It is difficult to overestimate the role of the Stepanakert airport in the first Artsakh war.
In the early 1990s, Yak-40 aircraft and Mi-8 helicopters provided air communication between Armenia and Artsakh. The “air bridge” played a very important role, especially before the opening of the Lachin (Berdzor) corridor. Flights were operated not only to Stepanakert, but also to various settlements and terminals in the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, the Shahumyan region and the Getashen subregion.
Under fire from the ground and targeted by Azerbaijani combat aircraft in the air, Armenian pilots transported the bodies of victims, the wounded, women and children, the elderly, as well as various humanitarian aid to Artsakh, including food and fuel, as well as weapons and ammunition and freedom fighters. The flights were carried out by the pilots and aircraft of the 2nd Yerevan Detachment based at Yerevan’s Erebuni Airport.
“The flights were carried out in unfavorable weather and geographical conditions, at the lowest possible altitude and with intensive maneuvers,” writes Dmitry Atbashyan, former head of the Armenian Civil Aviation Department (1971-1987), in his unpublished book on aviation in Armenia. Transportation of large containers of fuel for combat equipment by Yak-40 passenger planes was a problem. The containers moved back and forth, which disrupted the aircraft’s center of gravity making a difficult situation worse. Nevertheless, the Armenian pilots managed to fly.
The main bases for flights to Artsakh in Armenia were Erebuni, Sisian and Goris airports, although there were also flights from other airports, particularly from Gavar and Vardenis.
“Today, everyone agrees that without the planes and helicopters of the Armenian Civil Aviation Department, without the airports of Stepanakert, Goris and Sisian, we would have lost the Artsakh war,” the famous aviator writes in his book, adding that this fact speaks about how important it is for any sovereign state to have its own civil aviation, a developed material and technical base and, primarily, national aviation personnel.
In this regard, Atbashyan emphasizes that foreign pilots would not fly for the benefit of the Armenian side in the conditions that arose during the evacuation of Armenians from Azerbaijan and the hostilities in Artsakh. The experienced aviator writes that in the first war the Azerbaijani Civil Aviation Department faced such a problem. “With almost no national staff, they had to hire mercenaries there with large sums of money, who, however, tried to avoid the slightest risk. And that is why the Azerbaijanis lost in the silent competition of the two neighboring departments.”
Civilian aircraft targeted by Azerbaijan
As noted, the flights to Artsakh, and from there to Armenia, were carried out in rather dangerous conditions, first of all taking into account the enemy factor. Here are some such cases that were directly related to Stepanakert airport.
On March 27, 1992, a Yak-40 passenger plane flying from Stepanakert to Yerevan, commanded by Mikael Andreasyan, was targeted by Azerbaijani aircraft. The plane was fired on from the Strela-2 anti-aircraft missile system, which, fortunately, did not explode, instead damaging one of the three engines of the Yak-40. The crew of the plane had to turn off the engine and managed to land successfully at Erebuni Airport. According to available data, there were 30 passengers and 4 crew members on board. There were no casualties.
After Armenian independence, the aircraft of the national airline Armenian Airlines (AAL) at Erebuni Airport was assumed by Ararat Avia, a company established on the basis of AAL. Another of the latter’s Yak-40s (still with Soviet SSR-87532 registration) was attacked on May 9, 1992.
The plane flying from Stepanakert to Yerevan was targeted by an Azerbaijani Su-25 combat plane while approaching the Kelbajar region. The latter opened fire on a passenger plane, after which the right wing of the Yak-40 started to burn, and the cockpit and the cabin began to fill with smoke. Flight engineer Artavazd Sahakyan had to seal the emergency exits, and pilots Harutyun Davtyan and Mikael Andreasyan managed to land the plane at Sisian Airport.
n addition to the three-man crew, there were 28 passengers on the plane (this, according to Captain H. Davtyan. Zori Balayan says there were 33. Other sources indicate 30. Moreover, according to Armenian data, there were freedom fighters in the cabin, including wounded. Foreign sources mention refugees). After the evacuation, the plane completely burned. There were no victims, but both pilots were injured because of the hard landing.
Vagif Gurbanov, the pilot of the Azerbaijani Su-25 that attacked the Armenian plane, seized the combat plane with his fellow servicemen on April 8, 1992 from the CIS air base in Sitalchay, Azerbaijan. He also used the Su-25 to target Armenian settlements. On June 13, 1992, over the skies of Askeran, Armenian anti-aircraft guns destroyed the plane and Gurbanov, the pilot.
Azerbaijani forces not only targeted Armenian planes in the air, but also planes parked at Stepanakert airport. In the above-mentioned case, on May 9, 1992, the Armenian Yak-40 had to get back in the air immediately after landing in Stepanakert to avoid being bombed by Azerbaijani aircraft. However, shortly after the start of the flight to Yerevan, Gurbanov’s Su-25 attacked the civilian aircraft in the sky.
One of the most tragic accidents of the Yak-40
Another incident related to Stepanakert airport is one of the most tragic in the history of Yak-40. According to aviation-safety.net, a website that deals with plane crash statistics, the plane struck a cloud-covered hill in the Lachin region, during its approach to Stepanakert, killing 46. This is the third largest disaster in the history of the Yak-40.
Read more on: https://hetq.am/en/article/126065
My guess is that the Russian peacekeepers are using *civilian* flights into the airport to do resupplying to Artsakh.
Is Azerbaijan shooting them down?
Therefore, the Russian peacekeepers can violate the alleged “blockade” whenever they want.
In other words, *Russia* not Azerbaijan controls whether there is or is not a blockade of Artsakh.
When will we Armenians stop lying to ourselves about Russia’s acts and goals?