Sun, 03 Dec 2023

Azerbaijan Arrests Former Head of Nagorno-Karabakh Government

Voice of America
28 Sep 2023, 09:35 GMT+10

Azerbaijan on Wednesday arrested the former head of Nagorno-Karabakh's separatist government as he tried to flee into Armenia following Azerbaijan's military offensive in the region.

Azerbaijan's border guard service announced the arrest of Ruben Vardanyan, showing the nation's intention to firmly maintain control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region after Azerbaijan's military seized the region from ethnic Armenian control.

Vardanyan was escorted to Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, and handed over to "relevant state bodies," where his fate will be decided, according to Azerbaijan's State Border Service.

Vardanyan made his fortune in Russia as the owner of a major investment bank. He moved to Nagorno-Karabakh in 2022 and served as the region's head of government until he stepped down earlier this year.

Vardanyan's had sought to join the thousands of ethnic Armenians leaving the Nagorno-Karabakh region this week. Armenian officials report that upwards of 47,000 of the region's 120,000 Armenians have left for Armenia.

Watch Heather Murdock's report:

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The exodus is driven by fears of retaliation by Azerbaijan after its military forced leaders of the enclave to lay down their weapons and discuss reintegration into Azerbaijan.

'We are leaving because Azerbaijanis have come to drive us from our homeland,' said Grigory Sarkisyan, who lost his son in the fighting.

The Azerbaijan military offensive has been a bloody one, as Azerbaijan's Health Ministry reported a total of 192 Azerbaijani troops and one civilian killed and 511 wounded.

Nagorno-Karabakh officials had said earlier that at least 200 people, including 10 civilians, were killed, and more than 400 were wounded in the fighting.

The primarily Muslim country of Azerbaijan has said it wants to peacefully reintegrate the Armenians and will guarantee their civic rights, including to practice their Christian religion.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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