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“As the topic of relocated people is widely discussed, I often — and with sadness — think about a completely different ‘relocant,’ Ruben Vardanyan.

A man who actually stuck his head into the inferno out of patriotism. He acted like a true patriot, not remotely (as you probably know, he was born in Yerevan). If the “Russian oligarchs” behaved like this instead of scuttling along the Moscow — London — Tel Aviv — Moscow route like rats, they would be seen in a different light. And for this patriotic act, for staying with his people to the end, Vardanyan is paying the price — he “drinks tea in jail,” as the Azerbaijani side puts it.

That being said, I’m not quite sure what the accusations are. He did not fight with Azerbaijan, did not command any armies, he wasn’t at the root of the movement. He was a “separatist”, probably just like any other Armenian, except maybe Pashinyan. He wasn’t involved in the events from the 90s, which Azerbaijanis recall with pain.

Vardanyan came to Karabakh after the 2020 war with one goal in mind — to somehow improve the people’s lives in terms of economics and infrastructure. He was a state minister for three months, and it would be quite odd to take revenge for this alone. Of course, maybe they just expect a “ransom” from him, but even this is ludicrous for the early 21st century.

Formally, one would think that Russia doesn’t need to stand up for Vardanyan. He renounced his Russian citizenship. However, his move was a gesture of loyalty to Russia — if a Russian citizen had taken an official post in the Artsakh government, this would have been a real issue. So renouncing citizenship was actually a very loyal act toward Russia.

Since the Karabakh situation was clearly played “with four hands,” perhaps this is the real reason why both Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities are clearly in no hurry to push for his release.

I don’t know how much we can do now, even at the highest level. But we must do something. We must not forget Vardanyan. Now is the situation to do good without harming anyone.”

Egor Kholmogorov – politician, publicist, documentary filmmaker