By Karine Kalantarian
Three Azerbaijani soldiers have been taken prisoner after crossing into Armenian-controlled territory in the northeast of Nagorno-Karabakh, military sources in Yerevan told RFE/RL on Thursday.
The sources said military officials in Karabakh are now interrogating the captives to clarify circumstances of the incident that took place late on Tuesday. A decision on whether to release them to the Azerbaijani side will be made after the investigation is over, they added.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry confirmed the information. "The defense ministry has started working on freeing them," a ministry spokesman told AFP.
Prisoner exchanges between Armenian and Azerbaijani troops are usually organized through the International Committee of Red Cross. Officials at the Red Cross office in Yerevan would not say if they are already trying to arrange the release of the three Azerbaijanis.
Prisoner-taking happens regularly along the heavily fortified line of contact around Karabakh. Late last month, four Armenian servicemen were repatriated and immediately remanded in custody after spending months in Azerbaijani captivity.
Three of them were taken prisoner in November after crossing the Karabakh frontline under similarly mysterious circumstances. They are now prosecuted for “establishing contact with the enemy.” The fourth soldier, who served in northeastern Armenia, was charged with desertion.