The Azerbaijani authorities have detained Ruben Vardanyan, a former self-proclaimed prime minister of Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region, as he was trying to leave for Armenia, the Azerbaijani Border Service said on Sept. 27.
He was reportedly detained in the Lachin corridor and then brought to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku.
Russian-Armenian investor and billionaire Vardanyan held senior positions in several Russian companies and founded one of Russia's largest investment banks, Troika Dialog.
He has been placed on Ukraine's sanctions list for his role as a board member of the Russian air cargo company Volga Dnepr, which provides material support to the Russian military.
In 2022, Vardanyan said that he renounced Russian citizenship and moved to Nagorno-Karabakh, where he has served as the "state minister" (a position equivalent to a prime minister) of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic between November 2022 and February 2023.
According to Politico, Vardanyan was greatly unpopular with the Azerbaijani leadership, and Baku pressured the Nagorno- Karabakh authorities to dismiss him in February during Azerbaijan's blockade of the self-proclaimed republic.
Azerbaijan launched an offensive against the Armenian authorities of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on Sept. 19 with the claimed "goal of restoring the constitutional order."
Following a day of clashes, Baku declared victory and ethnic Armenian forces were forced to disarm in accordance with a ceasefire agreement signed on Sept. 20.
Following Azerbaijan's victory, over 47,000 ethnic Armenians have been reportedly forced to leave the region for Armenia, Yerevan said.
Under international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognized as Azerbaijani territory, but has been under the de-facto control of Armenian separatists since 1991, who refer to it as Artsakh. Yerevan has supported the breakaway territory militarily, which regularly clashed with Azerbaijani forces in the following decades.
In 2020, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a major war in which the latter's forces successfully reclaimed a large portion of the territory before a ceasefire was mediated by Moscow, which sent a "peacekeeping" force of several thousand Russian troops to the region.
In the following years, tensions did not subside, with Azerbaijan blockading the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to a humanitarian crisis widely condemned by UN member states and international organizations.
In 2021 Azerbaijani forces also invaded several internationally recognized Armenian territories in the east of the country and are still occupying them.