Armenian military officials say they have carried out a special operation to recover the bodies of three crewmembers of a helicopter shot down by Azerbaijan more than a week before. But their Azerbaijani counterparts say that the reports of a rescue operation were a disinformation operation.
The Armenian Mi-24 was shot down November 12 by Azerbaijani anti-aircraft fire; Armenia says it was conducting a training mission and Azerbaijan said it was preparing to attack.
The bodies had remained near the crash site, in no man's land near the line of contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. Earlier this week, international monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe tried to visit the site and were unable.
On November 22, the de facto ministry of defense of Nagorno Karabakh announced that a special operation had recovered the bodies: "Taking into account official statements from the Azerbaijani side and the complete lack of reason from that side, the armed forces of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic were forced to carry out a special operation with the aim of ascertaining the fate of the helicopter's crew," the ministry said in a statement. Two Azerbaijani soldiers were killed in the operation, while the Armenian side suffered no losses, the statement said.
"Considering the great amount of enemy fire, these actions were unprecedented in character and difficulty. All was done simply fantastically, taking into account the considerable losses of the enemy," added Armenian Defense Ministry spokesman Artsrun Hovhannnisyan on his facebook page. "It was a fantastic operation at a world-class level."
The Azerbaijan Ministry of Defense, however, denied that any such operation had taken place: "This information is unfounded and is deliberately spread provocation and lies," the ministry said in a statement. "It is not excluded that the Armenian side will demonstrate some remains of previous losses, presenting them as a body of pilots of the downed helicopter to defraud the Armenian people."