02 November 2020, 15:15

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 26-November 1, 2020

Third violated ceasefire agreement in the Karabakh conflict zone; coronavirus infection spread statistics in the Caucasus; parliamentary elections in Georgia; public outcry caused by Ramzan Kadyrov's statement about the French president; events in memory of victims of political repressions in Southern Russia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 26-November 1, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Third violated ceasefire agreement in Karabakh conflict zone

Over the past week, despite the ceasefire in the Karabakh conflict zone scheduled for 7:00 a.m. Moscow time on October 26, the parties to the conflict reported about shelling attacks on villages, towns, and cities and the continuation of the hostilities. Prior to the new planned ceasefire, the parties to the conflict announced a truce twice, on October 10 and 17, but the ceasefire agreements were not respected. During the past week, the parties to the conflict accused each other of using prohibited weapons. So, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Nagorno-Karabakh has claimed that Azerbaijan poses a threat of environmental disaster by using phosphorus munitions. The Azerbaijani MoD denies the use of phosphorus munitions and blames the Armenian side for the same. Furthermore, the international human rights organization "Human Rights Watch" (HRW) considered Armenia involved in a shelling attack on the Azerbaijani city of Barda with cluster bombs and called on both parties to the Karabakh conflict to abandon their use.

Azerbaijan continued to report on the villages, towns, and cities in the Karabakh conflict zone occupied by the Azerbaijani army. On October 30, President Ilham Aliev announced that the Azerbaijani troops had occupied nine villages in the Djebrail, Zangilan, and Gubadli District. After that, the number of villages, towns, and cities, in which Azerbaijan regained control, approached 200.

According to the MoD of Nagorno-Karabakh, as of October 29, 1025 military personnel were killed. By October 31, the number of civilians killed in the hostilities reached 45, while 141 others were wounded. The Azerbaijani authorities do not disclose the number of combat losses. On October 31, the General Prosecutor's Office of Azerbaijan reported that since the beginning of the hostilities, 91 civilians were killed and 400 others were injured as a result of shelling attacks.

Coronavirus infection spread statistics in Caucasus

Over the past week, Armenia still leads in Southern Caucasus in both the number of coronavirus-infected patients and the COVID-19 death toll. By the evening on November 1, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Armenia reached 92,254 (14,417 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan – 56,444 (6485 new cases over the week), in Georgia – 40,727 (12,296 new cases over the week). Armenia registered 1363 deaths from COVID-19, Azerbaijan – 740, Georgia – 335.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia. While by the evening on October 25, 157,940 cases were registered in all southern regions of the country, then by the evening on November 1, the total number of patients infected with COVID-19 amounted to 168,530 (10,590 new cases over the week). Over the past week, the Rostov Region, where 30,932 cases were registered, still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients. The Rostov Region is followed by the Stavropol Territory where 21,475 COVID-19 patients have been already registered. In the Volgograd Region, 20,526 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection.

Over the past week, the coronavirus death toll also increased from 3145 to 3406 (261 new cases over the week). During the week, according to the sad death toll statistics, Dagestan which had been leading in the region for a long time was overtaken by the Rostov Region where 844 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered. The Rostov Region is followed by Dagestan where 781 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered since the beginning of the pandemic. The Stavropol Territory with 429 COVID-19 deaths stays at the third place in the sad death toll statistics.

Parliamentary elections in Georgia

On Saturday, October 31, Georgia held the voting at the regular elections to the parliament. 48 parties and two blocs took part in the elections, and voters were to elect 150 MPs. The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia reports that the voter turnout reached 56.11%. According to the preliminary information coming from 99.77% of polling stations, seven parties and two blocs get seats at the Georgian parliament. The "Georgian Dream" Party is gaining more than 48% from the voter lists, while the "Strength in Unity" (United National Movement/UNM) Party is gaining more than 27%. Meanwhile, according to the Georgian CEC, the second round of the voting will be held in 17 majoritarian districts, including in all Tbilisi ones, and the voting is scheduled for November 21.

The OSCE observation mission has positively assessed the parliamentary elections in Georgia. However, the observers have also noted that during the campaigns, there were facts of combination of the state and the ruling party, while the principles of campaign financing were not well regulated. Earlier, Eka Gigauri, the director of the Georgian branch of the "Transparency International", has said that voting irregularities occur more often than during the previous elections.

The opposition did not recognize the election outcome. On November 1, members of opposition parties and their supporters came to a protest action in the centre of Tbilisi with the demand to hold a repeated voting.

Public outcry caused by Ramzan Kadyrov's statement about French president

The French president's decision to create "enlightened Islam" in the country and his refusal to condemn the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad after a heinous murder of a teacher in the suburbs of Paris who showed his students the posts in the "Charlie Hebdo" magazine at a lesson on freedom of speech provoked sharp criticism from the authorities of Chechnya. On October 27, Ramzan Kadyrov accused Emmanuel Macron of fomenting extremist ideas, and Chechen Mufti Salakh Mezhiev declared the French president "the terrorist number one."

On October 28, while commenting on the call of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to French President Emmanuel Macron to "stop attacks on faith" and threats addressed to the French president, Russian President's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that "only the president of the country may determine the foreign policy of Russia, and heads of the regions do not have such power." In response, Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed his criticism addressed to the French president and stated that he was ready to leave his post while defending his position.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), has condemned the Ramzan Kadyrov's statements addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron. In response, the leader of Chechnya demanded from the politician to apologize for his words and not interfere in religious issues.

Events in memory of victims of political repression in Southern Russia

On October 30, Russia held public events on the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions. This year, in Dagestan, the second volume of the Book of Memory of the Victims of Political Repressions was prepared for publication on the above date. In Volgograd, five local activists held solo pickets in support of modern political prisoners. The annual meeting in memory of the victims of political repressions was replaced by a symbolic flower-laying ceremony in the city. In an interview to the "Caucasian Knot", descendants of the repressed people said that their pensions and benefits were not enough for a decent living. The Nalchik City Mayoralty banned holding a rally in memory of the victims of political repressions in the traditional format because of the coronavirus epidemic. So, in Nalchik, 10 people gathered near a monument on October 30. In Rostov-on-Don, a picket in memory of the victims of political repressions took place on October 31. According to the activists, the tradition of repressions is returning to the Russian politics.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on November 2, 2020 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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