Updated with comments of the Armenian Defence Minister
An Armenian soldier based near the line of contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone appears to have deserted on Monday (12 August) and crossed over to the Azerbaijani side.
The news was first reported by the influential Azerbaijani website Haqqin.az, citing sources from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence. According to the information dissemniated at around 12 noon, an Armenian deserter, Aro Aykovich Ghazaryan, was detained on the front line near Fizuli.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence sources said that "during the initial interrogation, it turned out that the soldier had deserted, unable to withstand bullying and inhuman treatment by his colleagues. For a long time he was beaten by his commanders and colleagues, as evidenced by hematomas on his head, and numerous wounds on his body. The fingers were also burned with cigarettes". It added that Aro Ghazaryan was now receiving medical assistance. Pictures of Ghazaryan were also published.
There was no immediate information available from the Armenia side. However, shortly after the report of Haqqin.az, the spokesperson of the Armenian Ministry of Defence, Artsrun Hovhannisyan, wrote on his facebook page, "I confirm that there is currently an Armenian citizen in Azerbaijan, but the relevant authorities will report on the circumstances and the person's identity and provide other details".
Speaking to reporters in Dilijian on Tuesday morning, Armenian Defence Minister, David Tonoyan, said that his gut feeling was that the soldier had got lost. "An investigation is still being conducted," he said. "I personally believe that our military serviceman got geographically lost."
Asked if steps were taken to have this soldier returned, Tonoyan said this work had already begun and they have petitioned to the relevant international organisations. The defense minister said he does not yet know whether this soldier has had any psychological issues.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed that it is now involved in the matter, but no further details are available.
source: commonspace.eu with agencies
photo: Aro Ghazaryan who appears to have deserted from the Armenian Army and crossed over to the Azerbaijani side on 12 August 2019 (picture courtesy of Haqqin,az)
Experts from both sides will jointly inspect different sections of the border over the coming days.