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Armenia to hand over captured Azerbaijani soldier 

5 March 2024
Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Photo: Armenian Public Radio.

Armenia has announced its intent to hand over an Azerbaijani soldier captured within Armenia’s borders late February as a ‘gesture of goodwill’.

Ruslan Panahov was captured in Tegh, an Armenian village in the Syunik region, with unconfirmed media reports claiming that an additional soldier fled capture and later returned to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defence confirmed that Panahov was captured by Armenia after accidentally crossing its border due to ‘unfavourable weather’ on 28 February.

On Monday, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) announced that it was going to hand over Ruslan Panahov would be released as part of an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, stipulating the swift release of soldiers who accidentally crossed either country’s borders.

The NSS added that Panahov had accidentally crossed into Armenia after ‘fleeing and getting lost’ following an ‘incident’ between Azerbaijani soldiers.  

On the same day, Armenia’s Investigative Committee stated that criminal prosecution of Panahov was being dropped. Panahov was being investigated on charges of murder, sabotage, and smuggling arms.

On Thursday, Andranik Kocharyan, an MP from the ruling Civil Contract party, suggested that Panahov could be released as part of a prisoner exchange.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan last exchanged prisoners in December 2023, in a swap that saw the release of 32 Armenian soldiers in exchange for two Azerbaijani soldiers arrested that year for crossing the border into Armenia.

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