Russian military helicopter shot down in Armenia

Russia said Monday that one of its military helicopters was shot down in Armenia, near the border with Azerbaijan, killing two servicemen.

The incident occurred near the border with the Azerbaijan exclave of Nakhchivan.

Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have been fighting for six weeks over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenians since 1994.

Nakhchivan is about 70km from Nagorno-Karabakh and it was not clear whether the helicopter shootdown was connected with the conflict.

The defence ministry said the helicopter was accompanying a military convoy, but did not clarify the purpose of the convoy. Russia has a large military base in Armenia, but it is about 150km from where the helicopter was shot down.

A spokesman for the president of the separatist government in Nagorno-Karabakh on Monday confirmed that Azerbaijani forces have taken control of a strategically key city and said they were nearing the region’s capital.

The statement on Facebook by Vagram Pogosian came a day after Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev claimed his country’s soldiers had taken Shushi.

The seizure is the most significant military development in the fighting over the territory, which is within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since 1994.

Shushi’s position above the regional capital Stepanakert, which is about 10km to the north, gives strategic advantage to whomever holds it. The city also lies along the main road connecting Stepanakert with Armenia.

Long lines of vehicles have jammed the road as Nagorno-Karabakh residents flee the fighting into Armenia. – AP

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