Karabakh Eyes Making Russian an Official Language

The unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has introduced a bill to add Russian as an official language alongside Armenian, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Wednesday.

The bill follows a recent Russia-brokered peace deal that saw Azerbaijan regain most of its former territories in the region, including the strategic city of Shusha, from Armenian control. Nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers were deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh for a renewable five-year mandate under the deal.

In an explanatory note on the reasons for introducing the draft bill, its authors cited “cultural, military and economic relations” between Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia, historical memory and the fact that many residents already speak Russian as their second language.

“The long-term presence of Russian peacekeepers in Artsakh; the awareness of the need to jointly solve numerous social and communication problems; and cooperation in the areas of construction, healthcare, education, and science require a reassessment of the role of the Russian language,” RIA Novosti quoted the document submitted to the National Assembly as saying.

The disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has long been a point of geopolitical and ethnic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with a deadly six-week war breaking out in the region in September 2020.

The latest conflict came amid a decades-long dispute over Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region that broke away from Azerbaijan during a war in the 1990s when borders were redrawn following the Soviet collapse.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has called for stronger ties with Russia while Azerbaijan aligned itself with Turkey during the latest fighting.

Chechen Leader Kadyrov Taps Cousin for Grozny Mayor

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has named another relative to a high-level government post in the southern Russian republic that enjoys federal subsidies while maintaining relative autonomy from Moscow, state media reported Tuesday.

Kadyrov’s third cousin Khas-Magomed Kadyrov, 30, follows in the footsteps of two Kadyrov daughters in their early 20s as well as two nephews and a foster brother who have all been appointed to public office within the past year.

Kadyrov, 44, “noted Khas-Magomed’s achievements in the development of the city of Argun” at a cabinet reshuffle Monday where he tapped his cousin as mayor of the Chechen capital Grozny.

Independent Russian media reported that Argun was the site of gay detention centers set up by Chechen authorities in 2017 during the region’s alleged LGBT purges.

Grozny city councillors approved Kadyrov’s choice as acting mayor on Tuesday, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

The Chechen leader himself had just turned 30 when President Vladimir Putin appointed him as the region’s head in 2007. He has since worked to stamp out an Islamist rebellion and other forms of dissent using heavy-handed tacticts, including alleged widespread torture and killings.

A 2018 analysis by the BBC’s Russian-language service found that nearly one in three Chechen officials were Kadyrov’s relatives while one in five were his fellow villagers and one out of 10 his friends.

Kadyrov is widely believed to enjoy free rein from the Kremlin in exchange for loyalty while Moscow turns a blind eye to the documented human rights abuses in the majority-Muslim region.

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