Russian military investigators are now treating the November 9 downing of a helicopter over Armenia as “willful murder,” a more serious charge than the previous “death through negligence,” Interfax reported on Monday, citing a source.
Hours before the announcement of the defeatist November 9 agreement between the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan that stopped the military hostilities in Karabakh, Azerbaijan claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian Mi-24 military helicopter, which crashed in Armenia’s Ararat Province, killing two crew members.
At the time Baku apologized for the incident, with its foreign ministry saying it was an accident and the “move was not aimed against Moscow.” Azerbaijan said its forces decided to open fire due to heightened tensions in its war against Artsakh. Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry also said at the time that the helicopter flew at a low altitude during hours of darkness and close to the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
At the time, Moscow said the helicopter was accompanying a convoy from the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri.
Interfax said on Monday, citing the Russian source, that a case had initially been opened into a potential infringement of flying regulations that had resulted in deaths through negligence.
The reported switch to a murder charge, which could lead to a sentence of life imprisonment for those held responsible, may complicate relations between Moscow and Azerbaijan, the news agency said.
Offering its condolences, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry at the time of the crash condemned the attack saying “the tragic incident occurred far away from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone, at a location, where no military clashes have been recorded during this period. From this perspective the claims of the Azerbaijani side and attempts to justify it are false and groundless.”
“We strongly condemn this assault towards the Russian Armed Forces by the Azerbaijani armed forces within the sovereign territory of Armenia,” said Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on November 9. “We are convinced that the use of force against the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will receive an adequate response.”