An Azerbaijani army soldier was captured by Armenian troops after crossing into Armenia in unclear circumstances early on Thursday.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said the 20-year-old conscript, Firuz Farajov, surrendered to its forces guarding a western section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. “The border violator was arrested and an investigation is underway,” the ministry said in a statement.
The statement added that the Yerevan office of the International Committee of the Red Cross has been informed about the incident.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry confirmed Farajov’s capture. According to 1news.az, the ministry said the soldier was taken prisoner after he “got lost” near Azerbaijani army positions in the western Tovuz district bordering Tavush province in northeastern Armenia.
Azerbaijan - President Ilham Aliyev (R) awards soldiers serving in Geranboy district, 21Jan2012.
The mountainous area is the most volatile section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier, with both sides regularly reporting skirmishes between their troops stationed there. News reports citing the Defense Ministry in Baku said an Azerbaijani soldier was wounded and hospitalized on Thursday from a border post in Gedabek, another district in western Azerbaijan.
Another Azerbaijani serviceman, Lieutenant Jafar Jafarov, was shot dead at the Tovuz-Tavush section last Friday. A civilian resident of an Armenian border village in Tavush was reportedly wounded by cross-border gunfire on Monday.
At least five Azerbaijani and three Armenian soldiers died in a series of gun battles in the same area early last month. Each side blamed the other for that upsurge in fighting which prompted serious concern from the United States, the European Union and Russia.
Ceasefire violations also remain a regular occurrence along the more militarized Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh. An Azerbaijani sergeant, Mammadbagir Akhundzade, was captured there by Karabakh Armenian forces last January after allegedly deserting his army unit deployed northeast of the disputed territory. According to the Armenian military, he was freed and deported to an unspecified “third country” last month.
Akhundzade was not the first Azerbaijani prisoner of war who apparently chose not to return to his homeland for fear of prosecution. Azerbaijani soldiers returning from Armenian captivity are known to have been routinely prosecuted and given lengthy prison sentences on charges of high treason.
Earlier this year, Azerbaijan likewise deported three Armenian POWs to an unknown country. According to the military authorities in Baku, they surrendered to Azerbaijani forces in February 2009.