Armenia Refuses Exchange of Azeri Saboteurs for Slain Pilots

Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian

YEREVAN—Armenia’s Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian assured reporters Thursday that Armenia would not exchange the two Azeri commandos in custody for the bodies of the three pilots killed in last week’s downing of an Artsakh helicopter Azeris. The minister said the raiders are criminals and must be punished according to the law.

Seyran Ohanian informed reporters that Yerevan is actively working on a diplomatic management of the crisis around the downed Mi-24 helicopter.

“If this option fails, we have other means to use,” Ohanian said.

The Armenian military is still unable to approach the wreckage of the Mi-24 helicopter and the three members of its crew presumed dead, despite that a week has passed since the incident.

Azerbaijan also failed to provide security guarantees to the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman Andrzej Kasprzyk, who wished to approach the helicopter wreckage earlier on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Nov. 12, an unarmed Mi-24 helicopter belonging to the Artsakh Air Force was shot down by the Azerbaijani armed forces while conducting an exercise flight. The area where the helicopter was shot down has been under fire from Azerbaijani forces since the downing of the aircraft, making it impossible to retrieve the bodies of the pilots or to inspect the wreckage. The Commander of the staff was the Major Sergey Sahakyan, accompanied by Senior Lieutenant Sarkis Nazaryan and Lieutenant Azat Sahakyan. The Azeri officer who shot the helicopter has been awarded a medal.

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