An Armenian man fled to Azerbaijan with his wife and three small children on Sunday in unclear circumstances, the Defense Ministry in Yerevan said the next day.
It also reported the arrest of an Azerbaijani civilian who allegedly crossed into Armenia late last month.
A ministry statement said the 51-year-old Armenian, identified as Yeghishe Gevorgian, drove his family to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave through a heavily militarized border checkpoint located about 50 southeast of the Armenian capital.
The statement said Armenian soldiers guarding the Yeraskh crossing, which has been closed to traffic ever since the start of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, did not fire on Gevorgian’s old van because it carried the children aged between 3 and 7. It suggested no reasons for the extraordinary escape, saying only that Gevorgian has been repeatedly imprisoned for robbery, car theft and other crimes in the past.
“Relevant international humanitarian organizations have been informed about the incident,” added the statement. “A criminal case has been opened, and a criminal investigation is being conducted to ascertain details of the incident.”
Authorities in Azerbaijan did not confirm the information as of Monday evening. An Azerbaijani government agency dealing with prisoners of war, hostages and missing persons told the Trend news agency that it is investigating the credibility of the Armenian report.
The agency did not comment on a separate statement by the Armenian Defense Ministry saying that a 46-year-old resident of Azerbaijani border village was arrested while trying to enter Armenia’s northern Tavush region on December 28. A ministry spokesman told RFE/RL on Monday that the man, identified as Eldar Tagiyev, is still in Armenian custody.
The official, Seyran Shahsuvarian, could not say whether Tagiyev crossed the mountainous frontier intentionally or by accident, referring all inquiries to Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS). The latter could not be immediately reached for comment.