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Russian Language To Get Official Status In Nagorno-Karabakh

A Russian peacekeeper stands guard on a road in the town of Lachin in December 2020.

YEREVAN -- The separatist parliament of Nagorno-Karabakh has approved a proposal to make Russian the ethnic Armenian-populated region's second official language, along with Armenian.

The amendments to the region's language laws were passed 27-0 on March 25, with two abstentions.

The bill, which will become law upon being signed by the region's ethnic Armenian leader, Arayik Harutiunian, says that giving the Russian language an official status would deepen Nagorno-Karabakh's history of "cultural, military, and economic links" with Russia.

Three of the five political parties represented in the region's legislature proposed the measure last month, arguing that it would facilitate communication with Russian soldiers and aid workers deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh after last year's Armenian-Azerbaijani war over the separatist region.

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Russia's presence in Nagorno-Karabakh increased dramatically after six weeks of fighting in and around the region ended in November 2020 with a Moscow-brokered cease-fire. More than 6,000 people were killed during the conflict.

Under the truce agreement, a chunk of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven districts around it were placed under Azerbaijani administration after almost 30 years of control by ethnic Armenian forces.

The agreement also led to the deployment of around 2,000 Russian peacekeepers along frontline areas and a land corridor connecting the disputed territory with Armenia.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, which has condemned the region's plans to grant official status to the Russian language.

President Ilham Aliyev said on February 26 that "there can only be one official language in Azerbaijan" -- the Azerbaijani language.

The Kremlin earlier described the matter as "an internal affair" of both Azerbaijan and Armenia, according to TASS.

The ethnic Armenians who make up most of Nagorno-Karabakh's population reject Azerbaijani rule and had been governing their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan's troops and Azeri civilians were pushed out of the region and seven adjacent districts in a war that ended in a cease-fire in 1994.