Two Azerbaijani soldiers detained in Armenia
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry announced that two Azerbaijani soldiers, Agshin Babirov (born in 2004) and Huseyn Akhundov (born in 2003), got lost due to poor visibility and poor weather from the border area between Nakhchivan and Armenia “a few days “before April 10”.
According to independent Azerbaijani outlet Meydan TV, however, the uncle of one of the soldiers claimed they went missing on April 5. The first soldier, Agshin Babirov, was found and detained on April 10 by residents of the Ashotavan village in Syunik Province. Huseyn Akhundov was found on April 13 near the village of Achanan, around a 90-kilometre walk from Ashotavan and 40 kilometres from the border with Nakhchivan.
Shortly after the second soldier’s capture on Thursday morning, two videos spread widely online. The first allegedly showed Akhundov live-streaming from Syunik.
“By God, we have arrived in Armenia”, says Akhundov in the video. “We have spilt the blood of Armenians […] If we die, you should know that we are not traitors to the country”. Azerbaijani pro-government media claimed the video was old, from before the soldiers became lost.
The second shows the soldier on the ground, tied up and being kicked in the face. Images of the soldier around the time of his detention also showed him with blood and bruises on his face, with some shared on Azerbaijani social media appearing to show his captors holding knives while he lies tied on the ground.
Diplomatic missions in Baku immediately condemned the incident, with the US Embassy in Baku stating that it was “disturbed by a video appearing to depict violence against an Azerbaijani soldier in Armenia” and urging Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve outstanding issues through peaceful negotiations.
A number of Armenian civil society activists also condemned the soldier’s mistreatment. “While it’s important to hold those responsible for the infiltration and murder accountable, it’s equally important to recognise that violence toward prisoners is never justified. The mistreatment of the captured Azerbaijani soldier by locals must be addressed”, Andranik Shirinyan, project coordinator for Freedom House in Armenia, wrote on Twitter.
On April 18, by the decision of the supervising prosecutor, the charges brought against Azerbaijani citizen Huseyn Akhundov were changed and supplemented. He has been charged with the murder of a 57-year-old security guard in the Syunik region, says the statement released by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service earlier on Tuesday, Narek Ghahramanian, a Kapan-born parliamentarian affiliated with the ruling Civil Contract party, said that Akhundov confessed to the murder. Ghahramanian suggested that investigators were looking for his weapon.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on April 12 that two Azerbaijani soldiers deserted their army unit in Nakhichevan because of “being subjected to hazing and humiliation by other soldiers.”
The Azerbaijani government demanded the immediate release of both servicemen charged with illegally crossing into Armenia. It did not immediately react to the murder charge brought against Akhundov.
Sargis Khandanian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, indicated that given the accusations levelled against them, Yerevan does not intend to swap Akhundov and Bebirov for any of at least 33 Armenian soldiers who were taken prisoner during or after the 2020 Karabakh war and remain in Azerbaijani captivity. “Armenia is not planning to make any concessions on this matter,” Khandanian told reporters.
Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo: Shutterstock.com