Artsakh Air (Stepanakert) is a new airline planning to launch scheduled operations on May 9 with three Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets. The new company is owned by the government of the break-away state of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, also known as the Artsakh Republic. The new airline plans to operate from Stepanakert to Yerevan. The first flight will commence when the Stepanakert Airport is reopened, currently scheduled on May 9, although the opening could be delayed for “technical reasons”.
Earlier this month, government officials in Baku, Azerbaijan threatened to shoot down planes carrying passengers from and to Karabakh before pulling back on their statements after strong international condemnation.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) or Artsakh Republic is a de facto independent republic located in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus. It controls most of the territory of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast and several Azerbaijani districts adjacent to the borders of Azerbaijan with Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.
The predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh became a disputed area between Armenia and Azerbaijan when both countries gained independence from the Russian Empire in 1918. After the Soviet Union established control over the area, in 1923 it formed the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) within the Azerbaijan SSR. In the final years of the Soviet Union, the region re-emerged as a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan, culminating in a large ethnic conflict and, eventually, in the Nagorno-Karabakh War that was fought from 1991 to 1994.