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Russia says all Azeri captives returned under Karabakh deal

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia January 18, 2021. Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW/YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenia has returned all Azeri prisoners who were captured during last year’s conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, but the process with Armenian prisoners has been held up, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday.

The six-week conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh was brought to a halt in November by a Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement under which Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces were expected to exchange all captives.

Armenia has said that many of its prisoners of war remain in Azerbaijan, a problem it has raised with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group.

Lavrov said that Armenia did not immediately present a full list of captives it sought, which slowed down the process. Azerbaijan has received all the people it sought, he added.

He said Russian peacekeepers deployed to the region were in contact with Armenian and Azeri forces to establish the location of those named by Armenia.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Nvard Hovhannisyan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky