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‘Lost’ Azerbaijani soldier detained in Armenia

11 April 2023
Ashotovan. Photo: Emma YSU/Wikimedia Commons.

Armenia has detained an Azerbaijani soldier 14 kilometres within the country’s borders, with Azerbaijan later announcing that two soldiers had got lost on the Nakhchivan border.

On Monday, Armenia said they had detained one Azerbaijani soldier in the early hours of the morning. Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry told local media soon after that two soldiers had lost their way due to low visibility the previous Friday. 

Residents of the village of Ashotavan, 14 kilometres from the Azerbaijani border in Syunik Province, told local media that they had detained the solder and handed him over to police. 

Residents of the nearby village of Bnunis also told local media that the two Azerbaijanis were seen in their village on Sunday night, but were not captured. The two reportedly knocked on the door of a house during the night wearing masks. 

No information has been provided regarding the whereabouts of the second soldier, but Yerevan has announced that search operations are underway. 

Armenian civic groups have raised concerns about the soldiers crossing the border and appearing a significant distance within Armenia. 

Artur Sakunts from the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor told RFE/RL that the National Security service needed to explain how ‘even one person’ could cross the border unnoticed. 

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A video shared on social media appeared to show one of the soldiers in civilian clothing speaking to people in Ashotavan. 

‘For three days I have been sleeping in the grass, I have been sleeping on the ground’, the soldier says in Azerbaijani. ‘For three days I have not eaten or drunk water.’

The two villages where the Azerbaijanis were seen are around 14 kilometres from the border, with the likely route and the area’s mountainous terrain making the path from the border to the villages significantly longer.

Residents of both villages said the incident raised concerns about their safety, calling for the deployment of security forces in the area. 

Residents also expressed doubt about the official narratives, with some suggesting that there might be more than two Azerbaijani soldiers who entered Armenia. 

Others questioned the idea that the soldiers had got lost, suggesting that if they had become lost, the soldiers would have attempted to return to Azerbaijan rather than continuing further into Armenia.

One resident of Bnunis told local media that security cameras had captured footage of a third Azerbaijani soldier. 

The National Security Service has not yet commented on the incident or the questions raised by residents.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
Read in Azerbaijani on Abzas