Alipat Sultanbegova, an activist. Photo: SOTA

27 February 2023, 22:33

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 20-26, 2023

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, public activity of Ramzan Kadyrov, continuation of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, return of Tumso Abdurakhmanov, official data on the natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of February 20-26, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

On March 4, 2022, an article was included in the Code of Administrative Violations of Russia, which provided a fine for citizens for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The people who participate in pacifist actions, criticize the militaries, and post negative comments on social media are being brought to liability under the new article. Repeated violation within a year threatens criminal prosecution.

So, Irina Rezankova, a resident of Sochi, was fined for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces after she came to a fitness club wearing a T-shirt with a print in the colours of the Ukrainian flag and the inscription “Pray for Ukraine”. In Makhachkala, a court imposed a fine on Zaur Radjabov, considering his pacifist posts on the social media to be discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.

The police detained Sergei Tkachyov, a resident of Volgograd, after he laid flowers at the urns of the hero cities of Kyiv and Odessa on Mamaev Kurgan. Law enforcers obliged the resident of Volgograd to come to a police station for a preventive conversation. On February 25, in Krasnodar, the police detained and released Alipat Sultanbegova without drawing up a protocol against her. A woman’s friend explained that on February 24, on the anniversary of the start of the special military operation, Alipat Sultanbegova laid flowers at the monument to Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.

In the Chegem District, law enforcers drew up protocols against Regina Kirts and Denis Trofimov under the article on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The court returned the protocols as drawn up by unauthorized persons. A case against Stavropol resident Pavel Gladky, which the court did not have time to consider within three months due to violations committed by the police, was terminated due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. And in Nalchik, due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, the court stopped hearing the case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces against Svetlana Semyonova, who participated in protests against mobilization.

Public activity of Ramzan Kadyrov

Ramzan Kadyrov was awarded the title of Hero of the Chechen Republic. According to the decree, the title of Hero of Chechnya “is the highest title of Chechnya and is awarded for outstanding services to the republic and its people.” “The title of Hero of the Chechen Republic is awarded by the head of the republic,” states the decree published on the official website of the leader of Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov became the first person to be awarded the title of Hero of Chechnya.

Lachin Corridor blockade and Vardanyan’s resignation

The Lachin Corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and the outside world has been blocked by Azerbaijani activists since December 12, 2022. The activists demand from Russian peacekeepers to provide them with access to the “Gyzylbulag” and “Demirli” mining deposits. The unrecognized republic suffers from a shortage of food products and medicines, the gas supply is turned off regularly, and the republic’s authorities introduced a schedule for the supply of electricity. The road to Nagorno-Karabakh has been blocked for the 77th day already.

The protesters who block the Lachin Corridor let cars of peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) pass. ICRC employees take patients from Stepanakert to Armenia and deliver humanitarian cargo to Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the ICRC, as of February 24, 129 seriously ill patients have been transported from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia since the beginning of the blockade of the Lachin Corridor. On February 26, it became known that ICRC employees brought five more patients to Armenia and helped 14 residents return to Nagorno-Karabakh, who left for Armenia and could not return because of the blockade.

On February 23, Nagorno-Karabakh President Araik Arutyunyan dismissed Minister Ruben Vardanyan, who held the position for about four months. According to Azerbaijani analysts, Ruben Vardanyan was a conductor of the Moscow’s interests, and by achieved his resignation, Baku has ensured the possibility of resolving the Karabakh conflict on its own terms. The Ruben Vardanyan’s resignation was accelerated by the humanitarian crisis amid the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, but the main factor was the plans of Baku and Moscow for the mining deposits, which Ruben Vardanyan interfered with, Armenian analysts suggested.

On February 22, the International Court of Justice in The Hague took action on the complaint of Armenia and obliged Azerbaijan to ensure the passage of people and cars along the Lachin Corridor in both directions. At the same time, the court did not grant the claims of Armenia to Azerbaijan to restore the gas supply to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Return of blogger in Chechnya

On February 20, blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov, well-known for criticizing Ramzan Kadyrov, got in touch with human rights defenders. However, the blogger did not explain the reason for his long silence. Tumso Abdurakhmanov posted a video on his YouTube channel announcing the resumption of his activities. In their comments, social media users noted they were happy to see him return as they believed the reports about his death. At the same time, many users expressed the opinion that Tumso Abdurakhmanov used information about his death for a PR step.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

Since the beginning of the special military operation, the information about at least 383 residents of Dagestan perished in Ukraine has been officially confirmed. In total, the authorities reported about at least 1470 residents of Southern Russia, perished in Ukraine, including 864 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 606 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In the Volgograd Region, the authorities reported on 234 local residents perished in Ukraine, in North Ossetia – on 154, in the Rostov Region – 144, in the Stavropol Territory – 119, in Kuban – 94, in the Astrakhan Region – 92, in Chechnya – 91, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 84, in Ingushetia – 31, in Adygea – 24, in Kalmykia – 18, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 12.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on February 27, 2023 at 01:29 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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