Three more prisoners of war returned to Armenia from Azerbaijan
The plane landed with them at the Erebuni airport in Yerevan. The government reported that their return took place thanks to the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries and against the backdrop of growing international pressure on Azerbaijan.
“We hope that this process will have a logical continuation and will soon be completed,” acting Vice Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan.
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Information from Yerevan
The last time the exchange of prisoners between Armenia and Azerbaijan took place was on February 9, 2021.
Then, five Armenian prisoners of war returned to their homeland. In total, since the end of the second Karabakh war, 66 prisoners, including civilians, have been returned to Armenia.
Armenia handed over 15 people to Azerbaijan. Among them are not only the Azerbaijanis Shahbaz Guliyev and Dilham Askerov, who were convicted long before that in Nagorno-Karabakh for the murder of a child, espionage and other crimes. Before the war, the Armenian side did not agree to return them under any pretext.
At least 59 people continue to remain in Azerbaijan. All of them, like those who returned to Yerevan today, come from the Shirak region of Armenia.
Baku earlier confirmed information that 62 soldiers were taken prisoner by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in Karabakh in December 2020, that is, after the cessation of hostilities. Azerbaijan refuses to give them away, declaring them to be saboteurs.
Meanwhile, the Armenian side appeals to the trilateral statement signed by the heads of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, according to which all prisoners of war and detainees should be returned.
Armenian human rights activists claim that Azerbaijan continues to hold about a hundred more prisoners of war. The Azerbaijani side does not confirm this information.
Information from Baku
According to Azerbaijani media reports, “in accordance with the humanism and humanistic policy demonstrated by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, three Armenian servicemen disarmed in Karabakh after the trilateral statement signed on November 10, 2020” were released.
It is noted that Robert Vardanyan, Samvel Shukhyan and Seyran Tamrazyan were released.
“During the investigation, it was confirmed that these persons are Armenian military personnel, but their involvement in criminal activities, including operations that resulted in the death or injury of Azerbaijani military personnel or civilians, has not been established,” the statement said.
Azerbaijan’s position on detainees
In December 2020, 62 servicemen of the Armenian Armed Forces were detained on the territory of the Khojavend region in Karabakh.
President Ilham Aliyev presented Azerbaijan’s position regarding their retention during his press conference for local and foreign journalists:
“After the end of hostilities, according to our information, on the 20th of November from Armenia – from the Shirak region, from the city of Gyumri and adjacent regions – a detachment of more than 60 people was sent. Azerbaijani army.
It turned out that this was a sabotage group that attacked both our servicemen and civilians. […]
Naturally, we carried out a counter-terrorist operation, as a result of which several terrorists were completely neutralized, and more than 60 were captured. Today, when they are trying to call them prisoners of war, I think that they deliberately distort the essence of the issue. […]
These are terrorists and saboteurs. And any speculation on the part of Armenia or some countries is inappropriate. “