A protest action of the Karabakh activists. Photo by Alvard Grigoryan for the "Caucasian Knot"

13 March 2023, 23:16

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 6-12, 2023

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, public activity of Ramzan Kadyrov, unrest in Georgia, continuation of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, official data on the natives of Southern Russia who perished in Ukraine, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of march 6-12, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

On March 4, 2022, a new 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 mentioned article. Repeated violation within a year threatens criminal prosecution.

Dmitry Boev, a resident of Vladikavkaz, was fined for his post on a social media outlet. The court ruling notes that the resident of Vladikavkaz compared “the official symbol ... used by the Russian Armed Forces during the special military operation in Ukraine with fascist symbols.” According to the court ruling, Dmitry Boev repented of his deed.

On March 8, Pavel Ulibegov came out to a picket in front of the parliament building of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic with a pacifist poster in his hands. Protocols were drawn up against him on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and failure to obey the police. Under the second article, the court arrested the activist for five days.

A teacher from the Pyatigorsk University was fined under the article about discrediting the Russian Armed Forces after talking with her students who wrote a denunciation of her pacifist views. Three of the questioned students also noted that since the beginning of the academic year, the teacher “began to replace the Latin letters ‘V’ and ‘Z’ with other letters, thus expressing her opinion against the special military operation.”

Son’s wedding and stolen stallion

On March 11, Ramzan Kadyrov boasted that President of South Ossetia Alan Gagloev had awarded Minister of Culture of Chechnya Aishat Kadyrova the Order of Friendship.

Meanwhile, the wedding party of a son of the leader of Chechnya took place in an atmosphere of secrecy. After the celebration, the state media did not report any details, and Ramzan Kadyrov’s close associates did not share posts from the wedding party on their social media accounts. The video of the wedding party procession was posted on Instagram* by Russian rap singer Timati. “Ordinary Chechens were banned from filming the motorcade,” the “Sota” Telegram channel says.

On March 7, it became known that police in the Czech Republic were investigating the theft of stallion Zazu, worth about 18,000 US dollars, stolen from a stable. The horse is included in the list of Ramzan Kadyrov’s sanctioned property. The stallion is worth 10 million US dollars, the leader of the republic himself states.

Protests in Georgia

On March 7 and 8, 133 people were detained in Tbilisi during protest actions against the law on foreign agents. On March 9, the police reported about the release of 132 detainees accused of failure to obey the police and petty hooliganism, some of them were fined. Tornike Akopashvili, the last detainee, accused of assaulting a law enforcer, was released on bail on March 11. The activist pleaded not guilty.

On March 7, the Georgian parliament approved in the first reading one of the two draft laws on foreign agents “On the transparency of foreign influence”. After the protests started in Tbilisi, the authorities announced that they decided to withdraw the draft law. To do that, the ruling “Georgian Dream” Party submitted the draft law to the plenary session in order to vote against it, since the recall procedure is not applicable to it. On March 10, MPs rejected the draft law. Furthermore, the initiators withdrew their second draft law “On the Registration of Foreign Agents” from the parliament.

On March 11, at a protest action held in front of the Georgian parliament, activists and supporters of the opposition “Girchi” Party demanded the abolition of universal military duty. The Georgian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that students would not be drafted into the army, but the abolition of conscription would contradict the interests of the country.

Blockade of road to Karabakh and continuation of conflict

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.

On March 11, another movement of military vehicles was recorded on the road from Khankendi (Armenian name is Stepanakert, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”), transporting “personnel of the armed forces of Armenia and illegal Armenian armed formations, accompanied by the Russian peacekeeping contingent,” the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced. The information was not true, the Armenian Ministry of Defence replied.

The Centre for Law and Justice of the “Tatoyan” Foundation, headed by Arman Tatoyan, former Ombudsman of Armenia, together with a human rights defender of Nagorno-Karabakh released a report on the blocking of the Lachin corridor. Among those blocking the corridor and calling themselves “eco-activists” are the Azerbaijani militaries and members of extremist organizations, the report says. It is noted that the blockade participants are financed by the authorities of Azerbaijan.

During the blockade of the Lachin corridor, the Red Cross mission in Karabakh transported more than 170 patients to Armenia for medical treatment, the information headquarters of the Karabakh government reported.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

On March 8, the authorities of the Tuapse District reported about 10 Kuban residents perished in Ukraine.

Since the beginning of the special military operation, the information about at least 113 residents of the Krasnodar Territory perished in Ukraine has been officially confirmed. In total, by March 12, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 1588 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 901 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 687 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

*On March 21, 2022, the Tverskoi Court of Moscow banned the activities in Russia of the Meta Company, owning Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, in connection with extremist activities.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 13, 2023 at 03:33 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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