Azeri forces capture six Armenian soldiers in ​Gegharkunik

Armenian military officials announced early Thursday morning that six Armenian soldiers were captured by Azeri forces in the Armenian province of Gegharkunik.

Armenia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported that the contract servicemen were carrying out engineering work in the border region when they were surrounded and taken hostage by Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces. “Necessary measures are being taken to return the captured servicemen,” concluded the brief statement. 

During a government session, acting PM Nikol Pashinyan elaborated on the early morning developments, noting that the Armenian servicemen were installing landmines. Pashinyan underscored that warning signs were placed in the area and that these measures were being carried out to strengthen the borders, not for “subversive” purposes. Armenia’s MoD, in an effort to refute its Azeri counterpart’s claims that two dozen Armenian units crossed the border to conduct reconnaissance and mine Azeri territory and supply routes, published a map depicting the location of the capture—800 meters from the border inside the Republic of Armenia.

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During a press briefing, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Major General Eduard Asryan explained that the six soldiers were captured while setting up a new border post to prevent Azerbaijani forces from advancing deeper into Armenian territory. In response to why the Armenian soldiers did not fire at the approaching Azerbaijani troops, Asryan responded that the military-political leadership is still trying to resolve the situation peacefully through negotiations. Asryan said that the Armenian side is prepared to retreat from the new border position according to Azerbaijani demands, under the condition that Azerbaijan returns the captured servicemen. 

Hundreds of Azeri forces have been illegally occupying the Armenian provinces of Syunik and Gegharkunik since their invasion on May 12. This week, one serviceman was killed during a shootout triggered by Azeri forces in the village of Verin Shorzha in Gegharkunik. “We strongly condemn the use of force by the Azerbaijani side against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Armenia and emphasize that the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan bears the responsibility for all the actions of the Azerbaijani armed forces and its consequences,” read a statement by Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), demanding the urgent release of the newly captured servicemen. 

Acting PM Pashinyan, who has been approaching a resolution to this invasion through diplomatic means, called for unity and resolve during his visit to the village of Kut in the occupied province of Gegharkunik on Thursday afternoon. “We are filled with emotional love for our motherland, but we must not take emotional steps,” he urged residents, “We must clearly analyze and understand what is happening. And let’s go step by step to solve these problems.” Moments later, he was briefed by Major General Arayik Harutyunyan as he observed Azeri positions on the hills overlooking the Armenian village. Early Thursday morning, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan said his office received and confirmed a report of shots fired in the vicinity of Kut, leading to increasing tension in the community. “Today’s actions by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces…seriously endanger the life and health of Gegharkunik’s residents, their physical security and mental health,” wrote Tatoyan. “International organizations must take into account the real connection between these factors and re-evaluate who is really disturbing the peace and tranquility in the region and what are the real causes of human rights violations and atrocities,” he concluded.

Back in Yerevan in a meeting with members of Armenia’s Security Council, Pashinyan presented his proposal to deploy international observers along the border from Russia or the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries including France and the United States, following the simultaneous return of Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers to their original positions. The international observers would then oversee the adjustment of border checkpoints in the Sotk-Khoznavar region. “If the situation is not resolved, this provocation will inevitably turn into a large-scale clash,” stressed Pashinyan. “If Azerbaijan truly has a problem with the clarification of border points, then it should have no reason to reject this plan.” Pashinyan directed his proposal to Azerbaijan, Russia and the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries. 

The Russian side “reaffirmed its appeal to [Armenia and Azerbaijan] to resolve all emerging problems by peaceful means during negotiations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry wrote in a statement. The French Foreign Ministry urged the parties to “exercise the utmost restraint and refrain from any provocation,” recalling President Emmanuel Macron’s May 13 declaration demanding the immediate withdrawal of Azerbaijani soldiers from Armenian territory. In a statement calling on Azerbaijan to “release immediately all prisoners of war and other detainees,” the US State Department condemned the “use of force to demarcate the [international] border” and called on both sides to relocate to the positions they held on May 11. “We are gratified to see that sustained community, coalition and Congressional pressure has finally secured from our State Department an accurate reference and direct demand for the release of the hundreds of Armenian prisoners of war illegally held by Azerbaijan,” said ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian. “This small step needs to be followed by decisive action – enforcing Section 907 and immediately stopping any and all U.S. arms or aid to the oil-rich Aliyev regime.”

Following news of Pashinyan’s proposal to deploy international observers along the border, MFA spokesperson Anna Naghdalyan announced on Facebook the resignation of acting Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan. Pashinyan had appointed Ayvazyan just over a week after signing the trilateral ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 Artsakh War. 

In light of Thursday’s developments, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Supreme Council of Armenia released a statement calling once again for the resignation of acting PM Pashinyan. “The events of the recent days prove once again that there is no authority in the Republic of Armenia, and every passing day is a threat to the existence of the state,” read the statement. The ARF also issued a call to the international community and Armenia’s allies to condemn and take action to end Azerbaijan’s war crimes.

Editor’s Note, May 27, 3:51 PM ET: This article was modified from its original version to include a newly published statement issued by the US State Department and delete the reference to the US Embassy in Yerevan. A comment by the ANCA was also included.

Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian

Assistant Editor
Leeza Arakelian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She is a formally trained broadcast news writer and a graduate of UCLA and Emerson College. Leeza has written and produced for local and network television news including Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America.
Leeza Arakelian
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Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She holds bachelor’s degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies and Armenian Language and Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a human rights journalist and feminist poet. Her first poetry collection, Journey to Tatev, will be published with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.

13 Comments

  1. Pashinyn has no political clout. No one should listen to him anymore. Hes going to supposedly “negotiate” out of this disaster.. The Military needs to declare martial law and overtake the security apparatus and put the sewer rat under house arrest. Pashinyan is grossly unqualified for the very security of the state. As if no one saw this day coming. I knew right after he capitulated Artsakh that Syunik was next! Useless traitor.

  2. I don’t see anything wrong here. What’s wrong with “capturing six Armenian soldiers” on Armenia’s own territory? It’s perfectly aligned with the mentality of “Authentic Armenians” living in Armenia, and running it like the circus that it is. According to enlightened humanitarian leaders like Pashinyan, isn’t Gegharkunik also part of “ancient western Azerbaijan” or something since he has also taught us Armenians that “what do we need Shushi for? It’s useless”. Remember: the coffee in Yerevan cafes keep flowing so who cares, the ‘Authentic Armenian Yerevantsi’ is quite safe, and all is well…

  3. Eventually Pashinyan will donate Armenia to Azerbaijanis. ARF where are you? Rise and save Armenia!

  4. There should be no agreements about our borders with a caretaker government. There should be no loss of our homeland. Diaspora Armenians must use everything in their disposal to bring international pressure on Azerbayijan to return to their recognised borders.

    • What are Azerbaijan’s ‘recognized’ borders exactly? Recognized by whom?

  5. The problem we have on the eastern borders is the demarcation of Armenia’s internationally recognized borders with Azerbaijan. Because of the 30 year old conflict between Yerevan and Baku, Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan was never made official. There were areas along the border where Azeris had advanced into Armenia and stayed, and there were areas where Armenians had advanced into Azerbaijan and stayed. This 30 year old mess needs to be sorted out now that the much awaited war has come to pass. Knowing that Armenia is populated by self-destructive people and those posing as politicians, Baku is naturally trying to take advantage of the situation on various sectors along the border, especially since Nikol’s government hadn’t even thought about placing military units in those locations. Armenia however is not under a threat of an invasion by Baku. That is not going to happen. That is not going to happen not because Baku fears Armenia’s “mighty” military or its “almighty” Diaspora but because of Russia. Russians are the only reason why Armenia still exists today. This is why the CSTO has remained somewhat silent. The demarcation of the border will be a lengthy process and potentially dangerous. And this is why we today need professional politicians with close ties to Moscow more than ever before. Let’s therefore see what our peasantry “decides” on June 20th…

    • Lets be clear: Russia is screw light. It is no friend. It was Russia that GAVE AWAY Nakichivan and Karabakh in the first place and YET IGNORES THAT FACT TOTALLY in any negotiation! Its only concern is its own gain. Its only real concern is NOT having Turks totally surround it underbelly. THAT’S IT! It can care less about Armenia. It sat back and watched while TURKEY directly killed 4k young Armenians via Azerbaijan. Totally useless.. Now Azeris are encroaching on Armenia proper and its supposed guarantor of security says absolutely NOTHING. Russia only wants to make clear to Armenia, just like your doing, that our only real path of anything is to be subservient or else. NO THANKS. Our real problem is OUR OWN LACK OF UNITY. Always has been. Armenians have tribal mentality. 17 political factions for a nation of 3 million. How ridiculous. Agreed that Pashinyan is grossly unqualified at best and a traitor at worst and needs to be rid at all cost. He thinks losing and giving away Armenian lands will bring peace and prosperity and yet somehow, “its not his fault”. Unfortunately the only other current option is the king of all thieves, Robert Kocharyan. His “presidency” was about stealing elections and lining his own pockets resulting in mass emigration. That is his specialty. He is a Russian puppet to boot.. Sorry to say Armenia is currently in a sad state with no real end in sight. Yes we need intelligent, qualified, moral leaders. The real answer however is unification including the diaspora and its massive resources. ONE ARMENIA, ARTSAKH AND DIASPORA. That is the only real answer. Why not diaspora military units from the start? Why not bring in intelligent resources from all over the world via the diaspora? Instead Armenia proper ignores the diaspora yet cries every day for some third party country to help “save us”. A losing proposition with no end in sight. Russia isn’t the answer. That is for sure..

  6. Joe, you either know very-vry little about history and politics of the region or you have an agenda here. I think it’s the latter as no one can be this ignorant of facts. First, Russians did not give anyway anything to anyone. It was Bolsheviks, those who conquered Russia in 1917, that gave away lands to various different powers in order to weaken Russia. Second, Bolsheviks also gave away Russian lands. Third, during their rule in Armenia the ARF also gave away lands to Turks. Fourth, regardless of who gave what to whom at the time, had it not been for the Russians and the Bolsheviks, there would be no Armenia today…

    • Concerned Armenian…I know quite a bit. Ah so since it was the Bolshevik Regime, and not any Russian regime that give away Nakichivan and Karabakh, why doesn’t our beloved “super ally” make that clear in all settlement negotiations? Because its intentions are in keeping Armenia in a state of conflict that’s why. It benefits from it. Today Azeris are directly inside Armenia setting up military bases and Russia, who Armenia already has a supposed security guarantee with, says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. So your remedy is to be totally subservient to the useless Russian ally some more? No thanks. Yes Pashinyan is completely incompetent, whose actions are bordering on treason and needs to be rid at all cost. Kocharyan however, is an ultra thief lining his pockets at the expense of everyone. Another traitor in opinion. He was the king of election fraud and more Armenians emigrated because of his gross misrule. Armenia is in a sad state of affairs and Russia loves that. MY intentions? A democratically free UNITED ONE Armenia, Artsakh and diaspora that doesn’t rely upon anyone else as an imaginary savior. Where we control our own destiny. We have the ability and intelligence to do just that. Unfortunately we are a race of tribes that robs and steals from each other and that doesn’t seem to get along. We look to others for our own salvation, which is your intention. This is a sure recipe for disaster. We have homicidal enemies all around us and Russian hegemony isn’t the salvation. That is clear. BTW what lands did the ARF give away?

  7. At concerned Armenian,
    Since WHEN Azerbaijan was a Republic? Prior to, Gulistan and Turkmanchay treaties, Azerbaijan was the 31st province of Iran. After the Rusian-persian war, the victorious Russians forced the Persians into signing peace treaty, where the Persians handed over Georgia, Armenia, and the Province,of oil rich Azerbaijan to the Russians. In the early 1900’s the Russians re-named this previously unrecognized Persian province a new title, ‘ The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan’. So, how on earth an Iranian province becomes a legitimate country overnight? NOW, these same Azeris are running around with GPS and claiming EVERYTHING Armenian, supposed to be property of Azerbaijan. Now,You keep saying the same thing over and over, ” No Russia = No Armenia “. Enough already. My response to you is this, in May of 1918, 40,000 risilient Armenians fought against the Turks’ fifth army, at the doors of Yerevan,and during that battle, the Turks lost over 197,000 soldiers and retreated back with bloody nose. You notice, the Almighty Armenians, came out victorious witout the support of ‘almighty Russia’. “No Russia = Peaceful Armenia”. Let me tell you this, Primary reason’s the Wilsonsian Armenia HAS NOT been implemented because of Russia. In The early 1920’s , the Secret Moscow Treaty,aka the Brotherhood Treaty…yes the BROTHERHOOD TREATY of, the Tuks and Rusians,was signed between the Lenin’s Russia and Kemal’s Turkey ( both unrecognized countries Internationally during that period ). The Russians happily handed over Mush, Van, Ardahan, and Trabizon ( city by the black sea ) to the Turks, WITHOUT the consent of the Armenians. Fast forward to 1945,then PM of Soviet Union, Alexander Molotov, asked The Turks to hand over, Mush, Van , Ardahan back to the Soviets,however, the UK and the United States, stood aginst this idea, WHY? cause of the Wests’ concerns of Soviets expanionism into the Arabian oil fields. Hence, the Wilsoninian Armenia was put back on burner. Unrelated , the Israelis gained their independence in May of 1948, and to the date the WEST stays supportive of the Israelis, and rightfully so. Also, the United States, alone provides military aid to Israel to the tune of $2-3 billion per year not to mention other supports the Israelis receive from the EU, however, you never hear the WEST BOASTING, ” NO EU/UNITED STATES = NO ISRAEL”. On, the other hand, the Russians provide Armenia with lousy INSIGNIFICANT loans to purchase weapons, and we never hear the end of it. Enough already. You wanna be a trustworthy ally then act like one, not WISHY-WASHY.Now, the Azeris are running around with this, FAIRY TALE, map claiming EVERYTHING ARMENIA ,is property of Azerbaijan and the Russians are like, ” Yes, Aliev, whatever you say, our nation’s GDP is way too low so we need the money. And we are ready to hand over Artsakh”. FYI, Armenia’s been around for over two MILLENIA. Trust me you don’t need GPS to verify it. FYI, I’m Tashnak and 100 percent pro-Russia,and can’t wait Pashinyan and his Facebook croonies out of picture.

  8. Good responses by Joe and Jay to the Kremlinbot(s).

    I will also input a few points of my own as to why Russia is a FRAUD nation. Like a lot of gullible Armenians who thought and still think that “without Russia there would be no Armenia”, I used to be fairly in agreement… that is, until I did a little history investigation and started putting two and two together.

    Let’s remember that the propagandist idea of “without Russia there is no Armenia” is spread to brainwash DIASPORA ARMENIANS, in particular the traditional diaspora, and NOT the people of Armenia. The reason is that, for Armenia, that concept is completely irrelevant, and it matters very little whether people there are pro or anti Russia. Russia has worked for the past 30 years – and succeeded – in taking complete control of the critical aspects of Armenia’s infrastructure, and thus when need be, “Russia can dispose of Armenia any way it sees fit”.

    Armenia’s “pro-Russia” existence of 100 years resulted in exactly… *ZERO* benefit. Turkey’s and in particular Azerbaijan’s “anti-Russia” existence in contrast resulted in… *MANY* benefits, all to the detriment of Armenia. Now the Apparatchik of course always argues that “Armenia exists” is benefit enough. (And of course they never make the same arguments for the artificially created Azerbaijan). At the very least here, we know beyond any doubt that Russia does not view Armenia in any favorable light regardless of Armenia’s history of serving Russian interests, and without pause has always had a positive and friendly relationship with Turkey and Azerbaijan, often and consistently harming Armenia’s interests in keeping those friendly relations active.

    I know it is somewhat futile to just blame Russia here. The main guilty party here is Armenia itself, for eagerly and actively seeking to “appease master Russia”, and setting a low bar for itself in the process from the very beginnings of the founding of Armenia. My guess is, such is the mentality that Armenians have developed coming out of the Genocide: “we need a master to serve in order to be grateful that we are alive”. This idea right here is exactly a variation of this mentality that “Armenia cannot exist without Russia”. – And therefore do not ever “anger” the master. Special note, Apparatchiks: is your master actually THAT CRUEL and DESPOTIC????

    At any rate, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and based on outward appearances a few decades on, I started believing that Russia will now “revert back to its Christian heritage”, and thus this will be good for Armenia. Nope, I was wrong to believe that. The “Christian” heritage that Russia now espouses is a fraud and a front for its intent to return to the Soviet era of imperialistic control of all the former Soviet satellite states, but this time using a subtle and indirect approach as opposed to the traditional Soviet method of cruelty and force.

    Just as an example of “Christian” Russia. When the Syrian war started a decade ago, the Mafia Underboss of Mafia Boss Putin calling himself “The Patriarch of Moscow”, went there and proclaimed “Russia will not let the Christians of Syria lose their land and heritage”. Ah yes, such amazing “Christian” solidarity. Except when it came time to choose between Christian Armenians of Artsakh and Muslim Turks of Azerbaijan, you suddenly were nowhere to be found with your “Christian solidarity”. You three Soviet Mafia Vermin sat down and had your caviar in Baku while Christians Armenians got murdered and exiled from their ancient Christian lands. Some “Christian” Russia. Like I said – a FRAUD.

    As for Syria, the only reason Russia “supported” Christian Syrians, is because Christian Syrians have no choice but be on the side of the Alawite government, which controls the western parts of Syria and the seaports, and Russia’s ONLY access to the Mediterranean is through this fake “alliance”. Of course Russia happily sat back and watched the USA enter and control Syria’s oil fields and the Turks to enter and divide the Kurds for their own interests. Russia’s “help” for Syria was thus only until the extent that it helps itself. And I have been saying this all along: THIS EXACT SAME RUSSIAN “HELP” AND “ALLIANCE” APPLIES TO ARMENIA!

  9. I have heard that we must be free and independent of evil Russia. Can someone please explain how less than 3 million Armenians, landlocked can remain free and independent? Turkey and the Azeris would waste no time to create a Turkic bridge through syunik. Leaving the rest of Armenia completely dependent on it’s neighbors. And we know who those direct neighbors are.

    • No one is that simple to believe that. Russia has completely subjugated Armenia, and Armenia is too poor and short-sighted to do anything about it. For that reason, Russia feels it needs to do NOTHING for Armenia.

      But I’m sure every intelligent person knows, the first step in solving a problem is to identify the root cause. And in the case of Armenia that root cause is called “Mother Russia”. Without consequences for Russia’s despicable actions against Armenia, nothing will ever be solved, and Armenia will only exist in name only, and as a vassal puppet Russian exclave full of “hayastantsis” all waiting for their “immigration lotto” to escape at the first opportunity.

      What can little Armenia do against Turkey and Azerbaijan??

      Maybe you can go ask Russia why they armed the Turks after WWI so they can attack Armenia. Maybe you can go ask Russia why they never recognized the Armenian people’s right to self-determination on their own lands. Maybe you can go ask Russia why they armed Azerbaijan after not recognizing the right of Armenians to exist on their ancestral lands so that Azerbaijan and Turkey can invade and destroy Artsakh while Putin sips his vodka in and watches from Baku.

      Russia is the worst thing that happened to Armenia, not the best as Apparatchiks are trying to misinform everyone.

      And yes, we are now stuck with “Mother Russia” for the time being as a result of Russia’s ASSAULT on Armenia. But do not ever assume Russia ever “helped” Armenia from the Turks. On the contrary, Russia is behind every misfortune on Armenia since the Genocide.

      The Armenians in Armenia may be stuck with “Mother Russia”.

      We in the diaspora are not. That’s why we must come up with a plan to make Russia pay for the murder and destruction it caused on Artsakh. If we don’t, then we don’t deserve a country.

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