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A leader of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) rejected on Tuesday the idea of placing Nagorno-Karabakh under Russian control which has allegedly been floated by a prominent pro-government intellectual.

The Karabakh-born writer and columnist, Zori Balayan, caused a storm in Yerevan this week when he publicized an extensive open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin implicitly urging Moscow to lay claim to the disputed territory. Balayan argued that Karabakh as well as much of modern-day Azerbaijan was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the early 19th century in accordance with a Russian-Persian treaty which he said still has a legal force.

“There is no Karabakh problem, there is a Russian problem,” wrote the man who played a major role in the 1988 movement for Karabakh’s unification with Armenia.

Balayan, who has long had warm ties with President Serzh Sarkisian and his predecessor Robert Kocharian, came under fire from mostly opposition politicians, public figures and media commentators in both Armenia and Karabakh. They accused him of favoring Karabakh’s incorporation into Russia more than two decades after its de facto secession from Azerbaijan.

Some of these critics also see a connection between Balayan’s long letter and Sarkisian’s controversial decision to join a Russian-led customs union, which they believe jeopardizes Armenia’s national independence.

Galust Sahakian, a deputy chairman of the ruling HHK, insisted that the Armenian authorities have nothing to do with the letter. He rejected as “unacceptable” Russian control over Karabakh, calling the idea an affront to the memory of thousands of Armenians who died in the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan.

“Karabakh has already exercised its right to self-determination,” Sahakian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “So I reject this variant. I don’t think that any Armenian can imagine Karabakh being part of another state.”

Sahakian at the same time disputed critics’ claims that Balayan wants Karabakh to again become part of Russia.

Balayan gave similar assurances when contacted by RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Monday. “Where did I write that Karabakh must be part of Russia?” he said.
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