MOSCOW — Azerbaijan has apologized for the “accidental” downing of a Russian military helicopter over Armenia that left two crew members dead and one injured on November 9.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry added that it was prepared to pay compensation.
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said the Russian Mi-24 helicopter was shot down from the ground by a “man-portable air-defense system” while it was providing air cover to a “vehicle convoy of the 102nd Russian military base on the territory of the Republic of Armenia in the airspace close to the Armenian settlement of Yeraskh near the border with” Azerbaijan’s Naxcivan exclave. The ministry confirmed the casualties.
Russia is a key ally and military supplier of Armenia, which is locked in a conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on November 9 that “Russia is planning to become more actively involved not in the conflict, but in its settlement.”
“We’re doing all we can to resolve the situation and ensure that the parties sit down at the negotiating table,” Zakharova said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio.
Ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, supported by Yerevan, have been de facto independent since Azerbaijani forces were pushed out of the region and some surrounding districts in a war that ended with a 1994 cease-fire.
Fighting flared up again around the region in late September. Several thousand people are believed to have been killed in the latest fighting, and three cease-fires have failed to take hold.
On November 8, Azerbaijan announced that its forces had captured Shushi (known as Susa in Azeri), the second-largest city of the region which lies on a major road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert, with Armenia.
On October 31, Armenia formally asked Russia to begin military-assistance consultations under a 1997 mutual-assistance treaty. Moscow said at the time it would “render all necessary assistance to Yerevan if military operations take place directly on the territory of Armenia.”
Naxcivan is about 70 kilometers from Nagorno-Karabakh, separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenian territory.