Artsakh Authorities Accuse Azeri Commandos of Teen’s Murder

The government building of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in Stepanakert. (Photo: RFE/RL)

STEPANAKERT—Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh insist they have “serious grounds” to assume that an Armenian teenager who was found dead on Tuesday, after a long search, had been killed by Azerbaijani commandos RFE/RL’s Armenian service ( reports.

Smbat Tsakanian, 17, had been missing since July 4. His body was found in a forest in Karvachar (Kelbajar).

The resident of the village of Nor Erkej in the Karvachar region of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic went missing a few days before Karabakh’s authorities reported an attempt by a group of alleged Azerbaijani commandos to infiltrate into Karvachar. Tsakanian’s relatives also said they believed their son had been kidnapped and killed by Azerbaijani commandos.

On Monday, the Karabakh forces reported total “neutralization” of the Azerbaijani commandos, referred to as “saboteurs,” who, they said, had killed at least one Armenian officer and wounded a civilian. Two arrested citizens of Azerbaijan said to be members of the group were later charged with crimes committed in Nagorno-Karabakh’s territory. Officials in Stepanakert and Yerevan said they would not be given prisoner-of-war status since they are not members of the Azerbaijani military and acted against the “laws and customs” of war.

The Prosecutor’s Office in Stepanakert confirmed on Wednesday that Tsakanian died from gunshot wounds. Meanwhile, Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian vowed that the violators would be prosecuted according to Armenian and international law, according to Public Radio of Armenia.

It is not clear yet whether investigators will also charge the two arrested citizens of Azerbaijan, identified as 46-year-old Shahbaz Quliyev and 56-year-old Dilham Askerov, with Tsakanian’s murder. So far, the two men have been charged with illegally crossing the border for the purpose of engaging in sabotage activities. The Nagorno-Karabakh Prosecutor’s Office said both were armed with automatic rifles, pistols with silencers, as well as hand grenades presumably for conducting reconnaissance and sabotage activities in Armenian areas.

Cache of arms seized from the Azeri insurgents by Karabakh authorities. (Photo: official publication)

Nor Erkej village mayor Ara Hovannisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service ( that the location of the killed teenager’s body was prompted to Nagorno-Karabakh’s law-enforcement agencies by the two arrested Azerbaijanis. Before that a large-scale search for Tsakanian that lasted for days could not produce any result. The body was reportedly transferred to Stepanakert for a forensic examination.

Meanwhile, David Babayan, a spokesperson for Nagorno-Karabakh’s president, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service ( that there are “serious grounds” to assume that the Armenian teenager was killed by Azerbaijanis. “What should we expect from beasts like them? That was something that a human being would not do,” Babayan said emotionally. The official neither confirmed nor denied that Tsakanian was killed in a particularly brutal way. He, however, said that all details would become available as investigation into the case progresses.

Meanwhile, Tsakanian was buried near his native village today. Nor Erkej mayor Hovannisian said from now on villagers should be more vigilant and should immediately inform the authorities about any strangers they spot in their community.

“We did not see that coming. We used to feel more relaxed before, but now we should be more vigilant,” the local leader said.

Meeting with the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk, the President of Artsakh Bako Sahakian said he considered the recent intrusion by the Azerbaijani commandos as another “provocative terrorist act” by the authorities in Baku and a serious blow to the negotiation process and to the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group mediators. Sahakian added that the violation must be appropriately noted by the international community.

Baku Switches Rhetoric
Azerbaijani authorities on Wednesday changed their response to the Armenian government’s allegations, shifting from denying that any commandos had entered Armenian territory to now claiming that any such act is completely legal as Azerbaijani citizens “have a right to move about in their own country,” as reported by the AzerNews news agency.

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized on Wednesday that despite the Armenian side’s claims, the Azerbaijani citizens who crossed the border did not violate any laws because “lands under the control of the occupational regime are the territories of Azerbaijan.”

The Azerbaijani ministry, in its new rationale, seemingly ignored the fact that such provocations and use of violence are directly in violation of the ceasefire agreement between the Armenian and Azeri sides.

The ministry then went on to threaten an “international trial” against Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian for his “acts of violence” against Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani ministry also said that the Azerbaijani armed forces can perform any mission and conduct any operation without the involvement of its civilians.


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  1. dvo said:

    time to raise our voices again to urge countries that Armenians cant live with this savage race and the only solution is independence.

  2. dvo said:

    one boy dies in isreal and it becomes world news its not fair. we should urge the world for Artsakh independence time to show what we Armenians are and what we can do. Like our history shows us.

  3. Ararat said:

    The Armenians in the border areas must not only be more vigilant but I think they should also be armed and ready to kill and remove any threat to them from the enemy saboteurs. I can’t help to think that if the 17 year-old Armenian victim had a pistol on him he may be alive today. Like the NKR president’s spokesperson David Babayan stated, only beasts behave this way and we should treat beasts the way they should be treated.

    The enemy is ineffective, demoralized and desperate. Unable to do anything it resorts to kidnapping and killing the unarmed and the innocent in border areas in attempts to affect them psychologically. We must give them a big dose of their own medicine.

    Even if these lunatic trespassers were not members in the enemy army, which I highly doubt given the fact that they were carrying military style assault weapons, it is obvious they were trained by the enemy army to conduct such criminal activities. They figured they can exploit these illiterate peasants by tapping into their racist feelings and use them to do what they can’t openly do themselves because then the response from the Armenians could be very severe and decisive.

    And if these racist peasant saboteurs fail in their criminal intrusion then the Azeri government and the coward army can, on the one hand, make up any story they want by distancing themselves from such criminal activities sanctioned by them in the first place and, on the other hand, claim these criminals were no trespassers because according to their shattered egos they have the right to move about “in their own country”.

    They are still in denial and hallucinating that these are their lands. Next time let’s welcome them to “their lands” with utmost hospitality any enemy saboteur beast deserves.

  4. said:

    As we know from the Safarov’s trial in Hungary, Azerbaijani government’s official position is that a murder of an Armenian is not considered a crime in Azerbaijan…

    This means that these jackals are innocent and should be released to the wild at the LOC in front of Azeri snipers.

  5. john goncuian said:

    Another myopic choice Azeri bastards made with this operation which confirms again the idea of peaceful Azerbeyjan as a neighbor is a myth. Armenia will prosecute and punish these criminals and there must NOT be political forgiveness and mercy at the expense of justice.