YEREVAN — The Armenian leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh has said the reported downing of an Azerbaijani drone over the breakaway Azerbaijani region will “restrain” Baku in starting a military conflict over Karabakh, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reports.
Armenian Karabakh leader Bako Sahakian said through a spokesman that the reconnaissance flight allegedly carried out by the destroyed unmanned aircraft constitutes a serious cease-fire violation.
“First of all, the [Azerbaijani] aggressor will now feel more restrained because the destruction of such military hardware also shows the extent of the technical sophistication of our army,” Sahakian’s press secretary Davit Babayan told RFE/RL. “That will certainly have a quite sobering impact on Baku’s behavior.”
The Armenian Karabakh military said on September 14 that its forces shot down the drone while it flew a reconnaissance mission over Karabakh’s eastern Martuni district on September 12. The Armenia-backed army released several pictures of what it described as the drone wreckage.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied that information late today. In a statement cited by the Trend news agency, it said “Azerbaijan has nothing to do with an unmanned aerial vehicle that crashed in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The ministry also reported that an Azerbaijani army officer was seriously wounded at an unspecified section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact.”
Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have not previously claimed to have shot down air targets since a May 1994 truce that halted their bitter war for Karabakh that was won by Armenian forces.
Babayan described the drone destruction as “factual evidence” of truce violations by Azerbaijan. He said field representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe should consider expanding their monitoring of the cease-fire regime in the Karabakh conflict zone after this incident.
The incident was reported by the Karabakh Armenians six months after an Azerbaijani-Israeli joint venture began assembling Israeli-designed drones for Azerbaijan’s armed forces. The Azerbaijani military has also reportedly purchased such aircraft from Israel and Turkey.
According to Colonel Nikolay Babayan, commander of Armenia’s air-defense forces, Karabakh army units used special “radioelectronic” equipment to shoot down the spy plane.
“It is very difficult to hit and even locate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) because they are made of special composite materials,” Nikolay Babayan told Panorama.am on September 14. “But we managed to do that by using special devices.”
The official did not specify the type of antiaircraft weapon that was reportedly used to down the UAV. He said only that Azerbaijani drones regularly carry out reconnaissance flights near Karabakh.
“This time, the UAV violated the border, as a result of which its flight was ended by the joint work of our air-defense troops and radioelectronic forces,” added Nikolay Babayan.