Contrary to the November 10 cease-fire declaration that called for mutual release of prisoners, Azerbaijani officials are refusing to hand over dozens of Armenians, including 62 servicemen captured in Karabakh’s Hadrut district in mid-December. Azerbaijan is believed to hold dozens more military personnel and civilians captured in more than 40 days of military operations prior to the cease-fire. On December 14, Armenia handed over all of its Azerbaijani prisoners, including two men held on murder charges since 2014, in what was supposed to be an “all-for-all” exchange.
Azerbaijan’s foreign minister confirmed the capture of 62 servicemen in a letter to the United Nations on December 28. In it the Azerbaijani official claimed that the Armenian forces were engaged in “diversionary activities,” suggesting they might face criminal charges. In his December 31 remarks, Azerbaijan’s Ilham Aliyev called the imprisoned Armenians “terrorists.” Armenian commentators speculated that Azerbaijan was using the prisoners as a bargaining chip to achieve more territorial concessions from Armenia.
The capture of the 62 servicemen in the Hin Tagher / Khtsaberd area of Karabakh’s Hadrut district in mid-December also violated the part of the November 10 declaration that committed parties to remain in their positions and to cease fire. Vitaly Balasanyan, who replaced Samvel Babayan as secretary of Artsakh’s security council last month, reported this week that Azerbaijani forces have attempted to advance their posts in the vicinity of Shushi, Karmir Shuka and Askeran as well.
UPDATED: According to official reports at least 35 Armenian servicemen were killed since the November 10 cease-fire: twenty from the middle to late November, at least nine in Khtsaberd area on December 13 and six on December 27. The six survived in encirclement in the south of Karabakh for 80 days, when they were captured, tortured and executed by Azerbaijani forces. Separately, at least one Armenian civilian was killed in the Martuni area of Artsakh.