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Vahe Sarukhanyan

Artsakh Defense Ministry Denies Targeting Azerbaijani Planes Over Turkey, Georgia

The latest claim of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, accusing the Artsakh Defense Ministry of trageting civilian aircraft is a boldface lie.

Open sources on the internet prove this.

Azerbaijan, which has been pursuing an aggressive policy against Armenia and Artsakh for years, has adopted a tactic that the Armenian side has been familiar with for a long time. Every time before unleashing aggressive military operations, official Baku activates its propaganda machine, in which government institutions and figures, and also the local press are participants.

Accordingly, Azerbaaijan starts by accusing Armenians of this or that provocation or aggression, trying to show, especially to the foreign audience, that it is a peaceloving nation and its actions are exclusively defensive in nature. False information with the same content and form is spread for some time, then Azerbaijan resorts to the use of force, presenting it as an exercise of its legitimate right to defend itself.

In addition, Azerbaijan also aims to divert the attention of the international community, to push its criminal acts into the foreground, such as the blockade of Artsakh, the starvation of Artsakh Armenians, the murder/kidnapping of civilians, resulting in the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh Armenians.  In short, its blatant violations of iits nternational obligations.

This process is ongoing.

The Defense Army Called the Azerbaijani Claim an "Absolute lie"

Against the backdrop of the siege of Artsakh, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan made another statement accusing the Artsakh Defense Army in July. Accordingly, on July 13, the Armenian side allegedly suppressed the GPS navigation system of the Azerbaijani "AZAL" airline "Gulfstream G280" plane during the Zangelan-Fizuli flight between 11:54 and 12:07, as well as during the Fizuli-Baku flight between 13:02-13:17, using the means of the Defense Army radio-electronic warfare (EW).

With this, Baku actually accuses Artsakh of committing a crime, but apart from specifying the specific period of the flights, it does not provide any practical evidence.

The Defense Army called this "absolute falsehood". "The message spread by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan that the relevant units of the Ministry of Defense regularly suppress the GPS positioning systems of civilian aircraft flying through the airspace of Artsakh, as a result of which a serious threat to the safety of flights is created, is an absolute lie," the Defense Army stated on July 15.

Referring specifically to the Zangelan-Fizuli and Fizuli-Baku flights, the Defense Army noted. "Aircraft flying on the mentioned routes do not need to cross the contact line, therefore they cannot be under the influence of the Defense Army radio pressure measures. Needless to say that in 2020 throughout the war operations and after that, it is the Azerbaijani side that consistently targets the civil infrastructure of the Republic of Artsakh, blocking the Lachin Corridor, disrupting gas and electricity supply lines, and suppressing access to the Internet and mobile communications.

"AZAL" Was Not the Operator of the Aircraft

Let's start with the fact that the "Gulfstream G280" mentioned by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan is not the plane of the national carrier of that country "AZAL", but of another local company, "ASG Business Aviation". This operator was founded in 2007 by the Azerbaijani cargo carrier "Silk Way Airlines" as "SW Business Aviation" (later renamed), that is, a company providing services in the field of business aviation.

The name of "Silk Way Airlines" became especially popular in 2017 after a journalistic investigation published in Bulgaria, according to which the Azerbaijani company transported weapons and ammunition to various war zones under the guise of its country's diplomatic flights, providing services to clients. "Hetq" in turn in 2020 referred to the days of the 44-day war, in particular, the flights of "Silk Way Airlines" and its "daughter" "Silk Way West Airlines" to Israel and Turkey (also other countries), which were the main military suppliers of Azerbaijan during the war. Apparently, the Azerbaijanis transported weapons and ammunition on those flights, which was not denied by official Baku either (see here, here, here, here, here and here).

"ASG Business Aviation", in turn, offers business aviation services not only to those who want it, but also makes flights for the needs of state figures of Azerbaijan. For example, on the eve of the Pashinyan-Michel-Aliyev meeting held in Brussels on May 14 of this year, the "Gulfstream G550" plane of "ASG Business Aviation" flew from Baku to Brussels, probably carrying Ilham Aliyev's delegation.

GPS Data Is Available, Which Betrays Baku's Lie

On July 13, the Zangelan-Fizuli-Baku flight (flight number: ESW 280) was operated by the "Gulfstream G280" aircraft of "ASG Business Aviation" (Azerbaijani registration: 4K-JJ8). On the online flight tracking website flightradar24.com, it can be seen that at around 9AM that day, 4K-JJ8 left Baku for Zangelan, where it arrived about half an hour later. The entire trajectory of that flight is visible on Flightradar24.com, which does not cross the current Artsakh-Azerbaijan contact line and is about 20 km away from the front line at the closest point (see below). Let us emphasize that there are almost no flights over the territory under the control of Artsakh.

As for the period from 11:54 to 12:07 on July 13, when the GPS system of 4K-JJ8 was allegedly suppressed while flying from Zangelan to Fizul, let's first note that at 11:54 the plane was on the ground in the run-up phase.

Flightradar24.com shows the flight of 4K-JJ8 between 11:52 and 11:58 with altitude, speed, flight direction and coordinates. This data is received by flightradar24.com through its network of receivers from an aircraft using ADS-B technology. But the whole point is that an aircraft transmit that data via ADS-B over the open channel to controllers or flightradar24.com only after it receives it through its GPS system.

"If the EW disrupts the GPS signal, then ADS-B cannot show the aircraft's data," explains pilot Davit Sargsyan, adding that in that case the aircraft should not be visible, particularly on websites that track flights online, such as flightaradar24.com, flightaware.com etc. as they all work on the same principle.

In other words, the claim of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan that the Armenian side suppressed the GPS system of their civil aircraft on July 13, 11:54-12:07, is a lie, because the plane can be seen on flightradar24.com between 11:54 and 11:58.

Note that the reasons for interruption of aircraft trajectories on online flight tracking websites can be very different, for example, lack of receivers in the given area or work limitations, temporary technical problems, etc.

As for the Fizuli-Baku flight carried out by 4K-JJ8 on July 13, in which case, according to the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense, the Armenian side suppressed the GPS system of their plane between 13:02-13:17, flightaradar24.com shows the start of this flight from 12:52 until the 13:04 segment and the final segment from 13:17-13:30.

On flightradar24.com, the non-appearance of the aircraft during those 13 minutes (according to Azerbaijani side, 15 minutes) is actually attributed by the Azerbaijanis to the fault of the Armenian side. But that lie is very easy to expose, because on another website that tracks flights online, flightaware.com, the same Fizuli-Baku flight of the Azerbaijani airline is available from 12:57 to the end.

So if an aircraft is reporting its data via ADS-B, which is made public through various websites, then its GPS system is working properly.

Azerbaijan's Lie Does Not Withstand Any Criticism

The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, as a matter of fact, within the tactic of continuously spreading its fake news and thus giving it a tone of reality, announced on July 28 that the Armenian side allegedly intensified the pressures on the GPS system of local and foreign civil aircraft flying in the sky of Azerbaijan. According to the Azerbaijani side, the Russian peacekeeping troops were informed about the incidents, but "have not yet taken any measures against the provocations". The statement presents 3 flights between July 24-27.

Artsakh Defense Ministry responded as follows. "On July 28, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan spread another false message that allegedly the relevant units of the Ministry of Defense suppressed the GPS positioning systems of civil aircraft flying through the airspace of Artsakh between July 24 and July 27, as a result of which a serious threat was created to flight safety. The statement of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, which has nothing to do with reality, apparently aims to divert the attention of the international community from the humanitarian disaster caused by the illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor...".

According to official Baku, on July 24, the GPS system of the "ATR-42-500" plane of "AZAL" airline flying Baku-Fizuli was suppressed in the period 14:48-15:25. The same aircraft allegedly appeared in that situation on July 27, at 15:04-15:26, during the Baku-Gabala flight. This time, in fact, it is not about the aircraft of "AZAL", but of "ASG Business Aviation" (Azerbaijani registration: 4K-AZ808, the number of the Baku-Fizuli and Baku-Gabala flights was the same: ESW 808).

The trajectories of these flights are not visible on flightradar24.com, but as mentioned above, there may be various reasons for this, and the Azerbaijani side has not presented any applicable evidence about the intervention of the Armenian side. Moreover, the trajectories of a significant part of the flights of the "ATR-42-500" plane with registration 4K-AZ808, including all Baku-Gabala flights (from February 2023 to date), are not available on flightradar24.com, but the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan talks about Armenian intervention only in the case of two of them, which is, of course, strange in the case of Azerbaijanis, who are used to blaming Armenians for almost everything.

On the other hand, when Azerbaijan talks about radio-electronic warfare against an airplane flying from Baku to Gabala, it naturally "forgets" to mention that the distance from Martakert to Gabala airport (the closest distance from the territory of Artsakh to the supposed target) is more than 100 km. And this is only the distance on land, it will be greater in the air. So what powerful tool did the Artsakh Defense Army use? For example, the modern Russian "Pole-21" EW system, which, according to Armenian and foreign sources, was used by the Defense Army in the 44-day war against enemy UAVs, does not have such a capacity (see here and here).

By announcing the alleged targeting of the Baku-Gabala flight plane by the Armenian side, Azerbaijan puts itself in an awkward position, because it turns out that Artsakh possesses an EW system that can target aircraft flying far from the front line, deep inside Azerbaijan. But saying is one thing, proving is another. Of course, it should also be taken into account that the number one recipients of such lies are third countries, where many people have no idea about the distance of Artsakh from the Baku-Gabala air route.

According to Baku's Hoax, the Czech Aircraft Was Targeted in the Sky of Turkey And Georgia 

However, the Azerbaijanis have decided to go beyond the borders of their country and project the "dangerousness of provocations" of Armenians on the planes of foreign airlines as well. According to the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, on July 25, the GPS system of the "Czech Airlines" business jet "Cessna Citation Sovereign" (also known as "Cessna 680") was repressed by the Armed Forces of Artsakh during the Budapest-Baku flight (14:08-14:30).

As in the case of the previous two airplanes, this time the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense assigned the operation of the aircraft to another company. This "Cessna 680" (Czech registration: OK-JRS) is not an aircraft of "Czech Airlines", but of another Czech carrier, "Smartwings".

During the Budapest-Baku flight, OK-JRS passed over Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan (the flight number is listed as TVS 20J on flightradar24.com and TVS 17J on flightaware.com).

At 14:08-14:30, announced by the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, the Czech aircraft was in the sky of Turkey and Georgia, over the Black Sea. And against that background, only the Azerbaijani propaganda machine can say that the Defence Army of Artsakh, located in another part of the map, suppressed the GPS system of the plane.

Air borders of countries in our region according to ICAO

On flightradar24.com we see that at 13:40 Baku time, when the Czech aircraft was in Turkish airspace over the Black Sea, it disappeared from the screen and reappeared at 14:22 on the Turkish-Georgia air border and entered Georgia.

On flightaware.com the time lag is shorter, with the aircraft disappearing from the screen at 13:47 and reappearing at 14:23. At 14:30, the plane was in the sky of Georgia, in the airspace of Adjara, at an altitude of 12 km above the sea level.

As we can see, it is a lie not only that the GPS system of the Czech OK-JRS was suppressed in the period 14:08-14:30, but also that it could have been done by the Defence Army of Artsakh, which was about 400 km away from the plane.

Baku Exports Its Lies

The lies of official Baku were spread not only by the local media, which is a part of Aliyev's propaganda machine, but also by the Romanian version of the American "Newsweek", "Newsweek Romania". In particular, this is what the journalist of newsweek.ro claims. "Threats against the security of European airlines are unacceptable, especially considering that the Czech Republic is not the only country that has direct flights with Azerbaijan. The list of possible victims of the Armenian-Russian conspiracy includes the airlines of Hungary, the USA, Canada, Poland, Latvia, Germany, Turkey, Qatar and the UAE".

Examining the subject related to Artsakh on the "Newsweek Romania" website, one can see that Baku's propaganda runs through it like a red line. The Bulgarian sofiaglobe.com is committed to the same task. This website and newsweek.ro make references to each other when spreading disinformation on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is typical to fake news makers fed by the same center. Armenian media is familiar with this type of handwriting of the Baku propaganda machine. Naturally, the mentioned two websites don't forget to refer to Azerbaijani sources.

Top photo: OK-JRS in Verona, April 11, 2022, photo by Ennio Varani, jetphotos.com

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