A forced migrant from Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo by Alvard Grigoryan for the "Caucasian Knot"

25 December 2023, 23:14

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 18-24, 2023

Intensifying repression and presidential election in Azerbaijan, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, echoes of Nagorno-Karabakh, Palestine in Northern Caucasus, 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 18-24, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Intensifying repression and presidential election in Azerbaijan

The Classic Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan refused to participate in the presidential election, pointing out the absence of democratic conditions for the presidential election campaign.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev has appointed early presidential election for February 7, 2024. The purpose of suddenly calling presidential election in the absence of conditions for a fair political struggle is to prolong the Ilham Aliev’s power, opposition politicians claim. Ilham Aliev has been prompted to schedule presidential election for February by the changes in geopolitics and the desire to reduce the chances of his potential rivals, political analysts believe.

On December 24, in Baku, a court arrested Araz Aliev, a co-founder of the “Platform III Republic”, for 25 days, finding him guilty of petty hooliganism. Colleagues associate the persecution of Araz Aliev with his political activities.

The six candidates who decided to run for presidency are not able to compete with the current leader of the state, this is an illusion of rivalry, analysts emphasize.

Meanwhile, the Baku Court of Appeal refused to grant a complaint against the arrest of journalist Khafiz Babala. The court also dismissed a complaint filed against the arrest of opposition leader Tofig Yagublu. The defence announced its intention to file to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) a complaint about for violation of the Tofig Yagublu’s rights. Five months later, the same court refuses to allow the use of the sealed apartment of politician and analyst Gubad Ibadoglu, which served as the office of the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party and the Centre for Economic Reforms, and to return the documents seized during the search.

The court refused to release activist Mokhyaddin Orudjev, who was arrested on the charge of drug trafficking. The activist called the criminal proceedings against him the revenge of the law enforcement bodies.

The arrests of journalists, opposition politicians, and activists in Azerbaijan are regarded in the European Union and the United States as a violation of fundamental rights and freedoms, state the press secretary of the European Commission for Foreign Affairs and the US Embassy.

The annual “Nargiz” Prize, awarded in Azerbaijan for efforts in the struggle for democracy, went to Sevindj Vagifgyzy, the arrested editor-in-chief of the “Abzas Media” publication. The award was handed over to her mother Ophelia Magerramova. At the same time, in Baku, a court refused to grant complaints about the blocking of banking cards and accounts of the accused and witnesses in the “Abzas Media” case, as well as family members of some of those arrested. The defence points out the illegality of blocking the pension cards of the mothers of Ulvi Gasanli and Sevindj Vagifgyzy and Aziz Orudjev, the head of the “Kanal-13” portal.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

In the Akhtubinsky District, a court fined local resident Vitaly Zhuravlyov, finding him guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.

Alexander Bershadsky, a resident of Temryuk, was fined 30,000 roubles for his pacifist comments voiced at the workplace in the presence of other people.

Viktor Lizunov from North Ossetia was fined for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The reason for drawing up the protocol was pacifist comments posted by Viktor Lizunov on the “VKontakte” social network under a congratulation message published in honour of Defender of the Fatherland Day.

The Sovietsky District Curt of Volgograd fined Oleg Moiseenko, recognizing a pacifist sticker on the window of his car as discredit the Russian Armed Forces. The man stated that the sticker appeared during a motor rally in support of the special military operation in March 2022.

The Magas District Court received an administrative case against Ruslan Khashiev, a resident of Ingushetia, accused of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.

Echoes of Nagorno-Karabakh

Forced migrants from Nagorno-Karabakh have to wait for months their turn to get a registration in Armenia, and no benefits and pensions are accrued without registration, the Nagorno-Karabakh Ombudsperson reports. The authorities of Armenia violated the rights of Nagorno-Karabakh residents by requiring registration, human rights defender Arega Ovsepyan and lawyer Rafael Djangiryan state.

The Investigating Committee of Armenia has summed up the interim results of the investigation into the criminal case on an explosion at a warehouse of fuels and lubricants located near the Stepanakert-Askeran motorway, the press service for the Investigating Committee of Armenia reports. The explosion killed 218 people.

On December 22, residents of Nagorno-Karabakh held a rally in Yerevan in front of the “Artsakhbank” office, asking for financial assistance to the families of those killed during the Azerbaijan’s hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as for a meeting with the bank’s management. The chief of the bank’s security service spoke with the participants of the rally and, on behalf of the bank’s chair Artak Balayan, assured them that the meeting could be organized after Artak Balayan returned from abroad.

Palestine in Northern Caucasus

On December 23, officials from the Migration Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Dagestan and members of the government of Dagestan handed over Russian passports to 45 refugees from Palestine. The activities are underway to determine the legal status of other 63 people, the Russian MIA’s Department for Dagestan reports in its Telegram channel. Refugees in Dagestan are treated better than local residents, Telegram users note.

Meanwhile, a group of eighteen refugees from Palestine arrived in Chechnya, the total number of residents of the Gaza Strip who arrived in the republic reached 206. And the authorities of Chechnya decided to create a national-cultural Palestinian autonomy in the republic as part of the activities to harmonize interethnic relations, announced Akhmed Dudaev, Minister for National Policy, External Affairs, Press, and Information of Chechnya.

On December 21, forty refugees from Palestine arrived in Karachay-Cherkessia, including 26 children, reported republic’s leader Rashid Temrezov. He also announced that Karachay-Cherkessia joined in sending humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine.

Residents of Ingushetia also collected humanitarian aid for people of Palestine. A special plane of the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) with medicines took off from the airport in Mineralnye Vody.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By December 24, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3138 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1536 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1602 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 704 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 638, in the Rostov Region – 351, in the Krasnodar Territory – 266, in the Astrakhan Region – 249, in North Ossetia – 247, in Stavropol Territory – 243, in Chechnya – 155, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 115, in Kalmykia – 54, in Ingushetia – 44, in Adygea – 44, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 28.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on December 25, 2023 at 08:47 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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