion, [and] after a couple of days it should be clear what they have done. Now let’s see how much they will be able to prevent this circus from continuing,” Babayan said.

Lentsov has served as an adviser to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and until 2020 was deputy commander in chief of the Russian military’s ground forces. Lentsov in 2014-15 was active in Ukraine as the head of a so-called joint center for cease-fire control, coordination, and stabilization in the eastern Donbas region.

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