Mass rally in Yerevan, April 25, 2018. Photo by Tigran Petrosyan for the Caucasian Knot

30 April 2018, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 23-29, 2018

Resignation of Serzh Sargsyan from the post of Prime Minister of Armenia against the background of mass protests; end of flooding in the Volgograd Region; scheduling the date to elect the leader of Dagestan; election of a Georgian MP with the participation of Gigi Ugulava; revocation of the banking licence from the Makhachkala bank affiliated with Gamidov; statement on the return to politics proclaimed by the founder of the "Georgian Dream" Party, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of April 23-29, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

In Armenia, protesters succeed in seeking Serzh Sargsyan's resignation

On April 23, under the pressure of the opposition, which organized mass street protests, Serzh Sargsyan left the post of the Prime Minister of Armenia. The duties of the head of the country's government were temporarily assumed by Karen Karapetyan. After the Serzh Sargsyan's resignation, street protests did not stop, but were directed against the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) headed by Serzh Sargsyan. The protest leader Nikol Pashinyan, an Armenian MP from the oppositional "Elk" bloc, announced his intention to become the Prime Minister of Armenia. On April 25, delegates from the "Elk" bloc unanimously voted for his nomination for the post of the Chair of the Cabinet of Ministers (Premier), who after the amendments to the Constitution becomes the actual head of Armenia. The debates in the Parliament on electing the Prime Minister of Armenia are scheduled for May 1. It is not ruled out that the voting will be held on the same day, the People's Assembly (Parliament) has reported.

On April 28, after a meeting with Serzh Sargsyan and Karen Karapetyan, the RPA abandoned the idea to nominate their candidate for the Premier. The "Tsarukyan" bloc and the ARF "Dashnaktsutyun" Party have also refused to nominate their candidates and agreed to support Nikol Pashinyan.

Throughout the past week, mass protests continued in Armenia; and Nikol Pashinyan called on the protesters to stop blocking streets. On April 27, he called on his supporters to "flood" the Yerevan streets near the parliament building on May 1. On the same day, the opposition held a rally in Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia, with a Russian military base located therein. According to organizers, the protest rally gathered more than 10,000 people, an unprecedentedly large event for Gyumri. At the rally, Nikol Pashinyan assured that if elected the Prime Minister, he would not initiate the withdrawal of Armenia from the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (known as ODKB). On April 29, Nikol Pashinyan met Russian State Duma MPs in Yerevan. After the meeting, Leonid Kalashnikov, the head of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, has confirmed that Nikol Pashinyan intends to develop relations with Moscow. The opposition leader himself said that the delegation of the Russian State Duma got convinced that the protest movement in Armenia was not directed against Russia.

High water leaves villages and towns of Volgograd Region

In the Volgograd Region, where on April 4, the emergency regime was introduced in connection with the flooding, there are no more flooded areas, the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) reported on April 27. The flooding peak occurred on April 6, when rescuers counted 894 flooded houses. By April 23, in the Volgograd Region, the number of partially flooded households dropped down to 50. The authorities, who stated no similar flooding in the region for more than 50 years, decided to help residents of flooded houses. As of April 26, 1438 families affected by the flood received financial assistance.

Election of Dagestani leader scheduled for September 9

On April 24, Dagestani MPs scheduled the voting for the election of the republic's leader for the Russia's single voting day, September 9. President Vladimir Putin will submit three candidates for the post of the leader of Dagestan for consideration by the Dagestani Parliament not later than August 19. The MPs will elect their leader out of them. At present, the acting leader of Dagestan is Vladimir Vasiliev. He has been heading the republic since October 3, 2017, after Ramazan Abdulatipov, the former leader, announced his decision to resign.

In Georgia, Gigi Ugulava loses election to a member of ruling party

On April 28, the Vani-Khoni constituency in Georgia held the voting to elect an MP, since Grigol Liluashvili, a majoritarian MP from the constituency nominated by the "Georgian Dream" Party, was appointed a deputy head of the Georgia's State Security Service (SSS). The names of six candidates were put into ballot papers, although initially the Central Election Commission (CEC) registered nine candidates for the seat at the parliament. The "Democratic Movement-United Georgia" and "Civil Platform-New Georgia" Parties and the electoral bloc "United National Movement", consisting of the "United National Movement" and the National Democratic Parties, registered for the election, later boycotted it and did not nominate their candidates. Among those who ran for the MP's seat was Gigi Ugulava, a former Tbilisi Mayor and one of the leaders of the oppositional "Movement for Freedom-European Georgia" Party. According to the CEC's preliminary data, Gigi Ugulava was the runner-up, while Givi Chichinadze, a nominee of the ruling "Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia" Party, is in the lead with over 50 percent of the votes. The voter turnout was 57.9 percent; and, as stated by the CEC, the voting process was calm. The NGO "Association of Young Lawyers" pointed to several registered violations.

Makhachkala-based "Elbin" bank, affiliated with Gamidov, deprived of its banking licence

On April 26, the Bank of Russia announced that it revoked a licence for banking operations from Makhachkala "Elbin" bank. Among the reasons for revocation of the Banking licence, the Bank of Russia mentioned numerous violations in the field of combating the legalization of proceeds from crime, as well as involvement in currency exchange operations not reflected in accounting and reporting. The Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) announced the occurrence of an insured event against the "Elbin" bank and promised to start payments to depositors before May 10, while the agent banks to make such payments would be selected before May 3. It should be noted that earlier, the "Elbin" bank was headed by Dagestani Prime Minister Abdusamad Gamidov, who was arrested in Moscow and accused of fraud. The "Elbin" bank was founded by a brother of Abdusamad Gamidov, and his sister is listed among the bank's largest shareholders.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of "Georgian Dream" Party, returns to politics

On April 26, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia and the chairman of the ruling "Georgian Dream" Party, announced that businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, former Prime Minister of Georgia, agreed to the proposal to head the party he founded. Giorgi Kvirikashvili explained the decision by the need to strengthen the party and preserve the "unity of views on state and fundamental issues." Bidzina Ivanishvili agreed to lead the party to save it from split, believe opposition politicians and political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". Meanwhile, they excluded the possibility of the Bidzina Ivanishvili's nomination as the President of Georgia. It should be noted that when retiring from the post of the Prime Minister of Georgia in November 2014, Bidzina Ivanishvili made an official statement that he would no longer be engaged in the politics.

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