Armenian captives held in Azerbaijan disembarking in Yerevan. Official photo

A Russian military transport plane landed in Yerevan with forty-four Armenians held in Baku. According to an accompanying list published online, those returned included 28 military personnel and 16 civilians. Earlier in the day, the same plane delivered 14 Azerbaijanis held in Armenia to Azerbaijan, including two men sentenced for murder of a teenager in Karabakh, which Armenian authorities previously refused to exchange, and 12 servicemen captured in the war.

The group of returned Armenians included five individuals held in Azerbaijan since before the latest war: civilian Arsen Baghdasaryan held since 2014, civilian Karen Kazaryan held since 2018, serviceman Arayik Kazaryan captured last May and officer Gurgen Alaverdyan captured last August. Also among those delivered was 80-year-old Abrik Abrahamyan, who reportedly suffers from mental illness and was held in Azerbaijan for over 15 years. Shepherd Narek Sardaryan held in Nakhichevan since last July is expected to be returned separately. (Update: Sardaryan was released on December 15.)

The largest group of returnees – 26 military and 13 civilians (all men) – were among those captured between September and November 2020.

Last week, Artsakh’s ombudsman estimated that some 60 military servicemen and 40 civilians were being held in Azerbaijan, suggesting that dozens of Armenian captives remain in Azerbaijan. Further, during the clashes in Hin Tagher/Khtsaberd area in recent days another ten Armenian servicemen are believed to have been captured.

Meantime, the Russian peacekeeping command in its daily map update again excluded the Hin Tagher/Khtsaberd area from its area of responsibility. In Shushi district, which currently falls within the Russian map, there were reports of Azerbaijani forces harassing Armenian villages in Berdadzor area and also occupying the TV tower near Lisagor.