Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian on Saturday heaped praise on Karabakh Armenian commandos who have reportedly reached the crash site of the downed Armenian helicopter gunship near Nagorno-Karabakh after overcoming Azerbaijani obstruction.
“Along with words of solace addressed to the families of the killed pilots, we must also be proud of the soldiers of the [Karabakh] Defense Army’s special forces, who have carried out that difficult task with honor,” he said, referring to the recovery of the bodies of the helicopter’s three crew members.
The military authorities in Stepanakert and Yerevan say that at least two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in the operation. The Azerbaijani military denies this.
Ohaniantold reporters that the Defense Army “will step up service” on the Line of Contact with Azerbaijani forces deployed east and north of Karabakh to “monitor, detect and destroy” enemy troops that would attempt to attack Armenian positions. He did not clarify whether the Armenian side is planning further retaliation for the November 12 downing of its Mi-24 helicopter.
The Karabakh army commander, General Movses Hakobian, also praised his special forces and defended the reported commando raid, arguing that the Azerbaijani army sought to thwart Armenians access to the helicopter’s wreckage with heavy gunfire. “Gunshots are always fired [on the frontline] but the situation is now under control,” Hakobian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Meanwhile, Ohanian’s first deputy, Davit Tonoyan, met with Andrzej Kasprzyk, the head of an OSCE mission monitoring the Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire regime, to brief him on the helicopter operation. The Armenian Defense Ministry gave no details of the meeting.
Earlier this week, Kasprzyk and members of his team tried unsuccessfully to approach the crash site in the Aghdam district east of Karabakh.