33 Armenian PoW's are still being held in Azerbaijan

Armenian

There are 33 Armenian prisoners of war currently held in Azerbaijan that have been confirmed and identified, Hsmik Samvelyan, press secretary of Armenian Representative for International Legal Affairs, Yeghishe Kirakosyan, presented to the Zhokhovurd newspaper.

The number presented by Samvelyan is also confirmed by the representative of Armenian prisoners of war at the European Court of Human Rights, human rights activist Siranush Sahakyan.

Sahakyan noted that besides the 33 prisoners of war, who are in the focus of the Red Cross, there are 80 "unconfirmed", according to Azerbaijan, but actually proven cases.

"Our fact-finding was able to substantiate at least 80 additional cases of captivity, and we do not exclude that there were other cases of captivity, just by our activities we were able to substantiate it," she noted, adding, "unfortunately, there were about 40 cases where they were killed or shot after captivity."

"We have evidence to support that. As for the 80 mentioned, their fate is not clear.

"They may be alive, but this will be taken out of the legal field and become forcibly disappeared or killed as Azerbaijan does not confirm their captivity and does not return their bodies so as not to acknowledge the crimes committed."

Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Tuesday that he had complained to President Vladimir Putin about "problems" with Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh, warning of an escalation.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars for control of the ethnically and historically Armenian region and the latest conflict in 2020, with many war crimes by Azerbaijani troops recorded, ended with the deployment of Moscow's forces.

"In a phone conversation with Putin yesterday, I spoke of a possible escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh and said that there are problems in the zone where Russian peacekeepers are responsible," Pashinyan said during a press conference.

"Azerbaijan's rhetoric is becoming more and more aggressive every day," he said, denouncing a blockade of the Lachin corridor, which is Karabakh's sole land link with the Republic of Armenia.

Since mid-December, a group of self-styled Azerbaijani environmental activists, often comprising of military personnel, has barred traffic in the Lachin corridor to protest what they say is illegal mining.

However, as Pashinyan highlighted on Tuesday, the disruptions along the route are a "preparation for ethnic cleansing of Armenians."

Yerevan says that the blockade has led to a humanitarian crisis and was aimed at driving Armenians from Karabakh, something that Baku denies despite finding by human rights groups and international courts.

Armenia, which hosts a permanent Russian military base on its territory, is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) that includes several pro-Moscow ex-Soviet republics — but not Azerbaijan.

Last week Yerevan refused to assume the rotating top post in the security bloc — partly in a show of frustration over the peacekeepers' failure to prevent Karabakh's blockade.

"It is not that Armenia is leaving the CSTO, the CSTO is leaving Armenia, which is of a great concern to us," Pashinyan said.

At least three Armenians died in the latest border clashes instigated by Azerbaijan at the beginning of March.

"I want to underline that this happened in the zone of responsibility of Russian peacekeeping forces. This worries us," Pashinyan said Tuesday.

Pashinyan also said that Armenia recently received Baku's response to proposals for a full peace treaty, which Yerevan submitted in mid-February.

He noted some progress in the peace process, but said "fundamental problems" remain because "Azerbaijan is trying to put forward territorial claims, which is a red line to Armenia."

Azerbaijanii soldiers currently occupy some 150 square kilometres of territory part of the Republic of Armenia, along the countries' shared border.

On February 20, the European Union deployed an expanded monitoring mission to Armenia's volatile border area as Western engagement grows in the region seen by the Kremlin as its geopolitical backyard.

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