Armenia’s Defense Ministry says Azerbaijan has amassed 1,000 soldiers in Armenia’s sovereign territory
Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported that six Armenian soldiers were taken hostage by Azerbaijani troops in Armenia’s Gegharkunik Province on Thursday, complicating an already tense standoff, which began on May 12 when Azerbaijani forces breached Armenia’s borders and advanced into the Gegharkunik and Syunik provinces.
According to the defense ministry, the Armenian soldiers were working in the military base when Azerbaijani forces surrounded them.
The capture of the soldiers comes two days after Armenian soldier Gevorg Khurshudyan was killed by Azerbaijani gunfire in the same vicinity in the Gegharkunik Province.
The ministry also released the names of the soldiers. They are A.N. Abgaryan, I.A. Sargsyan, V.V. Sargsyan, B.S. Ohanyan, A.G. Budoyan and V.O. Rafayelyan.
To counter Azerbaijani disinformation, Armenia’s Defense Ministry published a map of the area in question that shows where Armenian and Azerbaijani forces are stationed, as well as the exact location from where the soldiers were captured.
“We state again that the Armenian servicemen were in the territory of the Republic of Armenia and did not cross the border,” the ministry said.
The Azerbaijan continues to claim that the Armenian soldiers were captured when attempting to cross the border and have accused the captured soldiers of planning “subversive activities.”
“These Azeri troops don’t have the possibility of carrying out any serious objectives in our territory. If we were to solve the issue militarily, these 1,000 troops won’t leave our territory – we would destroy them all with no exception,” warned Asryan.
“Giving such orders isn’t up to the political leadership. The military leadership is the entity that gives orders to shoot or not to shoot. The political leadership determines the directions of resolution, the terms. While the issue of shooting or not shooting is discussed and the decision is made by us,” Asryan said.
Asked in what case they could potentially issue the order to shoot, Asryan said if there will be relevant signs that the Azeri forces are seeking to dictate their terms, the Armenian side will definitely use military force and all adversary servicemen located inside the territory of Armenia will be destroyed.
“Negotiations are ongoing, with the mediation of the Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in Artsakh, where the enemy has presented a condition for the withdrawal of Armenian and their own forces. And we have informed that our units will withdraw only when Azerbaijan returns our soldiers that have been taken hostage. No other condition is acceptable for us,” Asryan said at a later briefing on Thursday.
Asryan explained that after the initial one hour deadline imposed by Armenia passed, Russian peacekeepers informed the defense ministry that Azerbaijan’s military leaders were discussing the return of the captured Armenian soldiers.
“If our condition for returning our soldiers is met, we will develop plans which I cannot present here,” added Asryan.
Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visited the village of Kut in the Gegharkunin Province and met with border area residents, pledging to resolve the matter.
“Today’s situation is clear. Azerbaijan has violated the state border of Armenia, there can’t be any discussion on concessions here, because if we concede our border, it will further embolden them,” said Pashinyan.
“We are clearly stressing that according to international law this is our sovereign territory, and the armed forces of Azerbaijan must promptly leave our territory. And this is where our determination must be clear,” Pashinyan added. “On the other hand, however, we must not allow the situation to get out of control. Today we need to push forward this agenda first through diplomatic means and lay out a clear international demand.”
Pashinyan stated that France, the United States, India and other countries clearly accept that the Azerbaijani military has invaded the Armenian territory and must be withdrawn, the European Parliament has adopted a resolution clearly recording this fact, Russia also clearly accepts that this is an Armenian territory.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blamed Azerbaijan for “further escalating the situation, which can seriously endanger regional peace and stability.”
“We strongly condemn the use of force by Azerbaijan against Armenia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and state that the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears the responsibility of all actions of the Azerbaijani armed forces and their consequences. Captured Armenian servicemen must be returned immediately and unconditionally,” added the foreign ministry.
The Republic of Armenia has applied to the European Court of Human Rights to ensure respect for the fundamental human rights of six Armenian prisoners of war captured Thursday morning.
The office of Armenia’s representative to the ECHR submitted a request to the court to indicate interim measures against Azerbaijan on behalf of individuals taken captive. The submitted request aims to ensure respect for the captives’ rights to life and prohibition of torture envisaged by the European Convention on Human Rights.