YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — The three pilots of an Armenian combat helicopter shot down by Azerbaijani forces near Nagorno-Karabagh received full military honors on Tuesday, November 25, as they were laid to rest in a state funeral attended by top military officials and hundreds of citizens.
Thousands of other Armenians filed past the remains of Major Sergey Sahakian, 38, Senior Lieutenant Sargis Nazarian, 25, and Lieutenant Azat Sahakian, 22, placed in closed coffins inside a Yerevan church on Monday. Catholicos Karekin II, the supreme leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, led a requiem service there in the presence of President Serge Sargisian and other Armenian leaders.
“We are proud of having such soldiers,” Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said in a speech delivered at Yerevan’s Yerablur military cemetery during the funeral. “Eternal glory to the heroes, to the Armenian army guaranteeing our security!” he added.
The commander of Karabagh’s army, Gen. Movses Hakobian, also attended the funeral. Hakobian gave relatives of the three officers medals that were posthumously awarded to them by Bako Sahakian, the Karabagh president.
Sahakian decorated them during the weekend hours after the Karabagh Defense Army announced that it has retrieved “the corpse of one of the crew members, the remains of the two other pilots and some necessary parts of the helicopter” downed in the Aghdam district east of Karabagh on November 12. The army said its commandos reached the helicopter’s wreckage lying in a no man’s land in a “special operation” that left at least two Azerbaijani soldiers dead. It said they neutralized heavy gunfire from nearby Azerbaijani army positions aimed at preventing the recovery of the bodies.