06 July 2020, 15:53

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 29-July 5, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; voting on amendments to the Constitution of Russia; murder in Austria of a blogger criticizing Ramzan Kadyrov, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 29-July 5, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Spread of coronavirus infection in Caucasus

The number of coronavirus-infected people still grows in Southern Caucasus and the regions of Southern Russia.

Over the past week, Armenia still leads in Southern Caucasus in both the number of coronavirus-infected patients and the COVID-19 death toll: 28,606 and 484, respectively. In Azerbaijan, 250 people died, in Georgia – 15, and in Abkhazia – 1.

In Azerbaijan, the strict quarantine regime imposed on June 21 has been extended until July 20. The authorities of Georgia have postponed the resumption of international flights for at least a month. Foreign tourists will be able to visit Georgia no earlier than in August. In Armenia, where the emergency mode has been extended until July 13, analysts report effective measures against the spread of the coronavirus infection, but note that it is too early to mention any stabilization.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia: over the past week, the number reached 62,612 people. Over the week, the Rostov Region with 10,075 cases of infection still leads in the number of people infected with coronavirus. Dagestan still stays at the second place with 8132 coronavirus-infected patients.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased up to 1061. During the week, according to the sad death toll statistics, Dagestan still leads in the region: the republic has already registered 391 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

In Southern Russia, despite the spread of the coronavirus infection, the regions are gradually returning to their usual everyday routine. So, on July 3, in Makhachkala, a number of mosques held Friday prayers for the first time within several months. However, many of believers interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" admit that they come to pray next to a mosque in order to avoid a risk of going inside for mass prayer. On June 30, summer cafes and markets were opened in Kabardino-Balkaria. On the same day, the authorities of Chechnya reduced to three days the quarantine period for persons entering the republic. Murat Kumpilov, the leader of Adygea, called on the authorities, together with the religious leaders, to prevent crowds at wedding parties and funeral ceremonies.

Voting on amendments to Constitution of Russia

In the period from June 25 to July 1, in Russia, people were voting on amendments to the Constitution. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), 77.92% of voters supported the constitutional amendments, while 21.27% voted against the changes. Chechnya registered the highest voter turnout in the country: 95%. Local residents refer to the reported highest turnout as "exaggerated" and the voting itself as a farce. Residents of Ingushetia also expressed their doubts concerning the reports about the voter turnout. The real turnout is much lower than reported, suggests the opposition in Astrakhan, Karachay-Cherkessia and Dagestan.

Observers noted the absence of transparency during the voting in Southern Russia, and violations were also reported. So, in Dagestan, activists detected such violations as ballot stuffing, voting for relatives, and the use of administrative resources. Residents of many regions claimed coercion to voting by their employers.

Ban on supply of mutton from Southern Russia to other regions of country

The "Rosselkhoznadzor" (Federal Agency for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Control) has announced imposing on July 1 an embargo on the supply of mutton from the Southern Federal District (SFD) and the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) to other regions of Russia. The embargo will be in force at least until May 2021. The "Rosselkhoznadzor" explains the embargo on the supply of mutton with the international safety requirements on foot and mouth disease (FMD). The decision on the embargo will negatively affect the industry and reduce the flow of investment in the regions, economists suggest.

Murder in Austria of blogger criticizing Ramzan Kadyrov

On July 4, blogger Mamikhan Umarov, a native of Chechnya, well-known as Anzor from Vienna, was killed. In his videos posted on YouTube, the blogger was criticizing and insulting Ramzan Kadyrov and his parents. So, on July 1, Mamikhan Umarov used a word usually describing women of pleasure while addressing the mother of the Chechen leader. It should be noted that Imran Aliev, another blogger from Chechnya, who was killed in France in January, used a similar style while criticizing Ramzan Kadyrov. Instagram users treat the murder of Mamikhan Umarov as a punishment for criticizing the authorities of Chechnya. A brother of Mamikhan Umarov was killed, and his mother was tortured to find out the whereabouts of her son, blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov believes. Mamikhan Umarov had collaborated for many years with the Austrian secret services, trying to identify Chechen killers sent to Europe, and he complemented the list of critics and opponents of the Chechen authorities assassinated in Europe in recent years, assert members of the Chechen Diaspora.

Changes in Georgia's electoral system despite protests

On June 29, the Georgian Parliament passed a bill to change the electoral system from proportionally-majority to the system close to proportional one as much as possible. Now, 120 MPs will be elected by the proportional system, and 30 – by the majority system (earlier, there were 73 of them). A party with less than 40.54% of the votes will not be able to form a government on its own. Opposition parties refused to participate in the third reading of the bill and referred to the authorities' refusal to comply with the agreement on the release of political prisoners. The MPs voted for the amendments amid a protest action held by activists with the demand to release Giorgi Rurua, an investor of the opposition "Mtavari Arkhi" TV Company. Giorgi Rurua is accused of illegal carrying of weapons.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on July 06, 2020 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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