Parents and relatives of Armenian captives in Azerbaijan held a protest on Monday demanding a meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. After not receiving an answer, they continued their protest in front of the government building overnight.
On Tuesday morning, government officials informed the parents that they would be called and invited for a meeting, after which they agreed to stop the sit-in protest.
‘They give us the same tale, the same lie every time’, a relative of one soldier sentenced to prison in Baku told News.am. ‘We don’t have any information… everyone we appeal to runs away; we shout to them to stop, but they don’t’.
‘If our Prime Minister doesn’t want to meet us or doesn’t have anything to say, who should we demand our sons from?’ another parent asked. ‘They have their sons with them’.
‘We are ordinary people; how can we negotiate with Putin?’, he said, urging Pashinyan to appeal to Russia for assistance.
The soldiers in question were taken captive from the Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd villages, of the Hadrut region, which were under the control of Russian peacekeepers.
Their capture took place over a month after the ceasefire agreement ending the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War. The settlements have since passed under Azerbaijani control, despite being part of the Russian-controlled territory.
According to the Armenian government, 39 Armenian soldiers and civilians are currently held captive in Azerbaijan where they are sentenced to up to 15 years of imprisonment in Baku on ‘terrorism’ charges. Armenian lawyers representing the relatives of prisoners of war in international courts claim, however, to have information about over a hundred Armenian captives in Azerbaijan.
Since the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war, Azerbaijan has returned 150 Armenian captives and prisoners of war.
Despite having agreed to release prisoners of war as part of the 9 November ceasefire agreement and receiving additional calls from the international community to do so, Azerbaijan refuses to return the prisoners.
In a call with Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev in late July, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the release of ‘all remaining Armenian detainees’.
The most recent return of Armenian captives, negotiated by the EU, took place in February.
In May, Pashinyan stated that Aliyev had broken another agreement reached in Brussels in Spring. He claimed that while Armenia had provided Azerbaijan with maps of minefields, Azerbaijan had failed to deliver on their part of the agreement by returning Armenian prisoners of war.
He claimed that Aliyev was using the prisoners as leverage in negotiations.
‘This is using people for political purposes and making them a subject of trade, which is condemnable.’
According to Armenia, there are also still 183 soldiers and 20 civilians considered to be missing, but search and rescue operations in the territories Azerbaijan took control over since the war stopped a few months ago. As of June, Armenia was negotiating to resume operations to find the remains of the missing.