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90 days in captivity: chronicle of Ruben Vardanyan’s detention

Almost three months ago, Azerbaijani special services detained social entrepreneur Ruben Vardanyan when he tried to leave Artsakh for Armenia. During these 90 days, the entire world has learned about the prisoner. Prominent human rights activists, journalists, politicians, and cultural figures demand his release. We report the latest events related to the philanthropist’s arrest and his humanitarian projects.

Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited Artsakh residents arrested by the Azerbaijani authorities, including Ruben Vardanyan. The prisoners were able to contact their families.

The “We are Our Mountains” agency launched the Support for Artsakh Craftsmen project. The initiative aims to help craftsmen from Artsakh and other residents who want to improve their skills or learn a new craft. The agency was co-founded by Ruben Vardanyan.

The Tatev Wings cable car won a prestigious international tourism prize, at the World Travel Awards, for the second time. The project founder’s son, David Vardanyan, received the honorary award at a ceremony in Dubai.

In his report, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo demanded that Baku immediately release social entrepreneur Ruben Vardanyan and other former leaders of Artsakh. According to Ocampo, holding the prisoners captive is part of a genocide against the Artsakh Armenians.

Azerbaijan did not include Ruben Vardanyan in the list of prisoners to be exchanged with Armenia. The media reported that Baku would release 32 people, and Yerevan — 2. But none of the former leaders of Artsakh were included in the exchange list.

Armenian media reported about a free canteen in Artsakh, which was opened by Ruben Vardanyan on August 15 during the Stepanakert blockade, to provide its residents with hot meals. The first canteen worked for a little over one month. Initially, 300-350 people visited the canteen per day but the number of visitors quickly grew to 500-600.

More than 150 humanitarian figures, politicians, and businessmen from all over the world signed an open letter calling for the release of former Artsakh leaders.

The Voice of Armenia reported that Ruben Vardanyan invested $50 million in various projects in Artsakh and used his international connections to help the republic.

Forbes published an overview of major charity projects funded by social entrepreneur Ruben Vardanyan. The social entrepreneur’s family and sponsors donated over 187 tons of food, worth $450 thousand, to Artsakh residents via the “We are Our Mountains” agency. Another $110,000 was spent on creating mobile primary medical care teams for rural residents.

A major non-profit organization, the Center for Victims of Torture, wrote an open letter to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The public activists are calling for the release of philanthropist Ruben Vardanyan and other Armenian prisoners.

Ruben Vardanyan’s wife Veronika Zonabend broke her silence for the first time after her husband’s arrest and gave a long interview to the Mediamax agency. According to her, all Ruben Vardanyan’s initiatives continue despite his arrest. Among these projects are the Skolkovo School of Management, Matena International School of Leadership and Professional Development, the international boarding school UWC Dilijan College, and the Tatev Revival program, as well as projects related to supporting forcibly displaced residents of Artsakh.