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Armenian Government Demonstrates Goodwill by Returning Azerbaijani Soldier: Mixed Reactions Spark Controversy


Armenian Government Demonstrates Goodwill by Returning Azerbaijani Soldier: Mixed Reactions Spark Controversy

Armenian government reports that in a gesture of goodwill, they have decided to hand over Ruslan Eldanis-Oghlu Penakhov, a soldier of the Azerbaijani armed forces, to the Azerbaijani side, according to a statement by the National Security Service (NSS). This move is part of an agreement reached at the highest levels between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, aiming to promptly return servicemen who unintentionally crossed borders.


The incident unfolded on February 28, around 5:15am local time, near Armenia’s Tegh village of Syunik Province, where Armenian servicemen discovered Penakhov, who had crossed the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. Criminal proceedings were initiated in the RA Investigative Committee, revealing that the Azerbaijani serviceman had strayed and ended up near Armenian positions after an incident between servicemen.


Despite the decision to hand over Penakhov as a goodwill gesture, it has sparked mixed reactions and raised questions within Armenia. The NSS statement prompted criticism from Turkologist Varuzhan Geghamyan, who pointed out the complex geopolitical context, questioning the prioritization of goodwill over ongoing issues such as Armenian prisoners of war in Baku prisons and occupied territories.


RA National Assembly Member Levon Kocharyan also weighed in on the matter, expressing concern over the perceived double standard. Kocharyan highlighted the irony of being judged for fighting for Artsakh while an Azerbaijani soldier, who crossed the border with a weapon, faces a different response.


The decision to return the Azerbaijani soldier, though framed as a goodwill gesture, has ignited a debate within Armenia about the prioritization of diplomatic gestures versus addressing ongoing challenges. 

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