Putin agrees to withdraw Russian forces from various Armenian regions, says Ifax

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues via video link in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) -President Vladimir Putin has agreed to withdraw Russian forces and border guards from various parts of Armenia at Yerevan's request, Putin's spokesman was cited as saying on Thursday by Russia's Interfax news agency.

The announcement follows the departure of nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers from in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region which Azerbaijan returned by force in September last year. Their exit ended a multi-year deployment which gave Moscow a military foothold in the strategic South Caucasus region.

Armenia has asked Russian border guards to also leave their posts at the country's main airport in Yerevan from Aug. 1.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited on Thursday as saying that Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had reached an agreement on a wave of new Russian departures at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.

"In autumn 2020, at the request of the Armenian side, our military and border guards were deployed to a number of Armenian regions. Pashinyan said that today, due to changed conditions, there is no longer such a need so President Putin agreed and the withdrawal of our military and border guards was agreed," Peskov told Interfax.

The Sputnik Armenia news service cited a senior Armenian politician from the ruling party as saying that Putin and Pashinyan had agreed that Russian forces and border guards would withdraw from five Armenian regions.

Russian border guards will however remain on Armenia's borders with Turkey and Iran - at Yerevan's request - Peskov was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Pashinyan criticised Russia for not intervening to stop Azerbaijani forces in Karabakh and has since publicly questioned his country's traditional alliance with Russia - which has a string of military facilities inside Armenia - and has started to forge closer ties with the West.

(Reporting by ReutersWriting by Andrew OsbornEditing by Guy Faulconbridge)