The Defense Ministry in Yerevan said they were detained at an Armenian border post on Saturday. It gave no details.
A short amateur video circulated online earlier on Monday showed Armenian military personnel handcuffing the Azerbaijani soldiers and putting them in a military truck parked at what looked like an army outpost.
A ministry statement said they were sent back to Azerbaijan “for humanitarian considerations and with Russian mediation.”
Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh confirmed the handover on their Telegram page on Tuesday. They also posted pictures of Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian officers sitting at a table and signing a document in the presence of the freed soldiers.
The latter were reportedly captured at a border section close to the scene of the November 16 fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces that left at least 13 troops from both sides dead. Three dozen Armenian soldiers were taken prisoner that day in what Yerevan condemned as an Azerbaijani attack on Armenian territory.
Twenty-one of those soldiers have been set free since then. The eleven others remain detained in Azerbaijan.
Opposition leaders strongly criticized the Armenian authorities for not swapping the two Azerbaijanis with these or other Armenian prisoners of war held by Baku. The authorities declined to clearly explain their decision to swiftly free the Azerbaijani soldiers.
“Why were the two [Azerbaijani] POWs sent back? Let our security bodies not divulge any details to you,” Andranik Kocharian, the pro-government chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on defense and security, told journalists.
“If the [Azerbaijani] POWs were handed over to the enemy, it means that there is something there stemming from our interests,” Kocharian said vaguely.
Aram Vartevanian, a lawmaker from the main opposition Hayastan bloc, argued that Baku is continuing to hold dozens of Armenian POWs in breach of Russian-mediated agreements reached during and after last year’s war over Nagorno-Karabakh.
“When our adversary behaves this way, how can the Armenian authorities’ behavior be explained?” he said. “I would call it … yet another toothless action by these authorities.”