Pitsunda. Photo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFYZWyUVJDg

01 January 2024, 23:15

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 25-31, 2023

Presidential election and repressions in Azerbaijan, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, scandal with the “Pitsunda” state dacha, return to Georgian politics, Kadyrovs are establishing order, 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 25-31, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Presidential election and repressions in Azerbaijan

The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Azerbaijan has approved the candidacy of self-nominated Avaz Temirkhan in the early presidential election. He becomes the 17th candidate to run for presidency. It took five days to submit documents to the election commission, Avaz Temirkhan states.

On December 30, three human rights organizations in Azerbaijan formed a coalition to monitor the presidential election. It has been decided to involve well-known political analysts and professional observers in monitoring the election. The day before, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights announced the start of its presidential election observation mission’s activities in Azerbaijan.

A court of appeal refused to grant a complaint filed against the arrest of Araz Aliev, a co-founder of the “Platform III Republic” socio-political institution. The oppositionist’s defence has announced the intention to file an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The newly created political institution will not nominate its candidate to the presidential election or support any of the candidates, state its representatives. The activists have called on voters not to give their voices to government candidates.

A court extended the arrest of Elbai Kerimli, an activist f the “Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan” (PFPA), accused in a drug case, for twenty days. The activist went on a hunger strike. The Baku Court on Grave Crimes began considering a case against activist Bakhtiyar Gadjiev. The defendant called himself a political hostage.

Azerbaijani activist Afiyaddin Mamedov, the chair of the independent Confederation of Trade Unions, who was arrested in a case on an attack on a passer-by, has been charged with new accusations. The activist now faces up to 11 years of imprisonment. In Baku, a court arrested Shamo Emin, a former employee of the “Kanal-13” online TV Channel, for three months. Like Aziz Orudjev, the head of the “Channel-13” TV Channel, Shamo Emin is accused of smuggling.

On December 26, two employees of the French Embassy in Azerbaijan were declared personae non gratae in connection with their activities allegedly contradicting the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. The expulsion of diplomats demonstrates diplomatic tension in the relations between the two countries against the backdrop of the France’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, analysts emphasize.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

Yuri Spirin, the first secretary of the Pavlovsky district committee of the “Communist Party of the Russian Federation” (CPRF), was found guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. In its official website, the Pavlovsky District Court reports that Yuri Spirin posted the video entitled “Why are we doing this?”on the “Odnoklassniki” social network.

Investigators sent to court a case against a resident of Kislovodsk, accused of intentional destruction or damage to property and participation in an extremist organization, as well as against his acquaintance. According to the investigators’ version, in January 2023, the defendant joined an extremist organization and then, together with his acquaintance, set fire to the letter “V” on the “KisloVodsk” stele.

On December 28, it became known that Archbishop of the Russia’s Orthodox Church Viktor (Pivovarov) became involved as a defendant in a criminal case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The criminal case was instituted because of the Viktor Pivovarov’s article condemning the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine.

In October, the Russia’s Orthodox Church reported that searches were carried out in the St. Intercession-Tikhon Church in Slavyansk-on-Kuban in connection with the repeated discrediting of the Russian Armed Forces by Archbishop Viktor (Pivovarov). He explained that the criminal case was instituted because of his article “The answer to the question that worries everyone today: what this war is?” posted on his website. The article was his “Christmas message” to believers, the priest states.

Scandal with “Pitsunda” state dacha

On December 27, twenty five out of twenty eight MPs voted for ratification of the agreement with Russia on the transfer of the “Pitsunda” state dacha into the ownership of the Russian Federation, the speaker of the Abkhazian Parliament announced to participants of the protest against the agreement. President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhaniya, despite the protests held by activists, signed the law ratifying the agreement. The speed with which the document had been signed by the President of Abkhazia was described by the Abkhazian publication “Nuzhnaya Gazeta” as “extraordinary efficiency.”

In September 2022, the information about the authorities’ plans to transfer the state dacha in Pitsunda to Russia caused a public outcry in Abkhazia. President Aslan Bzhaniya announced the threat of the Russian Ambassador using “financial measures of influence” if the agreement on the transfer of the state dacha was not ratified. At a meeting with the Russian Ambassador, Abkhazian activists indicated that the alienation of the state dacha territory would provoke anti-Russian sentiments in the society. The Russian Ambassador responded by saying that delaying the ratification of the agreement could affect the construction of the airport, tourist facilities, and the reconstruction of the railway. Russia leases the “Pitsunda” state dacha under the agreement of 1995.

On December 26, Inal Ardzinba, Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, announced that technical corrections had been made to the agreement. In turn, the Russian Ambassador to Abkhazia Mikhail Shurgalin confirmed that the agreement did not provide for the transfer to Russia of the land on which the state dacha is located: the territory is to be leased for 49 years.

According to the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the ratification of the agreement on the transfer of the “Pitsunda” state dacha is another illegal action and a continuation of the Russia’s policy of occupying regions of Georgia.

Return to Georgian politics

Bidzina Ivanishvili, a founder of the “Georgian Dream” Party, announced his return to politics in the status of honorary chair of the party, explaining his decision by the desire to ensure the Georgia’s accession to the European Union (EU) by 2030. According to Bidzina Ivanishvili, he will not become a candidate for country’s prime minister, and there are also no plans for changes in the party and government.

On January 11, 2021, Bidzina Ivanishvili announced his decision to leave politics.

Returning to the “Georgian Dream” Party gives Bidzina Ivanishvili the opportunity to declare his involvement in the preparations for the Georgia’s accession to the EU, avoid sanctions after the adoption of the de-oligarchization law, and strengthen control over the ruling party, analysts point out.

Kadyrovs are establishing order

Relatives of the people suspected of extremism are responsible for their actions. That has been announced by Ramzan Kadyrov. The authorities of Chechnya will get rid of their critics wherever they are, the Chechen leader emphasizes.

Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya Aishat Kadyrova, a daughter of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, sent a complaint to the Chechen Ministry for Public Health about violation of medical ethics. Adam Alkhanov, Chechen Minister for Public Health, announced that the doctor against whom Aishat Kadyrova filed her complaint would be punished. The Minister for Public Health has also threatened punishment for other doctors who violate professional ethics.

Ramzan Kadyrov does not forget about Moscow either. The leader of Chechnya called on participants of the so-called “naked party,” some of whom enjoy the titles of Honoured and People’s Artists of Chechnya, to come to the Special Forces University in Gudermes and prove the sincerity of their apologies by working for the benefit of volunteers.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By December 31, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3179 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1556 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1623 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 710 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 641, in the Rostov Region – 358, in the Krasnodar Territory – 275, in the Astrakhan Region – 251, in North Ossetia – 248, in Stavropol Territory – 247, in Chechnya – 163, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 115, in Kalmykia – 54, in Ingushetia – 44, in Adygea – 44, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 29.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on January 1, 2024 at 09:10 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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