An Armenian soldier was detained by Azerbaijani forces after crossing the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh in unclear circumstances on Monday.
Karabakh’s Armenian-backed Defense Army said the 19-year-old conscript, Arayik Ghazarian, “left” a military post at the section of the frontline southeast of Karabakh for unknown reasons. It launched an internal inquiry into the incident.
The Azerbaijani military said Ghazarian surrendered to its troops deployed in the area. It said he claimed to have deserted his unit because of being systematically mistreated by his comrades.
Armenia’s Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan dismissed the Azerbaijani account as “propaganda.” He suggested that the soldier strayed into Azerbaijani-controlled territory by accident.
“The incident is still being investigated,” Tonoyan told reporters on Tuesday. “I personally think that our serviceman geographically got lost.”
Tonoyan said the Armenian side has asked the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help free and repatriate Ghazarian. The Karabakh authorities likewise said they are “making efforts to bring the prisoner of war Arayik Ghazarian back to the homeland.”
An ICRC spokesperson in Yerevan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that that it is already negotiating with the conflicting parties on the matter.