By Tigran Avetisian
STEPANAKERT (RFE/RL) — The reported downing of an Azerbaijani spy drone over Nagorno Karabagh will restrain Baku’s appetite for another war with the Armenians, the Karabagh Armenian leadership said on Thursday.
Bako Sahakian, the president of the Nagorno-Karabagh Republic (NKR), also said through a spokesman that the reconnaissance flight allegedly carried out by the destroyed unmanned aircraft constituted a serious ceasefire 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. That will certainly have a quite sobering impact on Baku’s behavior,” Sahakian’s press secretary, Davit Babayan, said.
The NKR Defense Army announced on Wednesday that its forces shot down the Azerbaijani drone while it flew a reconnaissance mission over Karabagh’s eastern Martuni district on Monday. The Armeniabacked army released several pictures of what it described as the drone wreckage. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denied that information late on Thursday. In a short 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 Karabagh.”
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 previously not claimed to have shot down air targets since a May 1994 truce that halted their bitter war for Karabagh.
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 ceasefire regime in the Karabagh conflict zone after this incident. The incident was reported by the Karabagh Armenians six month 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 Col. Nikolay Babayan, commander of Armenia’s air-defense forces, Karabagh 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,” Babayan told Panorama.am on Wednesday. “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 Karabagh. “This time, the UAV violated the border, as a result of which its flight was ended by the joint work of our airdefense troops and radioelectronic forces,” added Babayan.