A plane that was expected to be carrying some of the Armenian soldiers remaining in Azerbaijani custody, arrived on Thursday night (8 April) in Yerevan empty, with the exception of the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, Lieutenant-General Rustam Muradov.
On Thursday the Armenian Prime Minister’s press secretary, Mane Grigoryan, confirmed with Factor.am that a plane carrying a non-specific number of the remaining captives was to arrive in Yerevan that evening. Upon the plane arriving empty at around 22:00, family members of the prisoners that had gathered at the Erebuni airport in anticipation for their arrival, marched on the Armenian Ministry of Defence in protest, blocking its entrances overnight.
In response to the situation, Armenpress reports the Armenian Deputy Prime Minister, Tigran Avinyan, as saying: "Negotiations continue with the mediation of the Russian side, and we hope that the Azerbaijani side will finally respect the signed statement and implement the humanitarian agreement, thus contributing to the establishment of stability in the region.”
No clear explanation has yet been provided as to why the prisoners did not arrive as had been announced. Yesterday morning, the families of the missing soldiers blocked the Yerevan-Gyumri motorway at an intersection in Shirak Province of Armenia, demanding to know why.
The soldiers in question were captured by Azerbaijan in the Khojavend District – which came under Azerbaijani control last year – on 16 December 2020. Whilst Yerevan claims that the men should be returned as part of the 10 November ceasefire, which stipulated an ‘all for all’ swap of the countries’ prisoners of war (POWs), Baku claims that as they were captured after the ceasefire agreement, they are not POWs but terrorists. This line was reiterated in a press conference yesterday morning by the foreign minister of Azerbaijan, Jeyhun Bayramov.