Azerbaijan set free and repatriated on Wednesday a Karabakh Armenian soldier who was taken prisoner in March after crossing the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh in still unclear circumstances.
The 24-year-old contract soldier, Andranik Grigorian, crossed a frontline section east of the disputed territory without his weapons and ammunition. Shortly afterwards, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released a short video that showed Grigorian saying that he deserted his unit because of being ill-treated by his comrades.
Karabakh’s Defense Army was quick to dismiss the videotaped confession as a fraud. It said that Grigorian was forced to make such claims.
Grigorian was sent back to Karabakh through “the line of contact” in a handover facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). ICRC representatives have repeatedly visited him in Azerbaijani custody.
“The prisoner of war had previously confirmed to ICRC staff that he was returning of his own free will,” the Red Cross said in a statement.
Haqqin.az likewise reported that Grigorian expressed a desire to return home in his letters delivered by the ICRC to his elderly parents living in a Karabakh village. “Forgive me for my mistakes,” he wrote, according to the Azerbaijani media outlet. “I just didn’t understand what to do and where to go.”
The Karabakh Armenian military did not clarify on Wednesday whether Grigorian will be prosecuted on desertion charges or will resume his military service.