Armenia on Thursday allowed Azerbaijan to evacuate the bodies of two Azerbaijani soldiers who were found dead near Armenian army positions on the border between the two warring nations.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said the bodies of the two sergeants, Musa Musayev and Tural Yolchuyev, were found earlier in the day on “the opposite side” of the frontier protected by landmines. It said their repatriation was mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The APA news agency quoted a spokeswoman for the ICRC office in Baku as confirming that the Red Cross acted as an “impartial mediator in the humanitarian operation agreed by Azerbaijan and Armenia.”
The two soldiers went missing on Tuesday. The Azerbaijani military suggested that they accidentally crossed into Armenia’s northern Tavush province.
The Armenian Defense Ministry insisted, however, that its border troops did not capture or kill any Azerbaijani servicemen this week in Tavush. It said Musayev and Yolchuyev most probably hit a landmine.
According to Artsrun Hovannisian, the ministry spokesman, Yerevan swiftly gave the Azerbaijani side security guarantees for the search and rescue operation shortly after being contacted by the ICRC on Tuesday.
The fact that that both Musayev and Yolchuyev were contract soldiers fueled speculation by some Armenian observers that they served in a commando unit and attempted to enter Armenia on a sabotage mission. Hovannisian dismissed this theory as implausible on Wednesday.
The ICRC was rebuffed by Baku when it requested safe access to the remains of the three Armenian pilots of a combat helicopter shot down by Azerbaijani forces in no-man’s land east of Nagorno-Karabakh last November. Karabakh Armenian troops recovered them in an overnight commando raid. They claimed to have neutralized an ambush set up by Azerbaijani troops near the helicopter wreckage.