Ruben Vardanyan :
Azerbaijan’s border service personnel ( the State Border Service of Azerbaijan ), announced the arrest of Ruben Vardanyan on Wednesday.
Vardanyan is a wealthy businessman who owns a major investment bank in Russia. He made most of his wealth in Russia. Vardanyan moved to the region of Nagorno – Karabakh in the year 2022 in order to serve as the State Minister of the self declared Nagorno – Karabakh Republic. He was dismissed from his position in February 2023. Despite his dismissal, he remained a significant public figure in the region.
Veronika Zonabend, the wife of Ruben Vardanyan, issued a statement on his Telegram channel that Vardanyan had been arrested whilst he too – like several others – was trying to flee the region as part of a mass exodus by ethnic Armenians after Azerbaijan forces took back control of Nagorno – Karabakh in a abrupt offensive last week, on 19th September, 2023.
Speaking about Vardanyan’s arrest that happened yesterday, Veronika said – “My husband, Ruben Vardanyan, the philanthropist, businessman and former minister of state of Artsakh, has been arrested and held captive by the Azerbaijani authorities”. She further conveyed that the arrest happened at the border whilst Vardanyan was attempting to leave along with thousands of Armenians who were also escaping the Azerbaijani occupation. Veronika continued by saying that Vardanyan “stood with the Arsakh people during the 10-month blockade and suffered along with them in the struggle for survival.” She said that she asks for “prayers and support” in order to ensure her husband’s safe release.
The mass departure in Nagorno – Karabakh :
Nagorno-Karabakh, in international terms, is recognized as a part of Azerbaijan, but it is majorly dominated by the 120,000 ethnic Armenians living there. The region had been controlled by ethnic Armenians for three decades. Moreover, Azerbaijan and Armenia have both been vying for control over this region for decades and have even gone to war twice for the matter.
On 19th September 2023, Azerbaijan launched an operation in Nagorno – Karabakh and subsequently took control of the region. Twenty four hours after the attack, a ceasefire finally brought fighting to an end on 20th September, 2023. But, after the takeover, several of the region’s 120,000 ethnic Armenians apprehended and feared the possibility that they might have no future in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, said that “ethnic cleansing” had begun in the region.
Azerbaijan authorities, however, have rejected the Armenian accusations in regards to ethnic cleansing.
Now a number of ethnic Armenians are fleeing to escape the region. They are abandoning their residences and boarding trucks and cars in order to cross the snaking mountain road out of Karabakh that leads to Armenia. Traffic jams have lined the road that leads to Armenia with families being crammed up in vehicles.
Until now, approximately 50,000 ethnic Armenians have fled the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was seized by Azerbaijan last week.
International Response upon the matter :
Most recently, the German Foreign Minister – Annalena Baerbock called for “transparency” on the Nagorno – Karabakh matter and for a potential international observer mission to the fought-over region.
The German Foreign Minister said on X ( formerly Twitter ) that “It would be a sign of confidence that Azerbaijan is serious about its commitments to the security and well-being of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh if it allows international observers”.
On Tuesday, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, urged Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, to provide “unconditional protections and freedom of movement for civilians”. He also asked for an unchecked and unhindered humanitarian or philanthropic access to Nagorno – Karabakh.