Russia has protested to Azerbaijan over comments it made about weekend regional elections in areas of Ukraine claimed by Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.
She also accused Armenia of making “unacceptable and harmful” statements that were damaging to the prospects for a peace settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Zakharova’s comments reflected a sharp worsening of Russia’s relations with both countries, which have fought two wars in the three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Distracted by the war in Ukraine, Moscow is struggling to maintain its position as the leading power and security guarantor in the region.
At the weekend, Azerbaijan released a statement on what it called “sham ‘elections’ in certain territories of Ukraine” – a reference to votes that Russia was holding in four partly occupied regions of Ukraine that it claimed as its own after invading its neighbour last year.
The Azerbaijani statement said the Russian vote was taking place in areas internationally recognised as part of Ukraine and was therefore legally void.
Zakharova told reporters that Russia had lodged a diplomatic protest because the comments were “unacceptable to us and do not correspond to the allied nature of relations between our countries”.
“We proceed from the fact that Baku should treat the territorial integrity of our country with the same respect that Baku expects from us, when it comes to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan,” she added.
Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan have risen in the past week, with each side accusing the other of building up troop concentrations near their borders.
Armenia has accused Russia, which has maintained a peacekeeping force in the region since the last war in 2020, of failing to protect it against what it calls Azerbaijani aggression.
Zakharova said Armenia’s recent statements had an “unfriendly character” and were damaging to the peace process over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The territory is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mostly populated by ethnic Armenians who broke away from Baku in a war in the 1990s.