Several ex-POWs were charged and arrested after their return to Armenia
Five of 10 prisoners of war (POWs) reportedly taken captive during clashes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border on November 16 have been charged with „violating the rules of duty“ on December 10. It followed a protest organised by parents of some POWs on December 7, shortly after a video was leaked in which Armenia’s Speaker of the Parliament Alen Simonyan denounced „deserters“ among them.
As OC the Media reminds, the former POWs were reportedly taken captive during clashes on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border in November, when, according to unverified sources, around three dozen Armenian service members were taken captive. They were later returned in exchange for additional maps of minefields in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
A day after the clashes, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan cast doubt on the circumstances around the soldiers’ capture, stating that the government “does not understand” how they ended up in captivity. “Every person serving in the Armed Forces has responsibilities”, Pashinyan said, “it must be clearly examined in all cases, what it means to be taken prisoner, and under what circumstances”.
On December 7, a video has appeared on the Internet in which Alen Simonyan, the Speaker of the Armenian Parliament, discusses the fate of the Armenian prisoners of war. According to his version, many of the POWs are deserters, and the future of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh is much more important.
Simonyan stated that “the military’s duty is to defend their Motherland.” “Forgive me, maybe I’ll say some bad things, but for me, these POWs no longer exist. Do you know who these POWs are? These are the people who laid down their arms, fled, lost their way, and were taken POWs,” said the speaker.
In the evening of December 7, relatives of POWs and missing servicemen in the Karabakh war blocked Tigran Mets and Amiryan Streets near the government building and in Republic Square. In this way, they expressed their protest against Mr Simonyan’s statement about POWs.
Arsen Gasparyan, a protester, has condemned Simonyan’s statement. “For a year and two months now, my son has been considered missing, and the Parliament Speaker asserts that this topic is closed for him. Our children gave the most precious thing for their homeland, but some people who hadn’t served themselves treat them as deserters,” Mr Gasparyan told the Caucasian Knot correspondent.
At least 45 Armenian POWs have been held by Azerbaijan since last year, and an estimated three dozen soldiers were taken captive in the November 16, 2021 clashes. Ten of them were recently returned in exchange for landmine maps around Nagorno-Karabakh, reminds the OC Media.
Deputy Commander of Russia’s Southern Military District Rustam Muradov said on December 9 that Russian peacekeepers will complete the task of returning all Armenian prisoners of war held in Azerbaijan.
He said all Azerbaijani servicemen captured during the war in 2020 had been returned with the assistance of the Russian peacekeepers, while the work on the return of captured Armenian soldiers continues. “There is understanding. I believe that this issue should be completely closed. And Russian peacekeepers will bring this matter to an end,” Muradov said. He noted that he sees the return of prisoners as a civil duty of a peacekeeper.