One month after the ceasefire in 2020, on December 13, the two remaining villages in the Hadrut region, Hin Tagher and Khtsaberd, were handed over to the Azerbaijani side. On that day, 62 volunteers who had left Shirak to defend the positions were captured. There is conflicting information about losing these positions and ending up in captivity. spoke with Mels Ambardaryan, a repatriated from Old Tagher և Khtsaberd villages. He told us that they had received a phone order from the commander to step down.

“On December 13, 2020, we received a phone call ordering us to take all the necessary items, go to the road called “Kung”, from where the food was distributed. According to the commander, a Ford cars were waiting for us there, which would take us to the battalion, and then we would go home,” says Mels Ambardaryan, presenting his story of being taken prisoner of war.

“After receiving that order, we follow the path told by the commander. It was very difficult to get to the mentioned place, because there were sick soldiers with us. Reaching the area mentioned by the commander, we found ourselves under the blockade of Azerbaijan. The commander’s place was also in Khtsaberd. The commander told us that if we meet with Azerbaijani soldiers, they will be accompanied by Russian peacekeepers. The commander told us that in case of such a situation we should call him, he would come and settle the issues.

After getting into blockade, we tried to contact the commander, but there was no communication, neither by phone nor by radio.

The commander was not in the place he mentioned, only the Azerbaijani servicemen were there. We were trying to start negotiations. The Azeri soldiers told us that the Russian peacekeepers would come soon and take us out of the area. We waited for some time, but no one came. Then they told us that they would come and take us from them (Azerbaijani servicemen, author.) They told us that we could not enter their territory with h weapons, we must drop our weapons and then approach them. They said that later the peacekeepers would hand over our weapons to us. On that condition, we approached them. But, instead of peacekeepers to take us out, they took us to Azerbaijan,” said the former prisoner of war.

30 out of 62 Shirak residents captured in the Hin Tagher և Khtsaberd area of ​​the Hadrut region are still in captivity. 32 repatriated servicemen have been recognized as victims in a criminal case. In 2021, lawyer Vahan Hovhannisyan published the testimony of some of these servicemen, emphasizing that six dozen Armenian servicemen had been taken prisoner by less than a dozen Azeris.

Mels Ambardaryan, however, claims that the number of Azerbaijani servicemen in the area was large.

“There were more than a battalion of Azeris there, they were following us also from the mountains, their lights were shining. They were already sitting in the positions where our mobilization troops had exited and we were under direct fire. They were more than a battalion of 200-500 servicemen. We were 62 people from Shirak.

That testimony does not correspond to reality, selective excerpts have been published from there. The presence of several Azeris was mentioned in the testimony in the context that when we approached the Azeris, five or six of them searched each one of us and accompanied us,” he said, emphasizing that they had been ordered not to attack in case of meeting the Azeris.

“We talked to the commander hours before being captured, when he said, ‘Come down.’ After that, it was not possible to get in touch with him and other officers. They had given us a frequency, but we could not get in touch. There were no Russian soldiers either. We were ordered not to fire first in case of meeting with Azerbaijani soldiers, as we did not want provocations, we had to stay away from them and contact the command,” he said.

Mels Ambardaryan’s words suggest that the intention was to hand over the positions to the Azerbaijanis, as they were ordered to step down, but no one came to replace them.

“No substitutes came to the positions and we tried to find out whether… I think, the area was to be handed over, the authorities handed it over. We were not told to leave for handing it over, we were not told to leave because the shift was on the way: we were told to leave b ecause we were to go home. The question arose among us as to who would hold these positions, but we decided to go down and address the question to the battalion commander. The commander was in other positions in the Nor Tagher-Khtsaberd area, which is currently under Azerbaijani control,” he said.

By the way, it is unknown how the commander, who is detained now and is going through a criminal case, how he managed to leave the area with other servicemen without appearing in captivity.

Mels Ambardaryan was sentenced to six years in prison in Baku for carrying illegal weapons and crossing the border without documents. He stayed there for ten months. The former prisoner of war does not want to talk about the days spent in Baku yet.

Narek Kirakosyan

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