“The Alexei Navalny* memorial” in Sochi. Photo courtesy of a local activist

19 February 2024, 23:16

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 12-18, 2024

Death of Alexei Navalny* and Caucasus, shooting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, reshuffles in government bodies and a shootout in Chechnya, 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 February 12-18, 2024, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Death of Alexei Navalny* and Caucasus

On February 16, Alexei Navalny* died in a penal colony after his condition sharply worsened. On the same day, in Tbilisi, Batumi, and Yerevan, activists paid tribute to the oppositionist’s memory.

Local residents and activists continue to bring flowers to “the Alexei Navalny* memorial” in Sochi, which was spontaneously formed near the monument to the victims of political repression. The police question the people who bring flowers to “the Alexei Navalny* memorial” and check their IDs.

In Rostov-on-Don, activist Denis Matyukhin was detained by the police while he was laying flowers in memory of Alexei Navalny*. In Krasnodar, a court arrested activist Andrei Vyazov for 14 days, recognizing the use of a banner from the presidential campaign of Alexei Navalny* during the picket as a demonstration of the symbols of a banned organization.

Shooting on Armenian-Azerbaijani border

On February 12, an Azerbaijani soldier was wounded during a shelling attack from Armenia. On the other day, the Armenian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that the number of Armenian soldiers killed during the shelling attack by the Azerbaijani troops in the direction of the Nerkin Andes of the Syunik Region reached four, and one soldier was wounded.

On November 2, 2023, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention (LIPG) declared that it considered an Azerbaijan’s invasion of the Armenian territory possible. Head of Mission of Armenia to the European Union Tigran Balayan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also considered such a threat. On October 7, 2023, in his conversation with European Council President Charles Michel, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev himself admitted that Azerbaijan laid claim to eight villages in Armenia.

The statements voiced by Ilham Aliev during his inauguration indicate the possibility of local clashes that could escalate into a large-scale war, claims Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. He has confirmed that peace agreements have been reduced to zero.

However, two days later, at a security conference in Munich, a meeting took place, involving Nikol Pashinyan, Ilham Aliev, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. During their meeting, the politicians discussed issues of normalizing relations and signing a peace agreement. The foreign ministers of both countries have been instructed to meet again soon and continue negotiations on the peace agreement.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

The Promyshlenny District Court of Vladikavkaz sentenced local resident Kazbek Alikov, accused of disseminating false information about the Russian Armed Forces. Kazbek Alikov wrote under another Internet user’s post on a social network that civilian infrastructure of one of the Ukrainian cities was allegedly subjected to a shelling attack. The man also expressed his worries about the fate of Russian prisoners of war (POWs).

At trial, the defendant fully admitted his guilt. The court sentenced him to a one-year probation with a probationary period of six months.

The Supreme Court (SC) of Kalmykia upheld the verdict against Valery Badmaev, the editor-in-chief of the publication “Sovremennaya Kalmykia” (Modern Kalmykia), under the article on repeated discrediting of the Russian Armed Forces.

In Elista, a court found in absentia the statements of mobilized Igor Sandjiev, who escaped from his military unit and left Russia, as discrediting the Russian Army and obliged him to pay a fine of 30,000 roubles. Igor Sandjiev, who was mobilized from Kalmykia and fled from his military unit, applied for protection in Kazakhstan. The man is now challenging the denial of asylum.

Reshuffles in government bodies and shootout in Chechnya

Akhmat Kadyrov, who earlier held the position of the First Deputy Minister for Physical Education, Sports, and Youth Policy in Chechnya, has been appointed Minister of Youth Affairs of Chechnya. The new minister has been awarded the Order of Kadyrov, reports Magomed Daudov, the speaker of the Chechen parliament. “I am very pleased to note that, despite his young age, Akhmat Kadyrov has proven himself to be effective and efficient,” Magomed Daudov wrote.

On February 14, in the village of Stary Achkhoi in the Achkhoi-Martan District, three suspects fired at a policeman and were shot dead by return fire. Investigators reported that one of the policemen was injured. Ramzan Kadyrov announced that two members of a criminal grouping, which had been planning attacks on law enforcers, were detained.

Residents of the village of Stary Achkhoi stated that the three suspects killed by law enforcers were newcomers. Chechen activists and Internet users pointed out that the version of the shootout raised the doubts concerning its likelihood.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By February 18, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3426 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1673 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1753 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 746 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 679, in the Rostov Region – 384, in the Krasnodar Territory – 315, in Stavropol Territory – 281, in the Astrakhan Region – 267, in North Ossetia – 259, in Chechnya – 172, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 124, in Kalmykia – 61, in Ingushetia – 49, in Adygea – 47, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 42.

*On January 25, 2022, the “Rosfinmonitoring” (the Russian Federal Service for Financial Monitoring) included Alexei Navalny into the register of extremists and terrorists. He is a founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (known as FBK), an NCO that is included by the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in the register of NCOs performing functions of a foreign agent, recognized as extremist and banned in the Russian Federation. Convicted on probation in a case on fraud. In February 2021, the term was replaced with imprisonment. In a penal colony, Alexei Navalny was charged with fraud and contempt of court and sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment. Furthermore, Alexei Navalny was also sentenced to 19 years of imprisonment in a case on disorganizing the penal colony, extremism, and rehabilitation of Nazism. In April 2023, Alexei Navalny announced that he faced life imprisonment in the case on terrorism. Recognized as a “prisoner of conscience.” The “Caucasian Knot” material “Navalny: Caucasian Dimension” sets out the oppositionist’s views on the problems related to the Caucasus. The Alexei Navalny’s offices, which previously operated in the Russian regions, are recognized in Russia as extremist organizations and included in the list of prohibited organizations.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on February 19, 2024 at 09:05 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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