Former state and military officials of Artsakh detained by Azerbaijan

YEREVAN—Azerbaijan has illegally detained eight state and military figures of Artsakh, including four former presidents and the current chairman of the National Assembly. As of the morning of October 4, the following state and military representatives have been arrested and sent to Baku: 

Speaker of the National Assembly of Artsakh Davit Ishkhanyan

Davit Babayan – former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Artsakh
Arkady Ghukasyan – former president of Artsakh Republic
Arayik Harutyunyan – former president of Artsakh Republic
Davit Ishkhanyan – chairman of the National Assembly of Artsakh Republic
Davit Manukyan – former deputy commander of the Artsakh Armed Forces, general
Levon Mnatsakanyan – former commander of the Defense Forces, general
Bako Sahakyan – former president of Artsakh Republic
Ruben Vardanyan – former State Minister of Artsakh Republic

Arkady Ghukasyan, 2nd President of Artsakh

Following the Azerbaijani offensive on Artsakh on September 19, which led to dozens of military and civilian deaths, including children, a Russian-brokered agreement was reached on the withdrawal of the remaining units and servicemen of the Armed Forces of Armenia from Artsakh, the disbanding and complete disarmament of the Artsakh Defense Army, and the removal of heavy equipment and weapons from the territory of Artsakh. The offensive came almost ten months after the start of Azerbaijan’s devastating blockade, which precipitated a humanitarian crisis in Artsakh. 

On September 28, nine days after the 24-hour blitz by Azerbaijan, President of the Republic of Artsakh Samvel Shahramanyan signed a decree to dissolve all state institutions by January 1, 2024. The decree states that the republic will cease to exist on that day, and the local population must familiarize itself with the conditions of reintegration presented by the Republic of Azerbaijan and make an “independent decision” on whether to stay or leave the region.

Bako Sahakyan, 3rd President of Artsakh

Despite the agreement, and as a result of continuing hostilities against the civilian population of Artsakh in line with Azerbaijan’s national policy of ethnic cleansing, more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians have been forced to flee from Artsakh, seeking refuge in different regions of the Republic of Armenia. 

During the forced migration of tens of thousands of Armenians, state representatives also made their way towards Armenia. While several state officials, like former Secretary of the Security Council of the Republic of Artsakh Samvel Babayan, made it through the illegal checkpoint at the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor, others met with a different outcome.

Vardanyan was detained by Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces at the illegal Azerbaijani checkpoint on the Hakari Bridge at the entrance to the Berdzor Corridor. Vardanyan relocated to Artsakh from Russia in 2022, where he served as State Minister and was actively involved in multiple humanitarian aid projects in the blockaded republic. Vardanyan has been an outspoken advocate for Artsakh’s right to independence and self-determination. He is currently serving a four-month detention and faces a potential 14-year sentence by Azerbaijan on charges of financial terrorism, participation in the formation of armed groups and residing in the Republic of Azerbaijan without proper authorization.

Former Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan (Photo Vahagn Khachatrian)

Vardanyan’s children have appealed to human rights advocates to help achieve their father’s release from detention in Azerbaijan. In their statement, Vardanyan’s four children state their concern about their father’s wellbeing and safety in arbitrary detention. They also state that they do not want their father to become yet another victim of the political tension in the region, “especially as his mission has always been to reduce this exact same tension and find a peaceful solution to a long-term conflict.”

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Artsakh Davit Babayan

In a Facebook post, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Artsakh and current advisor to the president of Artsakh Davit Babayan announced that he would be going to Shushi to turn himself in per the request of the Azerbaijani government, where he would then be sent to Baku for an investigation. Babayan stated that although the decision to turn himself in would cause great pain for his family and friends, “not turning myself in, or moreover fleeing, would seriously harm our people, many, many people, and I, as an honest man, a working, patriotic Christian, cannot allow it.”

Vardanyan’s arrest was followed by the detention of former Artsakh Deputy Defense Minister, Lieutenant-General Davit Manukyan, and former Artsakh Defense Minister, Lieutenant-General Levon Mnatsakanyan. According to a statement released by the Azerbaijani State Security Service, Manukyan is charged with terrorism, illegal possession and transportation of weapons and ammunition, forming armed groups and illegal border crossing. Manukyan is the brother of Gegham Manukyan, opposition “Armenia Alliance” MP and member of the Supreme Council of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) in Armenia. Both Davit Manukyan and Mnatsakanyan have been transferred to Baku and are awaiting trial. 

Former President of Artsakh Arayik Harutyunyan

On October 3, Azerbaijan arrested former presidents of the Artsakh Republic, Arkady Ghukasyan, Bako Sahakyan and Arayik Harutyunyan and incumbent Speaker of Artsakh’s Parliament Davit Ishkhanyan. These arrests bring the total of confirmed Artsakh officials being illegally tried in Baku to eight. Ghukasyan served as the second president of the Republic of Artsakh from 1997 to 2007, followed by Sahakyan, who held the presidency from 2007 to 2020. Ishkhanyan was elected speaker of the parliament in August 2023. He has served as the representative of the ARF Central Committee in Artsakh and is currently a member of the ARF Bureau. Harutyunyan served as the fourth president of the Artsakh Republic from 2020-2023, submitting his resignation prior to Azerbaijan’s most recent attack.

On September 28, the Republic of Armenia submitted an application to the International Court of Justice of the United Nations to apply a temporary measure in the case of Armenia vs. Azerbaijan under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, “demanding Azerbaijan to refrain from punitive actions against the current or former leadership or the military of Nagorno Karabakh,” stated Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry also released a statement on September 4 condemning the illegal arrests of the representatives of the Artsakh Republic. “Despite the dialogue with the representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh, the statements of high-ranking officials of Azerbaijan regarding the willingness to respect and protect the rights of Armenians, not to hinder their return to Nagorno-Karabakh, and on establishment of peace in the region, the law enforcement bodies of Azerbaijan continue arbitrary arrests,” the statement reads.

The Ministry has affirmed that the Republic of Armenia is actively taking measures to safeguard the rights of unlawfully detained Artsakh representatives, both domestically and in international courts. Furthermore, they have urged international partners to maintain consistency in their messages and appeals to Azerbaijan regarding the protection of the rights and security of the Artsakh people, addressing the matter through bilateral channels and various international platforms.

Hoory Minoyan

Hoory Minoyan

Hoory Minoyan was an active member of the Armenian community in Los Angeles until she moved to Armenia prior to the 44-day war. She graduated with a master's in International Affairs from Boston University, where she was also the recipient of the William R. Keylor Travel Grant. The research and interviews she conducted while in Armenia later became the foundation of her Master’s thesis, “Shaping Identity Through Conflict: The Armenian Experience.” Hoory continues to follow her passion for research and writing by contributing to the Armenian Weekly.


    • I can sense the glee in you tone. Treason for what? Being forcefully removed from your ancient home lands? By a British banking Soviet made up fictitious gas station called “Azerbaijan”? A criminal genocidal dictator regime accusing the original inhabitants of treason. How amusing. BTW Charles there are 34 countries today that officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. England and Israel do not. Why is that Charles? We all know why.

    • @ Monte what I was saying was matter of fact and being dispassionate actually. Treason for having what Baku will consider an illegal government on its territory. The Soviet Union could have decided to assign Arktash to Armenia when it took over in 1922 but it didn’t. Britain has traditionally been pro Turkey in its policies, Israel it’s all about me me me although after three score and ten years has run it’s course rather over the Holocaust in the guilt tripping for Europe especially with the demographic changes too…

    • The time has come for Armenia to get revenge on Israel for supporting and supplying the Turks.

      Armenia must supply and train the Palesrinians.

    • You are correct from the Azeri perspective. There is a famous French saying, la raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure. It is the more powerful who is always right.
      Another one is, La loi du plus fort, only the strong survive.

  1. @Charles – is it treasonous to allow boat loads of fighting aged migrants to enter England without even a wimper?

    Please answer the question so we can understand and evaluate your reasoning

    • It’s a distruction and not sustainable for sure since they are on benefits at taxpayers and on the national debt.
      Nevertheless I suspect Baku will prosecute them for treasonous conduct. I hope Armenia will be able to forge a new path after this tragedy. Such dramatic events will invariably lead to an epiphany as questions which could be ignored have to be asked and situations which were inconceivable become the reality. Best wishes for this difficult time

    • Indeed Charlie,
      Armenia needs to get rid of Nikol and finally abandon Western integration and turn towards Mother Russia. We learned our lesson well. Thank you for your help in that regard.

    • Armenia needs to get rid of Russia and turn towards The West. We need to make sure to have a place in EU.

  2. this was always going to be the outcome in the end. Cold hard geopolitical calculations devoid of emotions as Armenians tend to do, would have shown anybody this was bound to happen one-day. Armenia needs a peace deal like yesterday in that region. Extreme nationalism, irridentism, revanchism, militarism etc will be the Doom of Armenia. Peacefull coexistence, Trade and investment from neighbors, Opening of regional transportation and a stable regional environment that ensures economic development will see Armenia grow beyond anyone’s imagination. There are two roads, one where Armenia becomes the Haiti of the Caucasus rife with poverty, political instability, crime etc or one where Armenia becomes the Austria of the region with stability, peaceful relations with neighbors and development. only the leadership of Armenia can make that decision, absolutely nobody else.

    • If Turkey and Azerbaijan lay down their arms, there could be peace and that’s not even a surety. But if Armenians lay down their arms, there will be genocide.

  3. I believe you mean “by October 4th”, not September 4th. This is in the first sentence.

    I sincerely hope Russia / Armenia / diplomats can fight to get them released as soon as possible. Such strong and brave men.

    • The first part of my second posting was a response to la var about the boat people crossing the channel to England. Harry seems to be triggered claiming that I support aliyev which is extraordinary.

  4. Gurgen, Russia has betrayed Arnenia!
    Armenia can not trust the Western countries. But Armenia should never trust Russia! Russia recognized Artsakh as a part of Azerbaijan and supplied huge amount of arms to Azerbaijan even during the two last wars.Russia has excellent relations with the ultra fundamentalist president of Turkey, who hates Armenians. Russia has always used Armennia for its own interest!
    Armenia should get rid of Russia as soon as possible!

    • Ara, you are full of lies and deceit. Your agenda is to turn Armenia into a Turkish Vilayet.

      Reharding your lies: Russia recognized Armenian autonomy in Artsakh’s internationally recognized borders. For 25 years Russia provided Armenia with a blueprint for peace. Armenians kept rejecting. Finally, it was Nikol’s Western-financed Turcophiles that abandoned Artsakh at a time Russia was powerless in the territory. Since the early 1990s, Russia provoded Armenia with billions of dollars of weapons at domestic prices and sometimes for free. Israel and Turkey are Azerbaijan’s main weapons suppliers. It was Israeli and Turkish weapons that tilted the balance of power in Azerbaijan’s favor. Armenia, a tiny, landlocked, remote and an impoverished nation stuck between two genocidal enemies has been able to exist only due to its ties to Russia. Russia has always been Armenia’z lifeline. Russia is Armenia’s main affordable weapons supplies, only affordable energy supplier, only nucleae fuel suppliers, main trade partners, main tourist provider. Russia is home to over 2.5 million Armenians who send to Armenia remittances worth over a billion dollars every years. It was Russia that resurrected an Armenia in the early 18th hundreds. It was Russia that turned Yerevan from a small Turkic-Persian town into modern Armenian metropolis.

      Your lies and deceit brought tragedy to Armenia. You people have done enough damage.

    • @Ara

      And your alternative is what exactly?

      Have you actually seen a map of where Arm3nia is?

    • Ara, you may or may not be right. When Russia failed to protect the Armenians, Pashinyan has prematurely
      turned his back to Russia, and we now witness the result of that decision. Pashinyan has come to power from a journalistic background, he has proved himself incapable to maneuver himself among Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia, USA and UK. It is a tough business that he had zero qualification for. He would have been better off trusting Russia instead. A more seasoned leader would have been capable to play hardball with all those countries.
      It was disappointing when he signed the agreement in 2020 with Putin and Aliyev, he did not bother to consult with then President Armen Sargisyan who had more experience in international relations. The job was beyond his scope. Also, his anti Putin stance from the days he was newspaper editor resulted in his utter failure to properly deal with Russia. A whole nation paid a price for it!

  5. I always look at the bright side of things. It was a huge burden on the mother country. Now you can divert all resources back to Armenia. Let it go, work on the prosperity of Armenia.

  6. Russian peacekeepers to withdraw from N-K as i had posted earlier once Azerbaijan had overrun the enclave their presence farcical once the blockade happened is now null and void. Again time for people to acknowledge the reality. France now Armenia has distanced from the CTSO is supplying weapons Via Georgia? to Armenia.

  7. Gurgen2, Cyprus is a huge burden on the Turkish economy. We are in Syria to break up the PKK/YPG link.

    You want Turkey to give up 1/4 of its land to Armenians? Do you guys live in like a bubble or something? How would that work? What about the Kurds living there?

    We go back to Central Asia? Sure when the British descendents leave Australia. Aboriginals have been here for 40,000+ years.

    I suggest Armenians invest in technology and do things like Swiss banking schemes etc to develop economy. You don’t need land to be wealthy in today’s world. Also stop antagonizing your neighbours. Learn to pick your battles. Try again in the future with a better military and economy.

    • The Armenian Genocide and the confiscation of the six Armenian provinces in Western Armenia, falsely called Eastern Anatolia, are forever tied together. You can’t talk about one without mentioning the other. The premeditated Armenian Genocide under the cover of WWI was put into action in order to depopulate Armenian provinces of their indigenous Armenian populations as a means to confiscate them permanently. Conversely, to confiscate Armenian provinces permanently the Armenian population there had to be eliminated because no people living on their ancestral lands for thousands of years would ever have given them up voluntarily under any circumstances. As a result, other than the enormous loss of Armenian lives by mass murder, Armenian lands devoid of the Armenians, have been misused and misappropriated probably at a rate of tens of billions of dollars annually. Given these facts alone, how can Armenians just let it go? Letting it go is exactly what Turkey wants.

      The current leader of Turkey Erdogan demanded that Israel pay $100,000,000 per Turk killed aboard Mavi Marmara “Gaza Freedom” flotilla, along with an apology, back in 2010 when Israeli forces intercepted and stormed the boat killing ten. In addition to what I described above, and based on the value Erdogan himself put on the loss of each human life, it looks like Turkey ows the descendants of Armenians murdered, and the Armenian nation as a whole, an additional 15 Trillion dollars. Would Erdogan have let go of all that loss if the tables were turned? I don’t think so. Armenia investing in technology and other things should in no way excuse Turkey to get away with theft of all that our nation had built over thousands of years and made to lose in matter of a few years.

      P.S. The term or the phrase “Eastern Anatolia” used to refer to parts of Turkey is a cover-up. The word Anatolia has Greek roots and it means territory “east of Greece” which could very well mean modern Western Turkey having nothing to do with the easternmost part of the country. I believe Anatolia is used to refer to this region for two primary reasons: A. To remove from the map any mention of Western Armenia and B. To erase from memory the existence of the indigenous people of this region!

  8. @Robert Whig, regarding what you were saying about Armenia should support the Palestinians in return for Israel support for the Turks. With the Gaza jailbreak might be an opportunity? Whichever way it shows that nothing is forever and how Israel helping to destroy Arktash with its supply of missiles to Azerbaijan wasn’t looking under its own nose. Also hope the seemingly strong can be shown up. Remarkable times indeed!

  9. A historic tragedy is palying out right in front of our very eyes. Some of us were warning about this for the past 5 years. We were called Putin’s agents, Kocharyan’s agents, traitors, etc. If any of you reading this are looking for someone to blame for what happened to Artsakh, look in the mirror and blame yourselves. Anyone that at any time spoke against Robert Kocharyan, Serj Sargsyan, Putin or Russia, you partook in making this tragedy possible. Those who supported Nikol and his Western financed Turkophiles at any time during the past 5 years have the blood of Artsakh-Armenians on their hands. The past 30 years have proven beyond any doubt that Armenians are not ready for independence. The past 5 years have shown beyond any doubt that Armenians don’t even deserve independence. If Armenia does not join Russia in some form in the near future, there will not be an Armenia on the world map. If fact, we have two choices: become a Oblast and survive or become a Vilayet and die.

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