Bodies of Two Azeri Soldiers Swapped for Dead Armenian Villager


STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL)–Military authorities in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic handed over the bodies of two Azerbaijani soldiers and received an Armenian corpse on Saturday, in a fresh swap stemming from an agreement reached by Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s president late last month.

Gavrush Arustamian, an 85-year-old resident of a village in northeastern Karabakh, went missing earlier this year in unclear circumstances. Local officials and residents believe that he drowned in a nearby river, which presumably washed away his body to Azerbaijani-controlled territory.

The Azerbaijani servicemen, Lieutenant Farid Ahmedov and Ensign Mubariz Ibrahimov, were buried on Sunday in a funeral attended by President Ilham Aliyev. The latter bestowed the title of “national hero” on Ibrahimov in July, shortly after he was killed in fighting with Karabakh Armenian forces.

In a speech at the funeral service, Aliyev paid tribute to the two “martyrs” and renewed his threats to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by force. “We can restore the country’s territorial integrity by military means at any moment,” he said. “The enemy must know and knows that.”

The June firefight, which also left four Armenian soldiers dead, heightened tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” on the border of Karabakh and Azerbaijan, especially its northeastern section. Deadly skirmishes there appear to have been more frequent in recent months.

Ahmedov, 24, and another Azerbaijani officer were shot dead in early September in what the Karabakh Armenian military described as a failed commando raid on its positions in the northern Martakert district. Ahmedov’s corpse was shown on Karabakh and Armenian television as proof of that attack.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry insisted, however, the two officers were killed while repelling an Armenian attack. It also says that Ibrahimov, 22, died in similar circumstances.

Karabakh officials said initially that Ibrahimov was shot dead in Armenian-controlled territory. But faced with Azerbaijani demands for his body’s repatriation, they claimed afterwards that it is lying in no-man’s lands. “If the Azerbaijanis want to retrieve his corpse, they should go to that neutral territory and retrieve it,” a spokesman for Karabakh President Bako Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in late September.

In a statement on Saturday, a Karabakh government commission on prisoners of war and missing persons described the repatriation of Ahmedov’s and Ibrahimov’s bodies, mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, as a gesture of good will. It made no mention of an October 27 joint statement issued by Aliyev and Armenia’s Serzh Sarkisian after their fresh talks hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two leaders pledged to exchange “without delay” all POWs and bodies of soldiers and civilians killed in the conflict zone.

Last Thursday, Armenia freed an Azerbaijani civilian and received the body of one of its citizens who died in Azerbaijani captivity last month. That swap was also carried out with the ICRC’s help.

Azerbaijan is currently holding six Armenian POWs. According to the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, there are presently two Azerbaijani POWs in Nagorno-Karabakh and none in Armenia proper. It is not yet clear whether they too will be exchanged soon.


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  1. Z said:

    Very bad for Armenia. Look, do the math. 1 live azeri swapped for 1 dead armenian (manvel). 2 dead azeri diversionists swapped for 1 dead armenian of over 80.
    So the azeris got more. There are 12 live armenian captives in azerbeijan, they could get one live person for 1 live person and a dead one 4 a dead one…
    Why does it look like armenia is losing all the time?

    • Raffi said:

      you forget, armenians treat the lives of every citizen more preciousclly than that of 1000 azeri soldiers. We respect each other and never leave a man behind. I beleive that old man’s corps deservs a proper burrial. Those soldiers are worthless, they have already been caught so how skilled do you really think they are? returning them is easier than having to waist resources to keep that worthless bag of bones alive.

  2. Gagik said:

    Trust me, there were no Armenian attacks. Those two “martyrs” were killed when they made deliberate excursions into Armenian controlled territories with no other intentions but to harm our front line positions. Never believe what the Azerbaijani war machine spews, do not even be skeptical about it, they are all outright lies, believe me. It is a shame that the public in that country is fed this propaganda.

    I do not know who negotiated this, but it is a failure. Enough is enough. We have tried to be the good guys for too long, azeris are taking our kindness as a sign of weakness. We returned the two bodies of these animal saboteurs in a gesture of good will, getting in return a dead civilian who’s circumstances of death are mysterious to say the least. And that dog Aliev has the nerve to accept the bodies as if we owe them to him, and bestow honors upon them in an act that can only be labeled as yet another hostile rhetoric towards us. If anything, we fueled this fire by agreeing to this unfair trade. I know what the point is, but unfortunately the world community will not recognize our gestures of peace. Those two bodies should have never been returned, or had been traded for all of our POW’s instead. When you commit such a blatant violation of the cease-fire, you should expect nothing back. Instead, Aliev continues his threats. The azeris will never abandon their backwards ways. The only thing they know is force, and we will show it to them if need be.

    We are a peaceful nation, but let nobody forget that, as history has shown over the centuries, we are not afraid to bury anybody who threatens our existence. In a the centuries to come Armenians will still live on the lands that they have worked and shed blood on, while Azerbaijan will be long forgotten. Oil runs out. Alievin mary@ pit imana te Hay@ ove.

  3. Vazken said:

    Here is the clue for Azeri cock-and-bull story-

    “The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry insisted, however, the two officers were killed while repelling an Armenian attack. It also says that Ibrahimov, 22, died in similar circumstances.”

    It is illogical to think “while repelling an Armenian attack.” for simple reason they were the intruders.