On December 15th, the two elderly men who were beheaded by Azerbaijani soldiers in videos that were widely shared across social media were identified as two Armenian civilians.
The ethnic Armenian men were non-combatants, people in their respective villages said. Both were beheaded by men in the uniforms of the Azerbaijani armed forces.
The Guardian interviewed villagers on the matter.
In videos posted online on 22 November and 3 December, men in uniforms consistent with those of the Azerbaijani military hold down and decapitate a man using a knife. One then places the severed head on a dead animal.
“This is how we get revenge – by cutting off heads,” a voice said off camera.
One victim was Genadi Petrosyan, 69, who had moved to the village of Madatashen in the late 1980s from the city of Sumgait, in Azerbaijan.
Genadi Petrosyan, who lived alone, resisted leaving the village as Azerbaijani forces closed in. When a neighbour tried to drive him away, he got out of the car and walked home.
Artak Beglaryan, the Artsakh ombudsman, said Petrosyan had been identified by combing 35 missing persons reports for the region and then contacting acquaintances, who confirmed his identity.
The second victim was identified as Yuri Asryan, a reclusive 82-year-old who had refused to leave the village on October 20th as Azerbaijani forces approached.
Azerbaijan’s general prosecutor last month publicly launched an investigation into war crimes by both Baku and Yerevan.
On December 14th it made its first arrests, detaining two Azerbaijani soldiers for defiling the bodies of dead Armenian troops and two for destroying graves. It has not publicly opened any criminal cases into beheadings.
There are hundreds more videos of abuses online. Sahakyan said she and a colleague were pursuing 75 cases of captive Armenian soldiers and civilians in the European court of human rights, including 35 that included video evidence.
Separately, the political crisis in Armenia is deepening.
The opposition, represented by 17 parties, announced that it would start disobedience actions again if Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan did not resign. The goal is to celebrate the New Year, having achieved the resignation of Pashinyan.
Former Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan also made a statement on the matter:
“The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh are in a deep crisis – moral, psychological, political, economic, social, value. It is difficult to imagine a deeper crisis. What else should there be?
I think that the government, under whose rule this crisis arose, while remaining in power, will severely limit the country’s development opportunities, opportunities to use national potential and opportunities. Taking into account, on the one hand, the backward and aggressive policy of Azerbaijan aimed at consolidating its success, and on the other hand, the challenges facing Armenia, the continuation of this crisis every day damages us, only us.
This defining moment is the strongest test for the government to show whether they are able to rise above narrow political interests, show high consciousness, give the country peace, political forces – to rethink their past and form a vision for the future, and the people – to form a new government.
I hope that the Prime Minister will find the courage to decide to leave for the good of the future of our country.”
Separately, the escalations in Nagorno-Karabakh are likely to continue, since Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar issued a warning to Armenia to not undertake any aggressive actions or there would be new war with Yerevan, and this time with the official participation of Turkey.
“If the agreements on Karabakh are violated, we can immediately switch to the military option (solution of the issue). We have already assumed responsibility for the security of the liberated territories of Azerbaijan,” Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
A list was also published, revealing the identities of 88 militants that Turkey deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh to fight on behalf of Azerbaijan.
It is said that they were promised $2,000 a month salary.
The first prisoner exchange took place as part of the peace deal.
Tigran Avinyan, Armenia’s deputy prime minister, announced that 44 captives had been returned to the country from Azerbaijan.
Meanwhile, 12 captives were handed over to Azerbaijan, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed.
The exchange was facilitated by Russian peacekeepers that have been deployed to the region under the deal, which was brokered by Moscow.
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