A Russian Navy commander has been killed during hostilities in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh which Azerbaijan has vowed to bring under full control, it has been reported.
Baku launched what it called an “anti-terror” operation on Tuesday in the enclave recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan that has an Armenian-majority population.
Baku demanded Karabakh’s forces dissolve their “illegal regime,” and with no means of support from neighboring Armenia, and a nine-month blockade into the territory, the ethnic Armenians surrendered.
Following a day of explosions and shelling, Armenian officials reported that at least 32 people have died, although some estimates have put the death toll at more than 200.
Without naming the dead, Russia’s Defense Ministry said one of its vehicles had come under small-arms fire near a Karabakh village.
However, Armenian outlets and the St. Petersburg Club of Submariners and Navy Veterans said among the dead was the deputy commander of the Northern Fleet submarine forces, Ivan Kovgan.
The Kremlin said that Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev had apologized for the deaths of the Russians.
While not a member of NATO, Azerbaijan has close ties with alliance member Turkey and has been a partner with the bloc since 1992, after the break-up of the USSR.
This is a developing story and will be updated with further information.