YEREVAN — A daughter of a seriously ill Nagorno-Karabakh resident arrested by Azerbaijani authorities during his aborted evacuation to Armenia demanded his immediate release on Monday, saying that she fears for his life.
“We have no information about his condition, we don’t know if he is alive or not,” Vera Khachatryan told reporters as she picketed the Yerevan offices of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Vagif Khachatryan, a 68-year-old resident of the Karabakh village of Patara, was in the latest group of patients who were being escorted by the ICRC to Armenian hospitals for treatment on Saturday. He was kidnapped at an Azerbaijani checkpoint in the Lachin corridor in a gross violation of international law.
Azerbaijani authorities said Khachatryan was taken to Baku to stand trial on charges of killing and deporting Karabakh’s ethnic Azerbaijani residents in December 1991, at the start of the first Armenian-Azerbaijani war. Karabakh officials strongly deny the accusations.
The ICRC said on Sunday that its representatives in Baku visited Khachatryan in Azerbaijani custody and enabled him to communicate with his family.
“My father has still not contacted us, that is false information. We have no news except that he is in Baku,” countered Vera Khachatryan, who fled to Armenia during the 2020 war with Azerbaijan.
A spokeswoman for the ICRC office in Stepanakert suggested that the Red Cross statement referred to an “oral message” sent by the Karabakh man to his loved ones. “In this particular case, there was indeed no direct communication, but something was passed on to the family,” said Eteri Musayelyan.
Karen Grigoryan, the chief cardiologist at a Stepanakert hospital who treated Vagif Khachatryan, confirmed that the latter suffered from a serious heart disease and needed urgent surgery in Yerevan. “He periodically had blackouts,” Grigoryan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
Khachatryan is the first Karabakh patient arrested by the Azerbaijani authorities during medical evacuations by the ICRC which began after Baku halted last December commercial traffic through the only road connecting Karabakh to Armenia. It is not yet clear whether the Red Cross will resume the evacuations after his arrest.