News / Europe

    Armenia Cuts Ties With Hungary in Soldier Dispute

    Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov (C) walks in Martyrs' Alley, national memorial in the Azerbaijan's capital Baku, August 31, 2012.Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov (C) walks in Martyrs' Alley, national memorial in the Azerbaijan's capital Baku, August 31, 2012.
    x
    Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov (C) walks in Martyrs' Alley, national memorial in the Azerbaijan's capital Baku, August 31, 2012.
    Azerbaijani military officer Ramil Safarov (C) walks in Martyrs' Alley, national memorial in the Azerbaijan's capital Baku, August 31, 2012.
    Stefan Bos
    BUDAPEST, Hungary — Armenia says it is cutting all ties with Hungary for allowing an Azerbaijani soldier who killed an Armenian officer to return home. On Friday, Hungary sent the soldier back to Azerbaijan, where he was immediately pardoned and freed by his country's president.

    Azerbaijani Lieutenant Ramil Safarov was warmly welcomed in the capital, Baku, after arriving from Hungary, where he was imprisoned for murder.

    Safarov was given a life sentence in 2006 by the Budapest City Court after he confessed to hacking to death Lieutenant Gurgen Markarian of Armenia in his sleep.

    The incident happened while both were in Hungary for a 2004 language course of the NATO military alliance.

    Yet, as soon as Safarov arrived at the Baku airport, he received an official pardon from Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev.

    In a short statement, the president said he decreed Friday that Safarov “should be freed from the term of his punishment.”

    Safarov told reporters that he regards his freedom as a "restoration of justice." He explained that he is "very happy" and that "it is difficult to find words" to express his feelings. Safarov said he wants to "express gratitude to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [President] Ilham Aliyev and everyone who supports him."

    Armenian President Serzh Sarkisyan said in published remarks that "Hungarian authorities should understand that they have made a grave mistake." He added that as of Friday, his nation would "cease all diplomatic relations and all ties with Hungary."

    The State Department issued a statement saying the United States is "extremely troubled" by the news of the soldier's pardon and that it is expressing its "deep concern" to Azerbaijan regarding the action. The State Department also said it is seeking further details from Hungary regarding the decision to transfer Safarov to Azerbaijan.

    The press chief of Hungary's Foreign Ministry, Gabor Kaleta, said that it was too early to comment on his country's future relationship with Armenia or Azerbaijan.

    And at Hungary's Ministry of Public Administration and Justice, press officer Veronika Szucs made clear that this was not the time to ask the hard questions.

    "We don't have anyone who can give you an interview, or read the statement," said Szucs. "Just a written statement exists. The title is 'Ramil Sahib Safarov's sentence will continue to be' [enforced by Azerbaijan]."

    In the statement, seen by VOA, the ministry said Safarov was extradited under the '1983 Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons,' which Hungary and Azerbaijan have signed.

    Hungary, however, said Azerbaijan promised that it would respect Budapest's judgment, meaning that "Persons sentenced to life imprisonment may, at the earliest, be conditionally released after serving a period of 25 years."

    The killing has underscored tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

    The territory lies within Azerbaijan, but has remained under the control of Armenian troops and ethnic Armenian forces since the end of a six-year separatist war in 1994, which killed 30,000 people and left about 1 million homeless.

    During his trial in Budapest, Safarov claimed that the conflict was at the root of his actions after the victim allegedly provoked him.

    The decision to extradite Safarov comes shortly after Hungarian media reported that oil-rich Azerbaijan may lend Hungary up to $3.8 billion by buying special bonds to help it pay off its debt. Hungarian officials later played down the reports, saying they first want to conclude talks with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union.

    Hungarian radio reported Friday that Azerbaijan's president has canceled an upcoming visit to Hungary, following the controversy over the released soldier.

    You May Like

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.