YEREVAN — An Azerbaijani army soldier was captured by Armenian troops after crossing into Armenia in unclear circumstances early on Thursday.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said the 20-year-old conscript, Firuz Farajov, surrendered to its forces guarding a western section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. “The border violator was arrested and an investigation is underway,” the ministry said in a statement.
The statement added that the Yerevan office of the International Committee of the Red Cross has been informed about the incident.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry confirmed Farajov’s capture. According to 1news.az, the ministry said the soldier was taken prisoner after he “got lost” near Azerbaijani army positions in the western Tovuz district bordering Tavush province in northeastern Armenia.
The mountainous area is the most volatile section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier, with both sides regularly reporting skirmishes between their troops stationed there. Last month two Armenian citizens were injured by the Azerbaijani fires, and during the first seven months of 2012the Azerbaijani side violated the ceasefire regime about 11 thousand times.
At least five Azerbaijani and three Armenian soldiers died in a series of gun battles in the same area early last month. Each side blamed the other for that upsurge in fighting which prompted serious concern from the United States, the European Union and Russia.
An Azerbaijani sergeant, Mammadbagir Akhundzade, was captured along the more militarized Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Nagorno-Karabakh last January after allegedly deserting his army unit deployed northeast of the territory. According to the Armenian military, he was freed and deported to an unspecified “third country” last month.
Akhundzade was not the first Azerbaijani prisoner of war who apparently chose not to return to his homeland for fear of prosecution. Azerbaijani soldiers returning from Armenian captivity are known to have been routinely prosecuted and given lengthy prison sentences on charges of high treason.