Rustaveli Avenue opposition protests. Tbilisi, December 10, 2023. Photo: Netgazeti https://netgazeti.ge/news/700993/

11 December 2023, 23:16

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 4-10, 2023

Opposition and authorities in Azerbaijan, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, split in the “UNM” Party, Caucasus and Palestine, 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 December 4-10, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Opposition and authorities in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev has appointed early presidential election for February 7, 2024. The Central Election Commission (CEC) is instructed to ensure that election should be held in accordance with the procedures established by the Electoral Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The document does not explain the political necessity of holding early presidential election.

The sudden calling of the presidential election in Azerbaijan in the absence of conditions for a fair political struggle is aimed at extending the Ilham Aliev’s power, opposition politicians suggest. Ilham Aliev has been prompted to schedule elections for February by the changes in geopolitics and the desire to reduce the chances of potential rivals, political analysts believe.

In connection with the planned presidential election, the country’s authorities must stop persecuting journalists, release political prisoners, and ensure equal opportunities for all political forces, claims the “Musavat” Party, one of the main opposition parties. There are no conditions for holding democratic presidential election in Azerbaijan, human rights defender Emin Guseinov believes.

Meanwhile, a group of Azerbaijani activists established the socio-political structure “Platform III Republic”. They believe that after regaining control over Nagorno-Karabakh, the country needs a new social agenda and a transition from authoritarianism to democracy.

On December 10, World Human Rights Day, a group of human rights defenders, activists, and advocates called on Ilham Aliev to release political prisoners. According to the appeal, the abuse of law enforcement and judicial bodies and their use of laws for personal interests create serious problems for the country. Repressions against government critics are comparable to the persecution of civil society activists in 2013-2014, human rights defenders say. New trends include persecution of journalists, activists, and pacifists for statements on the social networks.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

In Krasnodar, a court fined local resident Pavel Sysoev, finding him guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. Alexander Brykalov, a resident of Stavropol, was fined 30,000 roubles for pacifist comments on a social network.

The Maikop District Court of Adygea fined unemployed Mikhail Eremeev 15,000 roubles under the article on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The court fined Marina Rudeva, a resident of Izobilny, 30,000 roubles, considering her posts in a messenger criticizing the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine as discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. In the Akhtubinsky District, the court also fined local resident Vladimir Ivaschenko, recognizing that the video he posted in the messenger discredited the Russian Armed Forces.

The arrest of Marina Melikhova, an activist from Sochi, accused in a criminal case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, has been extended until March 5. The Sochi activist associates the criminal proceedings against her with pacifist videos that she had posed on the social networks.

Meanwhile, the Shalinsky District Court closed the case against local resident Magomed-Salakh Dedeev, accused of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The case was closed due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Split in “UNM” Party

Nika Meliya, the former chair of the “United National Movement” Party, the Georgia’s largest opposition party, has announced his resignation from the party. Nika Meliya will continue to fight Bidzina Ivanishvili, a founder of the ruling “Georgian Dream” Party, whom he considers to be the informal ruler of the country. According to Nika Meliya, in Georgia, the political environment is based on money and informal interests, and the “rotten political system” does not allow young, decent politicians to advance.

In January, Levan Khabeishvili was elected as the new chair of the “United National Movement” (UNM) Party, after which some party members expressed their disagreement with his policies and resigned. In April, Nika Meliya, the former “UNM” Party leader, opened an office in Tbilisi, where he invited party members who expressed their disagreement with the policies of the new party’s chair. In response, Levan Khabeishvili accused Nika Meliya of separatism. On November 27, the “UNM” Party released a statement, in which accused Nika Meliya of distancing himself from the party and causing political damage to it.

On December 10, about 300 members of the Tbilisi branch of the “UNM” Party announced that they were leaving the opposition party because they did not agree with the policies of its leaders. David Lagvilava, the chair of the Saburtalo district branch of the “UNM” Party, has explained that the oppositionists are going to join the new party that Nika Meliya will create.

Caucasus and Palestine

When delivering his speech to refugees from the Gaza Strip, Akhmed Dudaev, Minister for National Policy, External Relations, Press, and Information of Chechnya, has stated that refugees from Palestine should maintain cleanliness and be more organized, and they should not rush the authorities of Chechnya to solve their problems. With his speech, Akhmed Dudaev has given a signal to the authorities of Russia that in Chechnya, they do not have time to solve the problems of refugees who have already arrived from Palestine and that no new groups should be sent to the republic for now. At the same time, Akhmed Dudaev’s reproaches against the guests contradict the Chechen traditions of hospitality, Caucasian experts note. The total number of Palestinians stationed in Chechnya has reached 177.

Kazbek Kokov, the leader of Kabardino-Balkaria, has announced that twenty tons of humanitarian aid have been sent to residents of the Gaza Strip. Fifty refugees from the Gaza Strip, including 21 children, are accommodated in Nalchik. It is appropriate to accept refugees when the republic’s own problems have been solved, Instagram* users point out. Their opponents consider such statements unacceptable and express their readiness to help residents of Palestine.

On December 5, Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, the leader of Ingushetia, announced the republic’s readiness to accept refugees from Palestine. The Ingush leader has also stated that the regional authorities will take care of the refugees’ accommodation and employment. Medicines, bedding, and food have been also sent to residents of Palestine from Ingushetia.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By December 10, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3041 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1485 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1556 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 692 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 632, in the Rostov Region – 327, in the Krasnodar Territory – 260, in the Astrakhan Region – 245, in North Ossetia – 241, in Stavropol Territory – 226, in Chechnya – 142, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 114, in Kalmykia – 52, in Ingushetia – 44, in Adygea – 40, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 26.

*On March 21, 2022, the Tverskoi Court of Moscow banned the activities in Russia of the Meta Company, owning the 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 December 11, 2023 at 10:00 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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