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15 May 2023, 23:57

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 8-14, 2023

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, case of Ingush activists, abolition of visas and resumption of flights from Russia to Georgia, and 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 May 8-14, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

Last week, in Southern Russia, courts continued to fine residents of the regions for criticizing the special military operation or supporting Ukraine. In Volgograd, the Central District Court imposed a fine on student Denis Umerov, considering his comment on the social media to be discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The “Shot” Telegram channel reported that a court fined Islam Mambetov, a 32-year-old resident of the village of Zalukokoazhe in the Zolsky District of Kabardino-Balkaria, recognizing that his posts on the social media had discredited the Russian Armed Forces.

In the Kursk District of the Stavropol Territory, a court arrested Arthur Abramov for 12 days. According to the investigators’ version, the man spoke negatively about citizens of Russian because of the special military operation in Ukraine. Two cases on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces were received by courts in Krasnodar and Slavyansk-on-Kuban: Nikolai Pochivalov and Mark Eroshenko were suspected of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.

Alexei Zdorenko, a resident of the Krasnodar Territory, is accused of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The administrative protocol against resident of Kuban was submitted to the Slavyansk-on-Kuban District Court, but on May 14, it was returned to the police for elimination of the shortcomings.

Blockade of road to Karabakh and continuation of conflict

The Lachin Corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and the outside world has been blocked for more than 4.5 months by Azerbaijani activists, who demand from Russian peacekeepers to provide them with access to the “Gyzylbulag” and “Demirli” mining deposits. As a result, the unrecognized republic suffers from a shortage of medicines, and the supply of electricity and gas is periodically interrupted. On April 28, on the 138th day of the blockade, the picketers suspended their protest action, after which Azerbaijani militaries and police lined up across the road. Azerbaijan installed a full-fledged border and customs checkpoint on the Khakari Bridge.

Due to the energy crisis caused by the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, power engineers have to release water from the Sarsang Reservoir to generate electricity, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Nagorno-Karabakh reports. The Sarsang Reservoir is a vital source of fresh water in Nagorno-Karabakh, and its drying-up will cause an ecological disaster in the region, the MFA of Nagorno-Karabakh warns. “Since January 9, Azerbaijan has been completely disrupting the supply of electricity from Armenia to Artsakh through the only high-voltage power line,” announced State Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh Gurgen Nersisyan.

On May 14, a meeting was held in Brussels between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, and European Council President Charles Michel, but it did not bring much progress in the negotiations.

Case of Ingush activists

Since January 13, in the Stavropol Territory, a court has been considering complaints against the sentence of seven leaders of the protest in Magas. On May 11, Bagaudin Khautiev, Ismail Nalgiev, and Zarifa Sautieva stated that there was no evidence of their guilt. Ismail Nalgiev insisted on the lack of evidence of the defendants’ involvement in an extremist community. Zarifa Sautieva emphasized that she did not speak publicly and that the protest action in Magas was peaceful until fighters of the “Rosgvardiya” (National Guard of Russia) intervened.

According to advocates, investigators and court did not prove that there were signs of extremism in the actions of Akhmed Barakhoev and other persons sentenced in the “Ingush case.” An advocate of Musa Malsagov requested the court to attach to the case the materials about the disease of the defendant’s child.

Abolition of visas and resumption of flights from Russia to Georgia

As follows from a decree signed on May 10 by Vladimir Putin, starting from May 15, citizens of Georgia may enter Russia without visas for up to 90 days, with the exception of labour migrants. By another decree, the President of Russia lifted the ban on flights of Russian airlines to Georgia. Seven airlines are ready to operate flights to Georgia.

The diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia were severed in 2008 after Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia considers South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be territories occupied by Russia. The ban on the flight of Russian airlines to Georgia was introduced on June 21, 2019.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili called the Vladimir Putin’s decision a provocation and suggested considering the issue of introducing visas for citizens of Russia. The Deputy Minister of Economy of Georgia has reported that Russian airlines not under sanctions will be allowed to fly to Georgia. At a rally held in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Georgia, opposition activists have pointed out that the country is aimed at joining the EU and that the resumption of flights by Russian airlines is able to hinder European integration.

The abolition by Russia of the visa regime for citizens of Georgia and the resumption of direct flights may increase the political confrontation in the country and prevent Georgia from obtaining the status of an EU candidate, Georgian analysts note.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By May 14, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 1932 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1066 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 866 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 502 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Rostov Region – 196, in the Volgograd Region – 342, in North Ossetia – 170, in the Stavropol Territory – 147, in Kuban – 139, in the Astrakhan Region – 131, in Chechnya – 102, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 90, in Ingushetia – 34, in Adygea – 27, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 21, and in Kalmykia – 21.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 15, 2023 at 06:58 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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