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Azerbaijan says detains separatist president of Nagorno-Karabakh Arayik Harutyunyan

Arayik Harutyunyan, former president of Nagorno-Karabakh region

Azerbaijan has confirmed that it has detained Arayik Harutyunyan, former president of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, while Armenia denounced the move.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Azerbaijan's prosecutor general and security service said that 49-year-old Harutyunyan was detained by Azerbaijani security forces two days earlier on “suspicion of waging an aggressive war” against Baku and purported war crimes.  

The statement came just a day after Armenia’s foreign ministry “strongly condemned” Baku for arresting several separatist leaders from the mountainous region, over which Azerbaijan took full control last month following a 24-long military operation.

That practically ended a three-decade-old conflict between Baku and Yerevan over the long-troubled territory, which has always been internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan though it is mostly populated by ethnic Armenians.

Through the operation, Azerbaijani military managed to easily rout pro-Armenian forces in 24 hours and made the separatists agree to lay down weapons, under a Russian-mediated ceasefire.

Harutyunyan headed the separatist government in Nagorno-Karabakh during the 2020 armed conflict between Baku and Yerevan for control of the enclave. However, he stepped down early last month, shortly before Azerbaijan’s offensive.

Azerbaijani security forces have detained some other former authorities and military command of the unseated government, including Ruben Vardanyan, a reported billionaire who headed the region’s separatist government between November 2022 and February this year.

In a statement, Armenian foreign affairs ministry said Yerevan “will take all possible steps to protect the rights of the illegally arrested representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh, including in international courts.”

The United Nations human rights office has already urged Baku to afford the detainees “full respect and protection.”

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