STEPANAKERT — President Serzh Sarkisian flew to Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday to watch large-scale Armenian military exercises that are being held in and around the territory.

Sarkisian’s press office said that “within the framework of the exercises” he will also tour Karabakh Armenian military bases and assess the combat readiness of troops stationed there.

The office released photographs of a uniform-clad Sarkisian emerging from a military helicopter at Stepanakert’s recently reconstructed airport and being greeted on the tarmac by Bako Sahakian, the president of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR).

The armed forces of Armenia and Karabakh began the drills on November 6. They are reportedly involving tens of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of tanks and artillery systems.

Sarkisian’s visit comes one day after Azerbaijani forces shot down a Karabakh Armenian helicopter near “the line of contact” east of Karabakh in a fresh escalation of tensions in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. The Azerbaijani military claimed that it was brought down while “attacking” its frontline positions. The military authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert strongly denied that, saying that the Mi-24 helicopter did not cross the frontline or even carry rockets or other ammunition.

According to the Armenian presidential press office, Sarkisian flew to Karabakh after watching an air-defense exercise at a military base in eastern Armenia. The office circulated photographs of anti-aircraft systems firing surface-to-air missiles.

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