The former state minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh and leading Russian banker Ruben Vardanyan, was arrested on the Azerbaijani border as he attempted to depart for Goris in Armenia’s Syunik province with the other refugees fleeing the enclave, his wife told RBK on September 27.
“My husband, Ruben Vardanyan, the philanthropist, businessman, and former Minister of State of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) was arrested and detained by the Azerbaijani authorities at the border this morning as he tried to leave with thousands of Armenians,” Veronika Zonabend said. “Ruben has stood with the Artsakh people during the 10-month blockade and has suffered with them in their struggle for survival. I ask for your prayers and support for my husband's safe release.”
Azerbaijani State Border Service confirmed the news. "On September 27, Ruben Karlenovich Vardanyan, born in 1968, who illegally entered the country and worked as the so-called "State Minister of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" as a result of the vigilance of the military personnel of the State Border Service, was detained at the exit point of the "Lachin" state border while moving from the Republic of Azerbaijan in the direction of Armenia. He was brought to Baku city accompanied by the employees of the State Border Service's Flexible Movement Forces," the statement said.
Vardanyan was appointed the unofficial republic’s state minister in November 2022 and he was removed from the post in February.
An ethnic Armenian Vardanyan made his fortune in Russia as the co-founder of Troika Dialog, Russia’s oldest brokerage, in 1991 which went on to be a leading Russian investment bank. He sold out to the state-owned Sberbank just before the 2008 crisis for a reported $1bn.
Since then he has devoted himself to philanthropy with a particular focus on training the next generation of business leaders. Among his many projects he was also the first president of the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, Russia’s leading business school.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, he is one of the few leading Russian businessmen to renounce his Russian citizenship in September 2022 and move to Nagorno-Karabakh where he has been working to build up the would-be independent state.
In addition to his business in Russia, Vardanyan has also invested heavily in Armenia and owns the country’s leading commercial bank, Ameriabank.