Authorities in Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave said on Wednesday that they have detained an Armenian man who went missing one week ago.
Local state-run television showed the 30-year-old man, Narek Sardarian, saying that he fled Armenia and wants to live in Azerbaijan.
Sardarian is a resident of Nerkin Khndzoresk, a village in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province bordering Nakhichevan. According to his family, he left his home on July 8 to graze cattle near another Syunik village located about a dozen kilometers from the nearest section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and never came back.
Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, discussed Sardarian’s disappearance on Tuesday at a meeting with Claire Meytraud, the head of the Yerevan office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“Family members suspect that the young man crossed the Armenian-Azerbaijani border by accident,” Tatoyan wrote on Facebook after the meeting.
He said Meytraud assured him that the ICRC is already trying to ascertain Sardarian’s whereabouts and has contacted its office in Baku for this purpose.
Dozens of residents of Armenian and Azerbaijani border villages have crossed the heavily militarized frontier throughout the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Most of them are believed to have strayed into enemy territory mistakenly.
As recently as on June 12, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) detained an Azerbaijani man who entered the country’s eastern Gegharkunik region from the Gedabey district in western Azerbaijan.
A local official who spoke to the man, Elshan Aliyev, shortly before his detention said the 26-year-old claimed to who have worked as a shepherd in a Gedabey village and decided to flee to Armenia because of being mistreated his employer. The NSS has yet to clarify whether Aliyev wants to be repatriated.
Before Sardarian’s disappearance, at least one Armenian national was known to be held in an Azerbaijani prison. Karen Ghazarian, a resident of the northern Tavush province, was captured in July 2018.
In February 2019, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Ghazarian to 20 years in prison on charges of plotting terrorist attacks and “sabotage” in Azerbaijan. The Armenian government condemned the ruling and demanded Ghazarian’s immediate release.
Tatoyan said he also discussed Ghazarian’s fate with the Red Cross official.