Boris Avagian, a deputy chief of Karabakh’s State Emergencies Service, effectively blamed pro-government members of Armenia’s parliament for Azerbaijan continuing refusal to free them when he spoke at a public discussion organized in Yerevan by other lawmakers.
Avagian also said he does not know which officials represent Armenia in negotiations on the fate of more than 100 Armenian prisoners believed to be held by Baku.
“If you, deputies of Armenia’s National Assembly, do not know that person, how can I, the holder of a state post in the Republic of Artsakh, know that person?” he asked.
Karen Sargsian, the Karabakh interior minister, fired Avagian in a move announced later in the day.
A statement released by the State Emergencies Service said Avagian was not authorized to comment on “topics beyond the scope of his powers” and that most of his comments “do not correspond to reality.”
The roundtable discussion was organized by independent lawmakers who left Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s My Step bloc following the Armenian side’s defeat in the war with Azerbaijan stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire in November. One of them, Taguhi Tovmasian, said Avagian’s comments on the authorities’ handling of the prisoner issue are a cause for concern.
“We must also hear from other officials who are supposed to deal with the prisoners’ return,” Tovmasian told reporters.
The Armenian government caused controversy after some of its senior representatives said late on April 9 that a new group of Armenian captives is about to be set free and repatriated. However, none of them was on board a Russian plane that arrived from Baku to Yerevan that night.
Andranik Kocharian, a senior pro-government lawmaker, accused Baku of not honoring an agreement which he said was reached as a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest conversations with Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s leaders. He claimed that Lieutenant-General Rustam Muradov, the commander of Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in Karabakh, travelled to Baku to “escort the prisoners back to Armenia.”
Muradov categorically denied that, however, saying that officials in Yerevan are “misleading the population.”
Armenian opposition leaders accused Pashinian’s government of botching the prisoner release in a failed attempt to score political points.