A photo of a military truck of two Armenian soldiers who were captured by Azerbaijani forces late on May 26, 2023.

By Artak Khulian and Susan Badalian

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Two Armenian soldiers were captured by Azerbaijani forces late on Friday, May 26, in what Armenia’s Defense Ministry described over the weekend as a cross-border incursion.

The ministry said that the soldiers, Harutiun Hovakimyan and Karen Ghazaryan, were ambushed and “kidnapped” after delivering water and food to Armenian army units guarding the border with Azerbaijan. It published photographs of their abandoned military truck found in a wooded area in the southeastern Syunik province.

The Azerbaijani side claimed that Hovakimyan and Ghazaryan were taken prisoner during a sabotage attack on an Azerbaijani army outpost. It was quick to bring a string of criminal charges, including “terrorism,” against the servicemen.

The Defense Ministry in Yerevan rejected the claim as “disinformation.” It said the fact that an assault rifle belonging to one of the soldiers was found inside the truck only proves that they could not have carried out any armed attacks in Azerbaijani territory.

Hovakimyan’s mother told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the 34-year-old contract soldier has for years been engaged in bringing food supplies to troops manning Armenian border posts in Syunik’s Shikahogh forest reserve.

The Shikahogh forest preserve in Syunik province, September 4, 2018.

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“He always went back and forth through that road,” she said. “He knows the road very well and could not have deviated a single inch from it.”

The Armenian government asked the European Court of Human Rights to order the Azerbaijani authorities to provide urgent information about the soldiers’ health and detention conditions. The Strasbourg court did not rule on the request as of Monday afternoon.

Hovakimyan and Ghazaryan were captured more than a month after two Azerbaijani soldiers were detained in Armenia. Baku said they strayed into Armenian territory from the Nakhichevan exclave due to heavy fog and demanded their release.

One of the Azerbaijani conscripts was charged with murdering a Syunik resident one day before his detention. The other was sentenced to 11.5 years in prison by an Armenian court on May 8.



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