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Flying to Stepanakert you can be shot down?05.02.2013 | 17:25
The new airport in Stepanakert, capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, has become an additional problem in the complex process of the Karabakh conflict. Baku has threatened to shoot down all the aircrafts flying over Karabakh. Yerevan claims there is no real danger, since the country's air defense system is capable of protecting the aircraft from the fire. And to convince the passengers in safety of the flights, Serzh Sargsyan will take a ticket for the first flight.
The airport is located 10 kilometers from Stepanakert and 40 km from the line of contact between Karabakh defense forces and the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. Reconstruction of the airport began four years ago. As a result result, the infrastructure has been impressively upgraded. There has been constructed a new terminal building, and the runways have been completely renovated and extended. After the Armenian side expressed in 2011 a desire to launch operation of the airport, Baku threatened, saying they could shoot down aircrafts "violating the airspace of Azerbaijan". Baku considers the sky over Nagorno-Karabakh its space.
Baku's threats were strongly condemned by the international community. Yerevan called them "a manifestation of state terrorism". Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said he would be "the first passenger of the first flight to Stepanakert".
According to experts, Azerbaijani side has a real opportunity to shoot down aircrafts over Karabakh. This opportunity appeared after 2010, when Kremlin sold Baku two divisions of modern air defense systems (AMS) "Favorit", in many ways unparalleled in the world.
Meanwhile, the Armenian side claims that its air defense forces are capable of ensuring the safety of Karabakh, and potential passengers do not have to worry. Despite these assurances, the deadlines for putting the airport into operation were postponed. This immediately raises a few questions: how realistic is the threat of Baku? Will the Armenian side ensure 100% safety in the sky over Nagorno-Karabakh? Finally, and most importantly - will the passengers use the services of the airport, realizing a prospect to become target?
Military experts, assessing the potential of air defense of Armenia, note that defense system, deployed on the territory of the Armenian state, is able to cover the territory of the country and to protect its aircrafts from combat aircrafts of the enemy. However, if Azeri side uses "Favorits", this would be almost impossible.
Spokesman of the Armenian Defense Ministry Artsrun Hovhannisyan has different opinion. He has confirmed the ability of air defense system of Armenia to ensure safety during the operation of Stepanakert airport. "People do not trust the political and what is more offensive, the military leadership of the country that is reliably ensuring the safety of the state. President says that the airport will operate. Armenia's Defense Minister says that we can ensure safety of the flights. However, some of our very smart persons are questioning all of this without any reasonable facts and copying the Azerbaijani sources", Hovhannisyan said.
According to him, the Azerbaijanis, of course, are not joking speaking with the threats. "Who said that Azerbaijan was joking? Baku is not joking, like it did not in 1992, 1993 or 1994", said the spokesman of the Defense Ministry of Armenia, adding that he could continue the list of what Azerbaijanis could do. "However, I can only say the following. 1992, when the airport was cleared, and the flights of Yak-40 were resumed, at the time Azerbaijan allegedly had C-200 with a range of 250 km. Why then Baku has never managed to bring down aircrafts?"
Military psychologist David Jamalyan at a news conference on February 4, said that from a technical point of view, it would be difficult to bring down airplanes in the direction Yerevan-Stepanakert. "Flying to Stepanakert the planes appear on Azerbaijani radar only for a minute and a half. During this time, considering also the mountainous terrain, it will be very difficult to aim and shoot them down. Thus, the threat of Baku is rather a propaganda than a reality", says Jamalyan. According to him, in the statements of President Aliyev we can clearly see domestic political context. "In fact, Baku won't dare to destroy civilian aircrafts, since I'm sure in the counterattack by the Armenian side", he said.
Jamalyan believes that everyone can be confident about the safety of flights: Baku will only watch them, and nothing more. "Perturbation will be caused only by the first few flights, after which the intensity of emotions around the issue of security will fade", he said.
However, the threat of Baku, even if they are not grounded, has created a climate of fear among the people who could become potential passenger of Yerevan-Stepanakert flights. Serzh Sargsyan has volunteered to be the passenger of the first flight to scatter doubt and phobias in society in relation of safety.