YEREVAN — Armenia said on Tuesday that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet entered its airspace from Azerbaijan and shot down an Armenian warplane during continuing hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Armenian Defense Ministry said the incident occurred during Azerbaijan air and artillery strikes on military and civilian targets in Armenia’s Gegharkunik province west of Karabakh.
According to the ministry spokeswoman, Shushan Stepanyan, Azerbaijan’s Su-25 warplanes and Turkish Bayraktar attack drones were engaged by Armenia air-defense units while carrying out the strikes in the morning.
Stepanyan said that a Su-25 plane of the Armenian Air Force flew to the area to support those units only to be shot down by a Turkish F-16 jet. The plane’s pilot was killed as a result, she said in a statement, adding that the incident occurred in Armenia’s airspace, 60 kilometers from the Azerbaijani border.
“Turkey is carrying out a direct aggression against Armenia,” another Armenian military official, Artsrun Hovannisyan, wrote on Facebook.
Turkey deployed several F-16s in Azerbaijan ahead of joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises held in August. Subsequent news reports said they remained in Azerbaijan after the end of the drills.
Stepanyan said that multiple Turkish jets took off from an airfield in Gyanja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city located several dozen kilometers from northern Karabakh, to protect the Azerbaijani warplanes and drones during their raids on Armenia.
The Armenian government on Monday accused Ankara of being directly involved in the worst flare-up of violence in the Karabakh conflict zone in years. It has until now refrained from formally requesting military aid from Russia or the Russian-led Collective Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Armenia is a member.
It was not immediately clear whether Yerevan will seek such support after the reported downing of the Armenian jet.
Russia has a military base in Armenia. Russian-Armenian treaties commit it to protecting the South Caucasus country’s internationally recognized borders.