YEREVAN, STEPANAKERT–Azerbaijan’s forces shot down a military helicopter belonging to the Nagorno-Karabakh Armed Forces on Wednesday at 1:45 p.m. local time when the Mi-24 was on a training mission. Artsakh Defense Ministry reported that the helicopter was not armed.
“Today, at 13:45 [1:45 p.m.], an Mi-24 helicopter was shot down in the eastern airspace [of NKR], near the Karabagh-Azerbaijani border, by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces—a ceasefire violation. The area where the helicopter was shot is very close to the Line of Contact. The enemy continues to fire intensively, with weapons of various caliber, at the area where the incident took place,” the Artsakh Defense Ministry said in a statement.
According to a source in Artsakh, three members of the Artsakh Air Force were killed in the attack.
The training flight was part of joint Armenia-Artsakh military drills in the area.
The incident took place at the eastern section of the Nagorno-Karabakh-Azerbaijan border, the Artsakh Defense Ministry reported.
The Azerbaijani forces continued the shelling into the afternoon.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee has condemned this latest attack by Azerbaijan and is urging the international community to take appropriate measures to condemn Azerbaijan and its continued military aggression.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry spokesperson Artstrun Hovhannisyan on Wednesday called the helicopter downing “an unprecedented provocation, which has resulted in the escalation of the situation.”
“Azerbaijani assertions that the helicopter attacked its positions are senseless,” added Hovhannisyan. “The investigation of the debris of the helicopter will prove it was not armed.”
“The Azerbaijani side continued to aggravate the situation even after the helicopter had been shot down. Moreover, the shelling from the Azerbaijani side was making it impossible to approach the pilots,” Hovhannisyan said.
“The consequences of this unprecedented escalation will be very painful for the Azerbaijani side and will remain on the conscience of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan,” he said.
The pilot of the helicopter was Major Sergey Sahakyan, the Spokesman said, adding that further information about the fate of the crew would be provided.
Artsakh’s Presidential Spokesman Davit Babayan told Armenpress on Wednesday that the incident has caused no panic in Karabakh. Babayan said the people of Artsakh would not lose strength or determination in light of this incident.
“The Artsakh people mourn the death of the three victims but this tragic incident does not affect our strength and courage; the people are ready to continue the fight against the adversary for the sake of their dignity and the independence of their country,” Babayan said.
Babayan added that military exercises continued in Artsakh despite the Azeri attack.
“The helicopter was not intended for military action and had no weapons on it,” Davit Babayan concluded. “It was implementing training exercises. The helicopter was not a threat to the enemy. The Azerbaijani side hit the helicopter from the back and showed once again the real face and the degree of insanity of Azerbaijan. They can only hit us from the back; and an unarmed helicopter at that.”
Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the attack on Wednesday.
“Before and after every high-level meeting on the resolution of the issue, Baku is resorting to new provocations to undermine the negotiation process,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.
“Such a criminal provocation demonstrates that Baku is not only ignoring the appeals of the OSCE Minsk Group and the international community for the non-use of force, consolidation of the ceasefire, and implementation of confidence-building measures, but is acting contrary to them, bearing full responsibility for the escalation of the situation,” the statement said.