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Armenia asks Putin to act to end isolation of Karabakh enclave

CIS summit in Saint Petersburg

(Reuters) -Armenia on Tuesday asked President Vladimir Putin to take a tougher line on Nagorno-Karabakh and for Russian peacekeepers to end what it calls Azerbaijan's blockade of the only road leading to the enclave.

Armenia said Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had spoken to Putin about the resulting humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh and had "highlighted" the importance of Russia taking the necessary steps to overcome it.

"In this context, reference was made to the activities of the Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh," the Armenian government said in a statement.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but its 120,000 inhabitants are predominantly ethnic Armenians and it broke away from Baku in a first war in the early 1990s.

Azeri civilians identifying themselves as environmental activists have been facing off since Dec. 12 with Russian peacekeepers on the Lachin corridor, the only road across Azerbaijan that links Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Yerevan says the protesters are government-backed agitators. Baku denies blockading the road, saying that some convoys and aid are allowed through.

The Kremlin said Armenia had asked for the call.

"The current situation around Nagorno-Karabakh was discussed, with an emphasis on the importance of consistent implementation of the entire complex of trilateral agreements of the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan," it said.

Later on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed "ways to resolve the situation around the Lachin corridor," in a telephone call with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov.

Lavrov said Russia was ready to mediate the standoff, according a readout from Russia's foreign ministry.

In 2020, Azerbaijan retook territory in and around the enclave after a second war that ended in a Russian-brokered ceasefire upheld by Russian peacekeepers.

Armenia has made a series of increasingly blunt public demands of Russia over the blockade in recent weeks. Pashinyan last month said Russian peacekeepers were failing to perform their duties.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Andrew Osborn, David Ljunggren and Jonathan Oatis)