Azerbaijani forces seized over the weekend the last two Armenian-controlled villages in the Hadrut district occupied by them during the recent war. Russian peacekeepers rushed to the mountainous area and reportedly stopped the fighting on Sunday.
Azerbaijani social media users posted late on Tuesday videos of Armenian soldiers captured by Azerbaijani army units apparently deployed in the area. Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army reported the following morning that it has lost communication with some of its troops stationed near Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd, the two occupied Hadrut villages.
“Unfortunately, several dozen of our servicemen were taken prisoner in the Khtsaberd direction and our defense ministry is now clarifying all circumstances of the incident,” the Karabakh president, Ara Harutiunian, said in a televised speech aired in the afternoon.
Harutiunian said that the Armenian side is already taking measures to ensure their “quick and safe return to the homeland.”
According to Artak Beglarian, Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman, about 60 Armenian soldiers went missing in the Hadrut area.
“All relevant bodies of Artsakh and Armenia must take immediate steps to repatriate the POWs as soon as possible,” Beglarian wrote on Facebook
The Armenian Foreign Ministry has condemned the Azerbaijani attack on the two villages as a “blatant violation” of the ceasefire agreement that stopped the war on November 10.
Baku denied violating the ceasefire on Sunday. It said that the Azerbaijani army launched a “counterterrorist operation” after one of its soldiers was killed last week.
Harutiunian also accused Baku of resorting to armed “provocations” around three Armenian-populated villages located southwest of the Karabakh town of Shushi (Shusha), which was also captured by Azerbaijani forces during the war. According to local officials, Azerbaijani troops advanced towards the villages of Mets Shen, Hin Shen and Yeghtsahogh in recent days, forcing most of their residents to flee their homes.
“Karabakh army soldiers and Russian peacekeepers thwarted various provocations by Azerbaijani soldiers and last night drove them out of the vicinity of Hin Shen,” said the Karabakh leader.