Former Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan was reportedly apprehended by Azerbaijani border guards at the Lachin corridor on Wednesday, his wife, Veronica Zonabend said in a statement.
“My husband, Ruben Vardanyan, the philanthropist, businessman and former minister of state of Artsakh, has been arrested and is being held captive by the Azerbaijani authorities at the border as he attempted to leave this morning, along with thousands of Armenians escaping Azerbaijani occupation,” Zonabend said in a statement she issued to the press.
“Ruben stood with the Arsakh people during the 10-month blockade and suffered along with them in the struggle for survival. I ask for your prayers and support to ensure my husband’s safe release,” the statement added.
Azerbaijan’s state security service announced that Vardanyan was detained in the Lachin corridor and taken to Baku, without elaborating on the reasons for his capture.
“Vardanyan was handed over to relevant state bodies so that they make a decision regarding him,” the APA news agency quoted it as saying.
Official sources in Baku also circulated a photograph of a handcuffed Vardanyan escorted by Azerbaijani officers at an unspecified airfield, Azatutyun.am reported.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow was not aware of the arrest.
“I don’t have such information, that’s why I can’t comment,” Peskov told RIA Novosti.
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said it is currently addressing the issue of granting consular access to Vardanyan. The ministry is committed to safeguarding the rights of its citizen, the Russian Tass news agency reported, citing information from a diplomatic source in Yerevan.
“The issue of consular access to Vardanyan is being handled by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will protect the rights of the citizen of the Republic of Armenia,” the source told Tass.
The government of Armenia has filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights.
Hasmik Samvelyan, the spokesperson of the Office of the Representative of Armenia on International Legal Matters, told Armenpress that Armenia requested in the application information on the status, detention conditions and state of health of Vardanyan.
In addition to having served as Artsakh State Minister this year, Vardanyan is a co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative.
After last week’s large-scale attack on Artsakh by Azerbaijani forces, signals from Baku indicated that the authorities were planning to arrest Artsakh government officials and other political figures.
The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell last week warned Baku against such reprisals when he addressed a special United Nations Security Council session that was convened to address Azerbaijan’s attack on Artsakh.