A female protester in Baku demanded the release of all political prisoners. Photo by Aziz Karimov for the "Caucasian Knot"

18 December 2023, 22:47

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 11-17, 2023

Intensifying repression and presidential election in Azerbaijan, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, Zarema Musaeva’s case, Temur Karbaya’s death, 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 11-17, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Intensifying repression and presidential election in Azerbaijan

On December 14, Tofig Yagublu was detained as a suspect under three criminal articles. On December 15, the Narimanov District Court of Baku arrested him for four months. According to an advocate’s report, Tofig Yagublu has been accused of preparing to send a person abroad with the purpose of obtaining political asylum. Tofig Yagublu has denied the accusations and explained the criminal proceedings against him with his opposition activities.

The “Musavat” Party has condemned the detention of its member Tofig Yagublu, a member of the coordination centre of the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF). The party has refused to nominate its own candidate or support other candidates in the presidential election and claimed the absence of conditions for fair competition.

President Ilham Aliev has scheduled early presidential election for February 7. The purpose of suddenly calling election in the absence of conditions for a fair political struggle is to prolong Ilham Aliev’s power, the opposition suggest. Political analysts believe that Ilham Aliev has been prompted to schedule presidential election for February by the changes in geopolitics and the desire to reduce the chances of potential rivals.

The Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) has also announced a boycott of the presidential election, explaining its decision by the absence of conditions for free and fair election. The PFPA has also demanded the release of all political prisoners in the country.

A new wave of persecution of journalists and activists has been launched by the authorities of Azerbaijan in order to minimize critical speech in the run-up to the presidential election, suggest analysts Zokhrab Ismail and Arastun Orudjlu. The outcome of the presidential election is predetermined, and the authorities are resorting to repression to completely eradicate dissent, argues analyst Chingiz Sultansoi.

Fazil Mustafa, the leader of the “Great Creation” Party, and Zakhid Orudj, the head of the Centre for Social Research, have announced their nominations for the presidential election after Ilham Aliev, the current leader of the state. Elshad Musaev, the chair of the “Great Azerbaijan” Party, became the fourth candidate running for the post of the leader of the state.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

The Central District Court in Sochi imposed two fines of 30,000 roubles each on Roman Kharitonov for his post with a video criticizing the authorities of Russia. The court also sentenced him to a fine of 40,000 roubles under the article on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.

The Adler District Court of Sochi sentenced Marina Melikhova, a resident of the Krasnodar Territory, to a year and six months of imprisonment in a case on repeated discrediting of the Russian Armed Forces. The reason for the criminal proceedings against Marina Melikhova was her two posts on the “VKontakte” social network about the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine.

On December 15, in Vladikavkaz, a court imposed a fine on Sergei Sidorenko, finding him guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. On November 30, the man went out onto the landing of his house and, in the presence of his neighbours, shouted that he “supported the Ukrainians” and threatened the neighbours with violence. The residents of the house wrote a report to the police against Sergei Sidorenko.

The Central District Court of Volgograd has begun considering an administrative case against activist Natalia Dorozhnova, who, after a rally in defence of the Russian Constitution, is accused of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and violations in organizing a public rally.

In Elista, the City Court found Vera Kichikova, a resident of the village of Yashkul, guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and fined her, although the pensioner did not mention the Russian Army in her comments on the Internet, stated her representative Valery Badmaev. The defender also pointed out gross procedural violations in Vera Kichikova’s case, which was re-sent to court and considered without the knowledge of Vera Kichikova herself.

Zarema Musaeva’s case

On December 11, at a court hearing in Chechnya, the defence voiced arguments for the conditional early relief of Zarema Musaeva. The Shali City Court refused Zarema Musaeva’s request.

On July 4, the court sentenced Zarema Musaeva to 5.5 years of imprisonment, finding her guilty of attacking a policeman. On September 12, the Supreme Court (SC) of Chechnya reduced the sentence to five years of imprisonment.

The refusal to grant conditional early relief (CER) to Zarema Musaeva can be explained by the political nature of her case, but among other factors, the rather long remaining sentence and the incorrect information policy of the defence also played their roles, suggest the lawyers. The decision has been made personally by Ramzan Kadyrov, Zarema Musaeva’s son Abubakar Yangulbaev believes. The lawyers intend to file an appeal against the decision of the Shali City Court.

Temur Karbaya’s death

On December 17, Temur Karbaya, a citizen of Georgia, who died after being beaten by law enforcers in the Gali District, was buried in the village of Tsarche. An examination proved that Temur Karbaya died from the injuries received during the beating, reported Nukri Nodiya, the leader of the “Movement for Abkhazia”. The death of Temur Karbaya caused such a wide public outcry in Abkhazia that the authorities had to report about the investigation that had been launched, noted political analyst Natella Akaba and journalist Roin Agrba.

Over the nine months of 2023, 26 arrests of Georgian citizens were recorded in South Ossetia, and seven – in Abkhazia, reported Dimitrios Karabalis, the head of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia. In 2022, according to the EUMM Georgia’s information, 45 Georgian citizens were detained in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, of which 39 – in South Ossetia and six – in Abkhazia.

On December 12, the Tskhinvali District Court recognized Georgi Darchiashvili, a citizen of Georgia, as a violator of the state border and fined him 50,000 roubles. On the same day, the man was released and expelled from the republic.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By December 17, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3081 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1514 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1567 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 697 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 632, in the Rostov Region – 334, in the Krasnodar Territory – 260, in the Astrakhan Region – 247, in North Ossetia – 244, in Stavropol Territory – 236, in Chechnya – 151, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 115, in Kalmykia – 54, in Ingushetia – 44, in Adygea – 40, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 27.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on December 18, 2023 at 10:00 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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