News reports from Karabakh said the Holy Savior Cathedral located in the town of Shushi (Shusha) was twice hit by rockets and seriously damaged as a result. Photographs taken at the scene showed a gaping hole on the roof of the church and debris scattered inside it.
Karabakh officials said Yuri Kotenok, who writes for the Segodnia.ru news service, was wounded as he inspected, together with another Russian reporter, damage caused to the church by the first missile strike.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Information Center said Kotenok was rushed to a hospital in Stepanakert and was undergoing surgery there in the evening. “Karabakh doctors are fighting to save his life,” it said in a statement.
The RIA Novosti news agency reported that the other journalist, identified as Levon Arzanov, and his Armenian companion suffered light injuries during the shelling of the 19th century church commonly known as Ghazanchetsots.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned the shelling as a “war crime.” “With these actions Azerbaijan replicates the behavior of its newly acquired allies, infamous international terrorist organizations that are responsible for the destruction of numerous historical-cultural monuments in the Middle East,” it charged in a statement.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry claimed that its forces did not deliberately target the church.
Shushi, Stepanakert and other Karabakh towns have been heavily shelled since the outbreak on September 27 of large-scale hostilities along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh.
Two French journalists working for Le Monde daily came under artillery fire and were wounded in one of those towns, Martuni, on October 2. One of them underwent life-saving surgery in Stepanakert.
Baku has also reported extensive Armenian shelling of Azerbaijani towns and villages which it said continued on Thursday.