A top official from Russia’s armed forces was killed during Azerbaijan’s shelling of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh just two months after he was appointed to be the second in command of a Russian peacekeeping force in the region.
Captain First Rank (Colonel) Ivan Kovgan, the deputy commander of Russia’s North Fleet submarine forces, was among Russian troops killed during Azerbaijan’s “anti-terrorist” operation on September 20, according to the Club of Navy Submarine Veterans in St. Petersburg.
The group said Kovgan was killed when Azerbaijani forces opened fire at a vehicle transporting Russian peacekeepers. The 52-year-old had been appointed to the post of deputy commander of the peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh two months earlier.
Azerbaijan said it had taken back the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh after launching a lightning 24-hour assault that forced ethnic Armenian forces to surrender and agree to a Russia-brokered ceasefire.
Under the agreement, Azerbaijan said it would halt its military offensive – which killed at least 200 people and injured many more – and said it would hold talks with Karabakh officials “to discuss reintegration.”
The Kremlin said on September 21 that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which he offered his apologies and expressed condolences over the deaths of Russian military personnel during what Baku called “an anti-terrorist operation” in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“[Aliyev] emphasized that the most thorough investigation of what happened will be conducted and all responsible persons will face due punishment,” the Kremlin’s statement said, adding that Russian and Azerbaijani prosecutors are in contact to launch the probe.
Aliyev also expressed a readiness to provide the families of the deceased military personnel with financial support.
Media reports in Russia cited sources in Russian law enforcement on September 21 as saying that the commander of the Azerbaijani armed forces unit, whose subordinates were allegedly involved in the deadly shooting at the car with Russian personnel, was dismissed from his post and “first suspects have been detained.”
The exact number of Russian troops killed in the attack remains unknown.
In November 2020, during the 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani armed forces shot down a Russian military helicopter, killing two pilots.
Baku said at the time that the aircraft had been shot down “by mistake” and offered apologies to Russia.
Russian peacekeepers were brought in as part of a cease-fire agreement that ended the war after some 7,000 people lost their lives.
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