08 January 2024, 23:56
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 1-7, 2024
Repressions and presidential election in Azerbaijan, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, echoes of Nagorno-Karabakh, unabashed trolling and intensified repressions by Kadyrov, 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 January 1-7, 2024, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.
Repressions and presidential election in Azerbaijan
The Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan has registered MP Razi Nurullaev and Zakhid Orudj, the head of the “Centre for Social Research”, as candidates to run for presidency. So, the number of candidates admitted to the election reached three. Other 14 people remain candidates approved by the Central Election Commission (CEC).
Of the above-mentioned, the following presidential candidates have submitted to the CEC the signature lists together with other necessary documents: MP Fazil Mustafa, the chair of the “Great Creation” Party, Elshad Musaev, the chair of the “Great Azerbaijan” Party, Gudrat Gasanguliev, the head of the “Popular Front of Integral Azerbaijan” Party, and self-nominated Fuad Aliev.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev has appointed early presidential election for February 7, 2024. Political analysts believe that Ilham Aliev was prompted to call the presidential election by the changes in geopolitics and the desire to reduce the chances of potential rivals.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Azerbaijan, along with Algeria, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Comoros Islands, and Vietnam, was included in the list of countries under Special Religious Freedom Monitoring “for engaging in or tolerating serious violations of religious freedom.”
Meanwhile, activist Ilkhamiz Guliev, who was arrested in Baku, was banned from being visited by his relatives and friends, reports human rights defender Aigul Djafarova. A complaint about the unfounded ban has been sent to the Ombudsperson, announces his advocate Zibeida Sadygova. And the Baku Court for Grave Crimes dismissed the defence’s requests to drop charges of economic crimes against activist Bakhtiyar Gadjiev and transfer him to house arrest. The defence considered the court’s decisions unfounded.
An appeal to Ilham Aliev from 12 Azerbaijani scientists teaching and researching at leading universities in the USA, Europe, and Turkey was released on the occasion of the Day of World Azerbaijanis on December 31. The scientists called on the president of Azerbaijan to release professor of economics and opposition politician Gubad Ibadoglu, taking into account his health problems and scientific merits.
Rufat Muradly, an employee of the “Kanal-13” online TV Channel, who served 15 days of arrest for disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful request of the police, said that law enforcers interrogated him in the case instituted against Aziz Orudjev, the director of the “Kanal-13” online TV Channel. Rufat Muradly considers his arrest to be persecution for his journalistic activities. The activist has announced his intention to continue being engaged in journalism.
Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia
The details of a case instituted against Pavel Sysoev, who was fined for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, have been reported. The police drew up an administrative protocol against Pavel Sysoev for his pacifist comments posted on the “VKontakte” social network. Pavel Sysoev was fined 30,000 roubles by the court’s decision.
In the Krasnodar Territory, a court found local resident Oleg Galaev guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and imposed a fine on him.
The Akhtubinsky District Court fined Natalia Dmitrieva 30,000 roubles, recognizing her comment posted on the “Odnoklassniki” social network criticizing the special military operation in Ukraine as discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.
Echoes of Nagorno-Karabakh
On January 1, 2024, in accordance with the decree signed by the last President Samvel Shakhramanyan, the existence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was officially terminated.
The Investigating Committee of Armenia has established the number of the people who fall victim to the hostilities launched in September by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. As a result of the battles, 223 people were perished, including military personnel of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army and 25 civilians, five of them minors. Armenian investigators recognized as victims 244 people, including 76 civilians, ten of them minors. In addition, 20 people are listed as missing during the hostilities, including five civilians and 15 military personnel.
Vagif Khachatryan, a resident of Nagorno-Karabakh, sentenced by a court in Azerbaijan to 15 years of imprisonment, pleaded not guilty and asked the Baku court to acquit him.
Unabashed trolling and intensified repressions by Kadyrov
On January 4, critics of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov complained about pressure on their relatives from the republic’s law enforcement bodies. Law enforcers threatened relatives of two critics with using violence and demanded to stop criticism of the republic’s authorities.
The authorities of Chechnya continuously persecute their critics and, in an attempt to finally suppress them, use methods such as pressure on relatives. The recent case, when law enforcers threatened relatives of two critics with using violence, demanding to stop criticism of the Chechen authorities, became an intensification of the earlier pressure, noted human rights defenders interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot”.
On January 5, Ramzan Kadyrov announced that he was ready to release 20 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) if sanctions on his relatives, horses, and planes were lifted. Later, the leader of Chechnya called his statement “unabashed trolling” against the US authorities.
Ramzan Kadyrov’s proposal was his own initiative, not the Kremlin’s one, and that is confirmed by the attempt of the leader of Chechnya to explain his words, analysts point out.
Meanwhile, in Chechnya, a court fined Ali Bakaev, a native of the republic living in Ukraine, in absentia, finding him guilty of inciting hatred against supporters of Ramzan Kadyrov. The video of 31-year-old Ali Bakaev was discovered by a Chechen FSB officer while he was monitoring social media.
Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine
By January 7, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3225 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1579 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1646 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).
In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 715 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 646, in the Rostov Region – 367, in the Krasnodar Territory – 282, in the Astrakhan Region – 253, in North Ossetia – 250, in Stavropol Territory – 258, in Chechnya – 165, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 116, in Kalmykia – 54, in Ingushetia – 45, in Adygea – 44, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 30.