Azerbaijan has expressed readiness to free an Armenian soldier who crossed the “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh and was taken prisoner by Azerbaijani forces last week.
According to the Karabakh Armenian military, the 22-year-old conscript, Hakob Injighulian, accidentally strayed into Azerbaijani-controlled territory early on Thursday.
Shahin Sailov, the head of an Azerbaijani government body dealing with prisoners of war and missing persons, confirmed Injighulian’s capture on Saturday. The APA news agency quoted Sailov as saying that the soldier has been transferred to Baku and will be allowed to meet with local representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) soon.
“The captured soldier will be repatriated if he wants to. Everything depends on his will,” Sailov said.
ICRC officials in Baku did not meet with Injighulian as of Monday evening. The Armenian Defense Ministry said it therefore has no fresh information about his whereabouts.
Armenia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan asked the Red Cross to help arrange Injighulian’s repatriation at a meeting with an ICRC representative in Yerevan, Dragana Rankovic, on Friday. A Defense Ministry statement said Tonoyan asked Rankovic inform the soldier that he will face no “legal consequences” in case of returning home.
Armenian and especially Azerbaijani soldiers have been prosecuted on treason charges in the past after returning from captivity.
Meanwhile, Injighulian’s relatives in Armenia demanded on Monday that the authorities swiftly expedite his release. They also said that the soldier has poor vision and should not have served in a combat unit in the first place.
“Why did they send the boy to the [frontline] positions?” the soldier’s weeping mother told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “He should have stayed in the military base.”