27 July 2020, 11:59

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 20-26, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; CTO in Kabardino-Balkaria; conflicts between natives of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Russia and other countries; confession voiced by relatives of Chechen blogger Mamikhan Umarov killed in Vienna; new sanctions imposed by the US Department of State against Ramzan Kadyrov, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of July 20-26, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Spread of coronavirus infection in Caucasus

Over the past week, Armenia still leads in Southern Caucasus in both the number of coronavirus-infected patients and the COVID-19 death toll. Over the second week in a row, Azerbaijan took the first place in terms of an increase in the number of coronavirus-infected patients. By the evening on July 26, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Armenia reached 37,317 (2440 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan – 30,050 (2529 new cases over the week), in Georgia – 1131 (103 new cases over the week), in Nagorno-Karabakh – 212 (44 new cases over the week), in South Ossetia – 89 (no new cases over the week), and in Abkhazia – 55 (17 new cases over the week). By 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on July 26, Armenia registered 705 deaths from COVID-19, Azerbaijan – 407, Georgia – 16, Abkhazia – 2, and Nagorno-Karabakh – 1.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia. While by the evening on July 19, it was reported about 70,948 coronavirus-infected patients in all the regions of Southern Russia, then by the evening on July 26, their total number reached 75,272 (4324 new cases over the week). Over the week, the Rostov Region still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients, where 12,270 cases were registered. Dagestan still stays at the second place with 9062 coronavirus-infected patients. The Volgograd Region remains on the third place with 8689 coronavirus-infected patients.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased: from 1226 to 1305 (79 new cases of death over the week). During the week, according to the sad death toll statistics, Dagestan still leads in the region: the republic has already registered 439 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Dagestan is followed by the Rostov Region where 203 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered, and the Stavropol Territory with 145 COVID-19 deaths stays at the third place in the sad death toll statistics.

CTO in Kabardino-Balkaria

On July 22, the FSB announced the prevention of a terror act in Kabardino-Balkaria. According to the Russian secret service, four members of the "Islamic State" (IS), a terrorist organization banned in Russia by the court, who were plotting a terror act, were killed during an attempt of law enforcers to detain them in the Chegem District. In the forest near the village of Lechinkai, law enforcers encountered armed people in a camp arranged for a long stay. When requested to surrender, the suspects started shooting at the law enforcers and were killed by return fire, the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) reported. No information concerning the identification of the killed suspects was reported. The shootout became the second armed incident in Kabardino-Balkaria since the beginning of the year. Earlier, a counterterrorist operation (CTO) was carried out in the Baksan District in March 2020.

Conflicts between natives of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Russia and other countries

After on July 16, the situation on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan stabilized, conflicts between natives of Armenia and Azerbaijan occurred in various countries. Thus, on July 22, during a protest action in Belgium, the territory of the Azerbaijani diplomatic mission and members of the Azerbaijani community who gathered at the mission were thrown with stones and attacked. Six members of the Azerbaijani Diaspora and Khatira Sardargyzy, a reporter of the REAL TV Channel, were injured. On July 21, in Los Angeles, attacks also took place during a protest action against the escalation of the conflict on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The authorities of Azerbaijan requested the police of the EU countries and the United States to ensure the protection of their diplomatic missions and the safety of their compatriots after the protest actions held by Armenian citizens. At night on July 23-24, clashes occurred in Moscow between natives of Armenia and Azerbaijan. A native of Armenia was injured in one of the fights. The law enforcement bodies reported that 13 people were detained after the mass fight. On the other day, several similar incidents occurred in different parts of Moscow, and nine more people were detained after the incidents. On the same day, a fight broke out between natives of Armenia and Azerbaijan in one of the local cafes in the Dzerzhinsky District of Volgograd. As a result, one person was injured, and the property of the cafe was damaged.

Confession voiced by relatives of Chechen blogger Mamikhan Umarov killed in Vienna

On July 22, a video was posted on the Internet, in which blogger Mamikhan Umarov's relatives living in Chechnya apologized for the statements voiced by the blogger during his lifetime. The men pleaded guilty of his murder. Let us remind you that Mamikhan Umarov, a native of Chechnya, well-known as "Anzor from Vienna", was shot dead in Austria on July 4. In his videos posted on YouTube, the blogger criticized and repeatedly insulted Ramzan Kadyrov and his parents. Shortly before his death, the blogger claimed receiving threats. Users of the social network suggested that the confession of Mamikhan Umarov's relatives was made under pressure. Such a video appeal cannot be equated with acknowledgement of guilt, but the Chechen law enforcement bodies are to check the blogger's relatives for involvement in the crime, say advocates interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". It should be noted that on the day when the video appeal of the Mamikhan Umarov's relatives was made public, his widow told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that her husband had collaborated with the Austrian law enforcement agencies. The woman suggested that the authorities of Chechnya might be involved in the blogger's death. When the relatives of Mamikhan Umarov were pleading guilty of his murder, they were following the instructions got from the Chechen authorities, and, therefore, the men would not be punished. This opinion was voiced by human rights defenders and a Chechen historian interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". According to them, the authorities of Chechnya equate criticism addressed to them with unworthy behaviour, which is recognized as an excuse for intra-family violence.

New sanctions imposed by US Department of State against Ramzan Kadyrov

On July 20, the US Department of State announced new sanctions against Ramzan Kadyrov. According to the US Department of State, it has got "extensive credible information that Ramzan Kadyrov is responsible for numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture and extrajudicial killings." The sanctions were also applied to Medni Kadyrova, a spouse of the leader of Chechnya, and his daughters Aishat and Khadizhat. Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), announced that Russia would respond to the new sanctions against Ramzan Kadyrov, although not in the similar way. Political analysts doubt that the US sanctions against Ramzan Kadyrov are effective. Meanwhile, the authorities of Chechnya have initiated a flash mob on social networks in support of Ramzan Kadyrov, and actions with the same slogans are being held in Chechen villages, towns, and cities.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on July 27, 2020 at 09:10 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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