In what it called a “humanitarian initiative,” the Armenian military also handed over to the Azerbaijani side the bodies of two Azerbaijani soldiers that were reportedly shot dead in the same area last month.
According to the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, the two servicemen were members of an Azerbaijani commando squad that crossed the westernmost section of the heavily fortified border between the two states on a sabotage mission. The ministry said last month that one of them was killed on the spot while the other succumbed to injuries on his way to an Armenian hospital.
The Azerbaijani military has denied sending any sabotage units to Armenia.
The repatriated civilian, identified as Eldar Tagiyev, is reportedly a resident of an Azerbaijani border village. It is still not clear whether the 46-year-old crossed the Armenian frontier intentionally or by accident.
Tagiyev and the two dead soldiers were sent back home from a checkpoint in southern Armenia that leads to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave. The handover was facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The heavily militarized checkpoint located about 50 kilometers south of Yerevan was the scene of a dramatic escape to Azerbaijan in January of a 51-year-old Armenian man and his family. The man, identified by Armenian authorities as Yeghishe Gevorgian, managed to drive his wife and three small children in an old van in still unclear circumstances.
In a related development, the chief of the Nagorno-Karabakh army staff said on Sunday that the number of skirmishes along the main Armenian-Azerbaijani line of contact east of the disputed territory significantly increased in the first quarter of this year. Regnum news agency quoted General Levon Mnatsakanian as blaming the ceasefire violations on the Azerbaijani side. He specifically linked them with Azerbaijani leaders’ continuing threats to win back Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it by force.
Mnatsakanian spoke at a meeting of the top brass of the Karabakh Armenian army. The meeting reportedly focused on further strengthening of defense fortifications on the Armenian side of the frontline.