Ruben Vardanyan, former state minister of breakaway Artsakh Republic dismantled by Baku, arrested while trying to leave Nagorno-Karabakh
The State Border Service of Azerbaijan has arrested the former state minister of the breakaway Republic of Artsakh, Ruben Vardanyan.
The politician’s wife Veronika Zonabend told Russian news outlet RBC about his arrest. Armenia Today and the Azerbaijani publication Haqqin also report that the former Artsakh statesman is in custody, after being arrested in the Lachin Corridor while trying to leave Nagorno-Karabakh.
Last week, a massive strike launched by Baku forced Armenia to concede to withdraw its remaining troops from Nagorno-Karabakh. Another condition of the cease-fire was the dismantling of Artsakh and its government, headquartered in Stepanakert.
While Baku celebrated restoring its sovereignty in the region, the predominantly ethnic-Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh was faced with what many feared would be imminent exile. Refugees started flooding into neighboring Armenia immediately.
According to Zonabend, Vardanyan was arrested while trying to pass through an Azerbaijani checkpoint on the Akari Bridge, leading to Goris in Armenia’s Syunik province.
The border service of Azerbaijan has confirmed Vardanyan’s arrest, reporting that he has been transported to Baku and turned over to the “relevant authorities” for an “appropriate decision.” The border service also published a redacted photo of the handcuffed politician.
Ruben Vardanyan was appointed state minister of Artsakh in November 2022, after relinquishing his Russian citizenship and moving to Nagorno-Karabakh. The following February, he resigned from that post.
Vardanyan is also known as a former Russian entrepreneur and co-founder of the Troika Dialog brokerage firm, described as “Troika Laundromat” by OCCRP investigators. He was also the first president of the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo. In 2021, Forbes estimated his worth at $1 billion.