YEREVAN, Armenia—Azerbaijan said Monday that it shot down a Russian military helicopter that was flying over Armenia. Two Russian servicemen were killed.
The helicopter was shot down as it flew near the border with the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, which is surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey. The area is distant from Nagorno-Karabakh, the region where Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have been fighting heavily since late September.
The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier that the aircraft was outside the conflict area.
But a statement from the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said the conflict was a factor in the incident. The ministry noted that the helicopter was flying in the dark at low altitude and “in the context of these factors and in light of the tense situation in the region and increased combat readiness in connection with possible provocations of the Armenian side, the duty combat crew decided to open fire to kill.”
Azerbaijan has been making advances in Nagorno-Karabakh and seemingly scored a major victory on Monday. A spokesman for the Nagorno-Karabakh region's government said Azerbaijani forces took control of a strategic city in the separatist territory and were nearing its capital.
The seizure of Shushi—which Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had claimed a day earlier—is the most significant military development since fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces over Nagorno-Karabakh restarted in September.
The region lies in Azerbaijan but has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia.