YEREVAN —  Five more Armenian prisoners of war have returning home from Azerbaijani captivity, Armenian deputy prime minister Tigran Avinyan said in a Facebook post today. He said their repatriation was a joint effort of the Russian side and Armenia’s National Security Service.

“Also today 62 of other Armenian prisoners of war, still being held in Azerbaijan, spoke with their relatives by telephone,” he wrote.

They were flown to Yerevan by a Russian plane and immediately taken to a military hospital for examination.

A senior Karabakh official, Boris Avagyan, told reporters that the five men were among 62 Armenian soldiers who were taken prisoner in early December when the Azerbaijani army seized the last two Armenian-controlled villages in Karabakh’s Hadrut district occupied by it during the six-week war.

According to Avinyan, Azerbaijani authorities allowed all 62 prisoners to speak with their families by phone earlier on Thursday.

Avagyan stressed the importance of the release of “the first group” of these POWs. “This means that the process is moving forward,” he said.

The truce agreement calls for the unconditional exchange of all prisoners held by the conflicting parties. Dozens of them were swapped in December.

The latest repatriation raised to 59 the total number of Armenian POWs and civilians freed to date. More than 100 others are believed to remain in Azerbaijani captivity.

Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian demanded on Thursday the unconditional release of the remaining Armenian prisoners.

“Azerbaijan should understand that this is a humanitarian issue and if this issue continues to be exploited it will become problematic for Azerbaijan as well,” Ayvazian told reporters.

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