A state watchdog on Monday threatened to fine Armenian government agencies and the parliament if they continue to avoid providing Armenian-language translations at their meetings with visiting Russian officials.
An Armenian law on the state language stipulates that state officials must at least translate into Armenian statements made at their official meetings with foreign delegations. The authorities have frequently failed to abide by this requirement during visits to Yerevan by various Russian government leaders, lawmakers and other dignitaries.
This fact came to light during a spate of such visits earlier this month. Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian pointedly spoke only in Russian at a joint news conference held with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on June 23. Nor did the Armenian Foreign Ministry provide synchronized translations of the remarks made by the two men.
There was similarly no interpretation at a Russian-Armenian intergovernmental workshop that was organized by the Ministry of Economy in Yerevan on June 16. Deputy Economy Minister Garnik Badalian brushed aside journalists’ protests over the apparent violation of the law.
Deputy parliament speaker Hermine Naghdalian caused an even greater stir several days earlier when she hosted a delegation of Russian dignitaries led by Dmitry Kiselyov, a controversial media chief close to the Kremlin. Naghdalian and other pro-government lawmakers attending the meeting open to journalists spoke only in Russian and the statements made by them and the visitors were not translated.
Kiselyov declared at the meeting held in the Armenian parliament that Armenia will put its alliance with Russia at serious risk unless it grants an official status to the Russian language.
Sergo Yeritsian, the head of the State Language Inspectorate, confirmed that the Russian-language meetings ran counter to Armenian law. He said he has already raised the matter with the heads of the corresponding state bodies.
Yeritsian warned that state agencies or individual officials can be fined 200,000 drams ($490) for the absence of Armenian-language translations. “I think we will take such steps soon if such violations are repeated periodically and become the norm,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
Government critics say the authorities’ failure to honor the language law during visits by Russian delegations reflects a broader reluctance to displease Moscow on just about every issue, which has been displayed by President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration for almost a year.