Ruben Vardanyan Detained at Azerbaijan Border: A Look at the Businessman, Philanthropist, and Former Minister’s Journey
Ruben Vardanyan: A Man of Many Hats
Ruben Vardanyan, a man of manifold roles including philanthropist, businessman, and former government minister of the Republic of Artsakh, has been detained at the Azerbaijan border, as confirmed by his wife. According to her statement on Vardanyan’s official Telegram channel, he was arrested and held captive by Azerbaijani authorities at the border while attempting to leave Artsakh.
From Business to Politics
Ruben Vardanyan, who is of Armenian descent, has led a diverse life, navigating numerous fields from business to politics. He adopted Armenian citizenship in June 2021, renouncing his Russian citizenship a year later, and announced plans to relocate to Nagorno Karabakh. He assumed the role of prime minister in the breakaway region, based in the de facto capital, Stepanakert, in November 2022. However, his tenure was short-lived. After about three months into his new role and over two months into an Azerbaijani blockade of Nagorno Karabakh, Vardanyan was dismissed from his position by the region’s ethnic Armenian leader and de facto president.
Accusations and Allegations
Vardanyan’s wealth and proximity to the Russian elite have attracted considerable scrutiny. In 2019, an investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project alleged that Troika Dialog, an investment banking and asset management firm co-founded by Vardanyan, was central to a nearly 9 billion global money laundering scheme. Despite the allegations, there was no definitive evidence that Vardanyan was aware of the scheme. After the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, Vardanyan was named in a draft bill in the U.S House of Representatives as part of the “Putin Accountability Act,” which proposed personal sanctions against those close to the Russian president.
Philanthropy and Patriotism
Renowned for his philanthropic efforts, Vardanyan has pledged to donate over 80 percent of his wealth. Much of his philanthropic work has focused on Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, including the restoration of the ninth-century Tatev Monastery and the prestigious UWC Dilijan College, an international boarding school in the lush mountains of northern Armenia. Vardanyan’s decision to become an Armenian citizen and take a leading political role in Nagorno Karabakh was motivated by patriotism and a desire to serve his country.
(Read Also: Tensions and Turmoil: The Ongoing Crisis in Karabakh)
Detention and Concerns
Vardanyan’s wife confirmed his arrest by the Azerbaijani authorities as he was trying to leave Artsakh along with thousands of other Armenians escaping Azerbaijani occupation. She appealed for prayers and support to ensure her husband’s safe release. Vardanyan’s arrest has raised concerns about his safety and the escalating tensions in the region.
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