Russian peacekeepers promise to oversee return of all Armenian prisoners held in Azerbaijan
“The work on the return of captured Armenian soldiers is ongoing at the moment, it is positive, there is understanding. I believe that this issue should be resolved completely and the Russian peacekeepers will bring this matter to an end”, said Rustam Muradov, deputy commander of the Southern Military District. Previously, he served as the commander of the peacekeeping contingent which has been stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh since the signing of the ceasefire agreement in the fall of 2020.
Rustam Muradov oversaw all of the previous prisoner exhcanges, even after leaving the post of commander of the peacekeeping contingent.
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“Return of prisoners is a duty of peacekeepers”
The Russian general also said that he regards the work on the return of prisoners “as a civil duty of peacekeepers”.
“As a military man, I understand who the prisoners of war are, what they experienced while in captivity. I remember the first flight, when we flew to Baku, and on my return I saw the faces of those servicemen when they had already flown to Yerevan, to the Erebuni airfield. They were crying, they could not believe that they had returned home”, said Rustam Muradov.
Return of the prisoners of war is a painful issue in Armenian society. According to the tripartite declaration of the cessation of hostilities on November 9, 2020, the parties undertake to return all prisoners to each other. All Azerbaijani prisoners were returned by the Armenian side, but dozens of Armenian prisoners still remain in Baku.
After the second Karabakh war, 126 prisoners of war and civilians returned to their homeland from Azerbaijan, they were returned in small groups. Baku does not report exactly how many people remain in Azerbaijani prisons. Those Armenians who remain in captivity are declared “terrorists” in Azerbaijan and are going to be tried.
“Return of prisoners of war is among the peacekeepers’ main tasks”
The Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov also commented on this topic on December 9. He stated that within the framework of the peacekeeping operation on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh the Russian military personnel is now focused on the return of prisoners, the implementation of infrastructure projects and the solution of other humanitarian tasks.
This refers to the demining of terrain and objects, the search for the bodies of the dead and ensuring the safety of the delivery of humanitarian supplies.
“In addition to ensuring the observance of the ceasefire, the efforts of our peacekeepers are focused on restoring peaceful life in the region and humanitarian issues are being successfully resolved”, said Valery Gerasimov.
At a briefing with the military attachés of the diplomatic missions operating in Russia, he said that the Russian Armed Forces continue to carry out peacekeeping tasks in Nagorno-Karabakh:
“More than a year ago, we managed to stop the bloody war and create conditions for the restoration of peace in the region. In order to reduce tensions and comply with the ceasefire regime, Russian peacekeepers organized watch posts and patrols in the area of the peacekeeping operation”.