- Share to or
The second time in three years Azerbaijani troops may have killed Russian peacekeepers, but Moscow is saving its ire for Armenia
Multiple members of Russia’s peacekeeping contingent were killed in Nagorno-Karabakh, the country’s Defense Ministry said on September 20. The Russian soldiers reportedly came under fire “while returning from a monitoring post of the Russian peacekeeping contingent near the locality of Chankatagh.” According to the ministry’s statement, a vehicle with peacekeepers was hit by small-arms fire. The exact number of casualties has not been specified. Russian propagandist Margarita Simonyan later reported that five people had died. She did not provide a source for this information.
One of the soldiers killed was Ivan Kovgan, the deputy commander of the peacekeeping contingent, according to the news outlet Severpost and the The St. Petersburg Submariners and Naval Veterans Club. Kovgan, a first-rank captain, was simultaneously serving as the deputy commander of the Northern Fleet’s submarine forces; he was sent on assignment to Nagorno-Karabakh just a few months ago. The Yekaterinburg-based news outlet Ura.ru reported that Tagir-Murod Karayev, a colonel in Russia’s Central Military District, was killed as well. “He and his shift partner were going to replace their personnel at the post. Their vehicle came under fire. Everyone was killed,” a source told journalists.
Azerbaijan has taken responsibility for the peacekeepers’ deaths. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry “expressed its deepest condolences” regarding the incident. On September 21, the Kremlin announced that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had apologized in a conversation with Vladimir Putin. A statement on the Kremlin’s site says that Aliyev expressed his readiness to provide material support to the victims’ families and that the two countries’ prosecutors general are “in close contact.” Azerbaijan has not disclosed the details of the exchange, and the Kremlin’s announcement did not say how Putin responded to Aliyev’s apology.
The initial suspects in the peacekeepers’s deaths have been detained, Russian state media reported, citing a “source in Russian law enforcement.” Reports of the arrests were published by multiple outlets simultaneously, quoting identical statements. According to the source, an Azerbaijani Armed Forces commander whose subordinates are responsible for the incident has been suspended from duty.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that the deceased peacekeepers “took the blow for the sake of peace in the region, as always.” Writing on Telegram, she added: “The base ingratitude with which unscrupulous individuals have tried to cast doubt on their activities will not tarnish their heroism but will forever shame the slanderers.” Most of her post about the soldiers’ deaths, however, was dedicated to criticizing the Armenian government and accusing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of betraying the interests of Nagorno-Karabakh under pressure from the E.U. The message didn’t mention Azerbaijan’s role in the deaths of Russian peacekeeping troops.
This isn’t the first time Russian peacekeepers have died as a result of the actions of Azerbaijani forces in the region. In November 2020, during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, a Russian Mil Mi-24 helicopter was shot down in the Armenian village of Yeraskh, near the border with Azerbaijan, while escorting a ground convoy. Two servicemen were killed and one was injured. Baku officially took responsibility for the incident, apologized to Russia, and vowed to pay compensation, while Azerbaijani law enforcement opened a criminal case for negligence (nothing about the ensuing investigation was ever reported publicly). Vladimir Putin awarded the deceased soldiers the Order of Courage.
- Share to or