Today, 30 years pass since an Azerbaijani military plane, which flew for assistance to Armenia after a devastating earthquake, was shot down.
On December 7, 1988, a 7-magnitude earthquake happened in the northern part of Armenia - in the ancient Azerbaijani lands. One of the first aids sent to Armenia after the destructive quake was came from Azerbaijan. Thus, under the leadership of commander Vagif Ahmadov, a rescue team consisting of the staff of the military unit No. 11923 arrived in Spitak city. The Azerbaijani team rescued hundreds of Armenians trapped under the rubble.
On December 11, a second group of 78 Azerbaijani volunteers was arranged. However, the military plane IL-76 which took the volunteers was shot down in Armenia. Armenian officials and media claimed that the plane was not shot down, but crashed. Officials of the occupying country falsely claimed that the plane crashed into the mountain before landing at Gyumri airport early in the morning on Dec. 11, 1988.
Another plane that arrived in Armenia at that time was a Yugoslavian military plane with a cargo of medicines and a crew of seven, which was also alleged to crash.
It turned out that the plane, flying from Yugoslavia, flew via Turkey with an intermediate landing at the airport of Ankara, and as a result, for the Armenian air traffic controllers it was identified as a flight Ankara – Yerevan.
The first message about the crash of the aircraft was made in a special news release saying that the aircraft was flying to the disaster zone from Turkey. However, in the evening news release it was changed to the plane flying from Yugoslavia.
The plane that flew Azerbaijan to Armenia was on the balance of Soviet Defence Ministry. There were 50 Azerbaijanis, 13 Lezghins, 11 Russians, 2 Tatars, 1 Armenian and 1 Jewish on board. All they had been sent to Gyumri to eliminate the consequences of the incident.
Among the 69 servicemen on board and 9 crew members, only one person, Fakhraddin Balayev who was on the wing part of the plane, survived.
The Azerbaijani rescuers who were actively involved in search and rescue operations under the leadership of Emil Akhundov were awarded. The rescuers mainly worked in Haribjasyan village near Gyumri and in the villages of Amasiya.
The Spitak earthquake killed more than 25,000 people and injured 170,000 others.
Note that, By that time, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was already gaining momentum. Throughout 1988, thousands of refugees from different regions of Armenia arrived in Baku and other regions of Azerbaijan.