02 October 2023, 23:14
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 25-October 1, 2023
Exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh, Ruben Vardanyan and others, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, two Kadyrovs, 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 September 25-October 1, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.
Exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh
By October 1, 100,514 residents of Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in Armenia, announced Nazeli Baghdasaryan, the press secretary of the Prime Minister of Armenia.
On September 30, former Nagorno-Karabakh Ombudsperson Artak Beglaryan reported that at most a few hundred people remained in Artsakh (Nagono-Karabakh), mostly officials, emergency workers, volunteers, and people with special needs who were also preparing to leave. The authorities of Armenia provided accommodation for 45,516 people from Nagono-Karabakh.
On September 19-20, Baku carried out large-scale military operations in Nagorno-Karabakh and, as a result of the actual capitulation of Stepanakert, gained control over the region. After that, Nagorno-Karabakh, which, according to various sources, was home for more than 100,000 people, began to experience an exodus of residents.
On September 30, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan announced the launch of a programme to provide financial support to forcibly displaced citizens of Karabakh. “Next week, the authorities of Armenia begin a one-time payment of 100,000 drams (about 254 US dollars, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”) to each internally displaced person,” added Nikol Pashinyan. At the same time, refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh complain that housing rental prices have increased noticeably in Armenia.
The authorities of Cyprus are ready to provide humanitarian assistance to residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, and, in particular, Cyprus is considering the possibility of accommodating refugees from Nagono-Karabakh, announces the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Cyprus. Earlier, the authorities of Cyprus have condemned the Azerbaijan’s military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
On October 1, for the first time in 30 years, a UN mission arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh to study the current situation and determine the humanitarian needs of local residents.
Armenia filed a lawsuit against Azerbaijan with the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In its lawsuit, Armenia demanded from the authorities of Azerbaijan not to discriminate residents of Nagorno-Karabakh and not to persecute Nagorno-Karabakh political figures and military personnel.
Armenians can return to Nagorno-Karabakh only if UN peacekeeping forces are stationed in the region, but even in such a case, the Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction is fundamentally unacceptable for them, emphasize refugees interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot”. According to one of the refugees, the Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction presupposes the unified educational system in which Armenians are presented to children at school as enemies, Armenian soldiers and officers are called terrorists, and Armenian churches are declared Albanian. “However, most importantly, no one can imagine how Armenian guys can serve in the Azerbaijani army,” added the refugee from Nagorno-Karabakh.
On September 28, a decree of Samvel Shakhramanyan, President of Nagorno-Karabakh, declaring the termination of the existence of the Republic of Artsakh, was published. At the same time, political analysts Ara Papyan and Andrias Gukasyan state that Samvel Shakhramanyan did not have the right to sign such a decree, since the Constitution of the Republic of Artsakh does not give him such powers.
On September 25, a powerful explosion occurred at a petrol warehouse near the road from Stepanakert to Askeran. As a result, 290 people suffered burns, and 67 victims were taken to Armenia for medical treatment. According to the Nagorno-Karabakh State Service for Emergencies, 170 bodies and remains have been found since the beginning of the search and rescue operation.
Ruben Vardanyan and others
On September 27, Ruben Vardanyan, the former Minister of State of Nagorno-Karabakh, was detained at the border while trying to leave for Armenia. He moved to Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2022, giving up his Russian passport. In December of the same year, President Vladimir Putin deprived Ruben Vardanyan of Russian citizenship. Ruben Vardanyan announced his plans to develop the region. On October 20, 2022, he agreed to head the government of Nagorno-Karabakh and became the Minister of State, but already in February 2023, President Araik Arutyunyan dismissed him from office.
According to Baku lawyers, Ruben Vardanyan may be prosecuted in Azerbaijan for at least border violation, and he may also be accused of crimes against the state. At the same time, Ruben Vardanyan may be amnestied by the authorities of Azerbaijan. The authorities of Armenia requested the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to oblige Azerbaijan to provide the information about the health state and whereabouts of detained Ruben Vardanyan.
On September 28, Ruben Vardanyan was accused in Baku of financing terrorism, creating illegal armed formations, and illegally crossing the Azerbaijani border. According to the public prosecutors’ version, Ruben Vardanyan illegally crossed the border of Azerbaijan in September 2022 and arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh, where he participated in armed formations not provided for by the legislation of Azerbaijan. Investigators allege that Ruben Vardanyan was also involved in supplying weapons to illegal military formations that carried out attacks on institutions, organizations, and individuals, leading to deaths of people and other severe consequences. In addition, Ruben Vardanyan allegedly allocated money to illegal armed formations (IAFs).
On September 29, the State Border Guard Service of Azerbaijan announced the detention of Levon Mnatsakanyan, the former Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Minister. General Prosecutor of Azerbaijan Kamran Aliev has announced that former President of Nagorno-Karabakh Araik Arutyunyan and former Minister of Defence of Nagorno-Karabakh Djalal Arutyunyan have been put on the international wanted list.
Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia
On October 1, it became known that in the Volgograd Region, a court fined local resident Sergey Taranenko, finding him guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.
The Pervomaisky District Court of Krasnodar fined cafe employee Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The reason for drawing up an administrative protocol was a video in which Vyacheslav Nagovitsyn made a gesture against the background of the Ukrainian flag. And in Novorossiysk, a court fined local resident Olga Yatsuk, recognizing that her post on the “VKontakte” social network discredited the Russian Armed Forces.
On September 29, the Novokubansky District Court of the Krasnodar Territory sentenced Alexander Nozdrinov to 8 years and 6 months of imprisonment and banned him from working in the media for four years. The journalist was charged in a criminal case on disseminating fake news about the Russian Armed Forces. Relatives of Alexander Nozdrinov associated the persecution with his civic position and claimed that the court was biased. In his final speech, the journalist called the criminal case against him fabricated.
On September 25, Ramzan Kadyrov posted a video in which Adam Kadyrov was beating Nikita Zhuravel, a resident of Volgograd, who was arrested in the case on burning the Koran. The leader of Chechnya praised the son for his action. Associates of Ramzan Kadyrov also approved the action of his son, but a number of human rights defenders, including the Russian Ombudsperson, spoke negatively about the beating.
By September 29, a petition posted on the Change.Org website with the demand to bring to justice Adam Kadyrov, a son of the leader of Chechnya, for beating Nikita Zhuravel gained more than 30,000 signatures.
By posting such a video, the leader of Chechnya has demonstrated his special status, but that could have the opposite effect, suggest political analyst Sergey Zhavoronkov and human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina*. The beating of a defenceless person contradicts the Chechen traditions, point out Orientalist Akhmet Yarlykapov and Caucasian expert Ruslan Kutaev.
In her Telegram channel, journalist Ksenia Sobchak wrote that the law enforcement bodies should investigate the actions of the Ramzan Kadyrov’s son. On the other day, Ksenia Sobchak claimed that the leader of Chechnya called her and warned her not to write about members of his family.
On September 28, footage of a meeting in the Kremlin between Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov appeared on the Internet. The Russian President invited Ramzan Kadyrov to discuss social and economic issues, but the leader of Chechnya claimed that there were no problems in the republic.
Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine
By October 1, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 2611 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1309 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1302 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).
In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 622 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 513, in the Rostov Region – 301, in the Krasnodar Territory – 220, in North Ossetia – 213, in the Astrakhan Region – 201, in Stavropol Territory – 171, in Chechnya – 133, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 107, in Ingushetia – 40, in Adygea – 34, in Kalmykia – 33, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 23.
*Included by the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) into the register of foreign agents.