Strategic Analysis Caucasus Brief

Bi-weekly review (29. 11. – 15. 12. 2021)

Tomáš Baranec


Gyumri, Armenia. Photo: OpenFinal/

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.

  • AVETISYAN Ani, OC Media, „Armenia moves to arrest several ex-POWs“,
  • AVETISYAN Ani, OC Media, „Support Us Parents rally after Armenian parliamentary speaker says POWs ‘no longer exist’ for him“,
  • Caucasian Knot, „Relatives of POWs, demand meeting with Speaker of Armenian Parliament“,
  • Caucasian Knot, Alen Simonyan’s words anger relatives of captured soldiers,
  • GHAZANCHYAN Siranush,, „Russian peacekeepers will complete the duty of returning all Armenian POWs – Rustam Muradov“,
Turkey, Armenia to appoint envoys to normalise relations

Turkey and Armenia will appoint special representatives to discuss steps to normalise their ties, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared on December 13.

“We and Armenia will soon appoint special envoys to take steps toward the normalisation” of bilateral relations, he said. “We will also open chartered flights with the Armenian capital city Yerevan.”

Vahan Hunanyan, the spokesman for Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, confirmed Cavusoglu’s announcement. “In this regard, we positively assess the statement of the Turkish Foreign Minister on the appointment of a special representative for the normalisation of relations, and confirm that the Armenian side will appoint a special representative for this dialogue,” Hunanyan said in a December 14 statement.

Cavusoglu also said that Turkey will take each step jointly with Azerbaijan, which has given signals that it intends to try to get some of its interests taken into account as its allies in Ankara pursue a deal with Yerevan, writes Eurasianet. Hunanyan, for his part, mentioned that Armenia is ready for normalisation “without preconditions.”

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties, and Turkey shut down their common border in 1993 in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan, which was locked in a conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In 2009, Ankara and Yerevan reached an agreement to establish formal relations and to open their joint border, but Turkey later said it could not ratify the deal until Armenia withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh.

  • MEJLUMYAN Ani,, „Turkey, Armenia to appoint envoys to normalise relations“,
  • ABC News, „Turkey, Armenia to appoint envoys in bid to normalise ties“,


City of Ganja, Azerbaijan. Photo: Aleksandr Stezhkin/

Mine explosions in Karabakh claimed 73 Azerbaijani victims since the end of the last year’s war

Since the end of the second war over Nagorno-Karabakh in the autumn of 2020, 73 people, including 24 killed, fell victim to mine explosions in the territories that came under the control of Azerbaijan.

Most of the mine explosions occurred when people illegally entered the areas not cleared of mines, the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action reported.

Since the beginning of 2021, Azerbaijan and Armenia have had several exchanges of the servicemen of the Armenian POWs held in Baku for maps of minefields in the territories that came under the control of Azerbaijan as a result of the second war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Azerbaijan Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) has expressed doubts about the reliability of the maps and forms presented.

“The minefield maps usually indicate the coordinates of the terrain, the types of mines placed, their number, the distance between them, information on the order of location, and camouflage. However, I would like to note that at first glance, the submitted maps create an impression that they are unreliable and inaccurate. As you know, in order to evade responsibility within the framework of relevant international court cases, the Armenian side made a statement saying that the maps covering all minefields had been transferred. However, we doubt that the maps submitted by Armenia fully reflect the situation with mines in all territories liberated from occupation,” said the head of ANAMA Vugar Suleymanov.

ANAMA and the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan have already begun work on the analysis and processing of the maps. The data will then be checked for consistency and accuracy, writes JAM News.

  • Caucasian Knot, „Twenty-four Azerbaijani civilians killed by mine explosions in Karabakh“,
  • JAM News, „Azerbaijan doubts the reliability of Armenian minefield maps“,
Azerbaijani opposition leader Tofig Yagublu severely beaten in prison

Opposition leader Tofig Yagublu was detained on December 1 during a protest in defence of the activist, Saleh Rustamov. Yagublu, 60, later said police severely beat him while videoing him and demanding that he say on camera that he would stop criticising Azerbaijan’s leadership.

Altogether more than 40 people were arrested and beaten up at Fountain Square in Baku at a rally in support of opposition activist Saleh Rustamov, who has been on a hunger strike.

Among the detainees are well-known opposition politicians and representative of the National Council of Democratic Forces Yagublu, his daughter Nigar Khazi, member of the women’s organisation of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan Dilara Miriyev, member of the Supreme Majlis of the Popular Front Party Ilham Huseyn, human rights activist Zafar Akhmedov, member of the youth organisation of the Musavat party Ayhan Hajibat and others.

The official statement of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan says that “a group of people tried to hold an unsanctioned rally at the Fountain Square, violating the rules of the special quarantine regime. The attempt was immediately suppressed by the police”.

The Public Council under the Ministry of Internal Affairs has appealed to the MIA about the situation with the detainees at the action, Alimamed Nuriev, the chairman of the Council, wrote on Facebook.

Tofig Yagublu treats the Public Council’s appeal as the “imitation” of the investigation. Thus, authorities claim their innocence, he has stated. According to his version, the situation is controlled by the head of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev.

The British Embassy to Baku has called on Azerbaijani authorities to investigate the beating of Yagublu.

Saleh Rustamov on dry hunger strike. His life is in danger.

Azerbaijani activist Saleh Rustamov refused water on the 38th day of his hunger strike in the prison hospital, his advocate reported on December 14. The defender expressed his concern for his life.

The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that on November 6, Saleh Rustamov, an activist of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), went on a hunger strike in protest against the fact that he was not affected by the amnesty. According to the advocate, on the 36th day of the hunger strike, Saleh Rustamov lost the ability to move independently. On December 12, doctor Adil Geibulla reported that the „convict” was being injected intravenously with nutrients, but that would not replace adequate nutrition, and he could die at any time.

“On the 38th day of his hunger strike, Saleh Rustamov completely weakened. We spoke with him for only 3-4 minutes because it was hard for him to sit. My client said that he could not tolerate the severe pain that arose as a result of the hunger strike, and in order to escape from them, he goes on a dry hunger strike,” advocate Bakhruz Bairamov said.

Turkish medical experts have diagnosed Rustamov with the death of brain cells. In its turn, the Penitentiary Service denied the information about Rustamov’s mental health problems, but his defence disagrees with the Service. “Rustamov refuses to eat, although he has already lost hope in the efficiency of his protest”, his advocate said on the 35th day of Saleh’s hunger strike.

Rustamov has suffered from COVID-19, and, according to the doctor, Adil Geibulla, the post-Covid syndrome poses an additional danger at any time the hunger-striker faces a fatal outcome.

On December 11, Ned Price, the Spokesperson of the US State Department, as well as Stephan Schennach and Richard Bacon, the PACE co-rapporteurs, made an appeal to Azerbaijan’s authorities to release Saleh Rustamov.

A series of public protests in his support, with his followers gathering in public places around Baku, were brutally dispersed by the Azerbaijani Police in subsequent days.

  • Caucasian Knot, „Doctor informs about Saleh Rustamov’s risk of death“,
  • Caucasian Knot, „Azerbaijani activist Saleh Rustamov goes on dry hunger strike“,
  • Caucasian Knot, „US State Department and PACE co-rapporteurs urge to release Rustamov“,
  • JAM News, „Azerbaijani police arrest, beat over 40 protesters at a rally for hunger-striking Saleh Rustamov. Video“,


Tskhinvali old town, Georgia. Photo: Artem Markin/

Georgian Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze resigned

Georgian Minister of Health Ekaterine Tikaradze has announced her resignation on December 9, Tikaradze cited her wish to help fight the pandemic from the Georgian Dream party political council.

“After three years of intensive work and consultations with the prime minister and the [ruling] party chair, I find it the right decision to further strengthen the Georgian health and social protection services from the Georgian Dream party political council”, she announced.

Tikaradze also said that despite the difficult epidemiologic situation in the country, the health ministry has carried out a number of important projects and has worked around the clock. “It is and it was a huge responsibility for me to be the Minister of health. All of our actions and decisions have been aimed at achieving the best solutions for our country and the health of our citizens”, she said.

Ekaterine Tikaradze was appointed Minister of Health in September 2019. She replaced David Sergeenko in this post. Her ministry coincided with an outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that was the Minister’s main challenge.

As Jam News writes, Tikaradze recently had a disagreement with Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili regarding the so-called green passports. The Minister believed that the permanent green status should not be granted to those who recovered from coronavirus. The Minister also spoke about the need to use green passports in public transport. She said if a new strain is detected, controls and recommendations will be significantly tightened, and the Coordination Council would consider introducing green passes in the public transport, since, according to Tikaradze, otherwise green passports “will remain a fictitious regulation”.

Georgia skips 3+3 platform meeting in Moscow

Despite earlier speculations, Georgia did not attend the first meeting of the so-called 3+3 regional cooperation platform. The inaugural meeting of the platform pushed by Moscow and Ankara in the aftermath of the second Nagorno-Karabakh war was held in Moscow on December 10.

“The representatives of the five countries expressed interest in Georgia joining the platform, for which the door remains open,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) in the press statement.

The MID also noted that at the meeting, the parties discussed “the development of multifaceted regional cooperation,” including trade, economy, transport, and cultural-humanitarian issues.

The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) says it is “unacceptable” that the Georgian flag appeared at the so-called 3+3 regional cooperation initiative held on December 10 in Moscow, in which the country refused to participate.

“The meeting held on December 10 in Moscow featured the Georgian flag…[this] is unacceptable for us. We have reacted through the appropriate diplomatic channels,” reacted the ministry.

The ministry reiterated that Georgia “has repeatedly stated its clear position” regarding the regional platform proposed by Turkey and Iran in 2020, emphasising that the country “is not considering participation in this format.”

The Georgian Foreign Ministry earlier reiterated the position that Georgia is not considering participation in the platform together with the Russian Federation, which occupies two Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.

  • „Tbilisi Skips 3+3 Platform Meeting in Moscow“,
  • „MFA condemns the use of Georgian flag at so-called 3+3 regional platform in Moscow“,
South Ossetian commission makes de facto claim on another Georgian territory

Commission on delimitation and demarcation of the state border with Georgia, established by the de facto president of South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov in April, says that at least 200 km2 of South Ossetian territory is still under the control of Tbilisi.

On December 1, the South Ossetian parliament, after long disputes, decided to hear information from the commission on the delimitation and demarcation of the state border with Georgia.

“The commission requested the minutes of the meetings and the materials of the work of the previous members of the commission, but the documents were not presented. The commission formed a working group to study the cartographic characteristics of the state border, which presented the results of the work to the commission. The information provided by the working group indicates a critical discrepancy between the state borderline (…) This discrepancy is more than 200 square kilometres to the detriment of the legitimate territorial interests of the republic,” said Head of the Commission Garry Muldarov.

  •, „Депутаты парламента Южной Осетии заслушали информацию о работе госкомиссии по госгранице (Deputies of the Parliament of South Ossetia heard information about the work of the state commission on the state border),

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