10 August 2020, 14:20

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 3-9, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; CTO in Ingushetia; start of the tourist season in Abkhazia; protests of Armenian residents against gold mining at Amulsar deposit; mass apologies voiced in public by Chechens returned from Moscow to Grozny, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 3-9, 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. Meanwhile, over the past week, Armenia also came out on top in terms of an increase in the number of coronavirus-infected people and thus took over Azerbaijan which led in terms of the above parameter during three weeks in a row. By the evening on August 9, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Armenia reached 40,410 (1360 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan – 33,568 (1135 new cases over the week), in Georgia – 1225 (48 new cases over the week), in Nagorno-Karabakh – 250 (11 new cases over the week), in South Ossetia – 89 (no new cases over the week), and in Abkhazia – 134 (36 new cases over the week). By 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on August 9, Armenia registered 791 deaths from COVID-19, Azerbaijan – 490, Georgia – 17, Abkhazia – 3, and Nagorno-Karabakh – 1.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia. While by the evening on August 2, it was reported about 79,775 coronavirus-infected patients in all the regions of Southern Russia, then by the evening on August 9, their total number reached 84,478 (4703 new cases over the week). Over the past week, the Rostov Region still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients, where 14,107 cases were registered. The Volgograd Region, where 9998 coronavirus-infected patients were detected, took over Dagestan, which found itself in the third place with 9665 coronavirus-infected patients.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased: from 1393 to 1482 (89 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 454 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Dagestan is followed by the Rostov Region where 261 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered, and the Stavropol Territory with 177 COVID-19 deaths stays at the third place in the sad death toll statistics.

CTO in Ingushetia

In the evening on August 6, law enforcers launched a counterterrorist (CTO) operation in Nazran and in the village of Sagopshi in the Malgobek District of Ingushetia. On August 7, sources from the law enforcement bodies reported about two militants killed and another detained. Sources from the sports circles of Ingushetia mentioned Muslim Yevloev, an Asian freestyle wrestling champion, as one of the killed suspects. However, later, the law enforcement bodies reported that the information about the killing of Muslim Yevloev was not true and the wrestler himself fled from the law enforcers. The Ingush "Kusht" Sports Club, on behalf of which Muslim Yevloev took part in competitions, expressed the opinion that a criminal case was being fabricated against the athlete. The sources from the law enforcement bodies associated the CTO in Nazran with the killing of a fighter of the National Guard of Russia on the outskirts of the Yandare village on July 28.

Start of tourist season in Abkhazia

After the restrictions on crossing the border between Russia and Abkhazia were lifted on August 1, tourists from Russia went to Abkhazia on vacations. While during the first day, more than 7500 people crossed the border in both directions, then by August 4, already more than 30,000 people crossed the border, the press service of the Sochi Customs Service reported. By August 6, in Abkhazia, despite the highly intensive traffic during the first days after the opening of the border, hotels had no more than 40-60% rooms booked, the "Caucasian Knot" found out. After the opening of the border between Russia and Abkhazia, the Ministry for Public Health of Abkhazia announced that medical officers were preparing for a possible worsening of the epidemiological situation in the republic. On August 7, the Ministry for Public Health of Abkhazia reported about an increase in the number of patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection and explained the above growth by non-compliance with sanitary standards in the Sukhumi hospital, and not with the inflow of tourists after the opening of the border with Russia. Alkhas Kondjariya, Deputy Minister for Public Health of Abkhazia, notes that Abkhaz hospitals are not ready for a sharp increase in the number of patients from Russia. On August 8, the operational headquarters of Abkhazia reported that the first case of the coronavirus infection in the region was diagnosed among vacationers from Russia, and the infected tourist was taken to the Krasnodar Territory for medical treatment.

Protests of Armenian residents against gold mining at Amulsar field

Last week, the situation around the Amulsar field escalated near the city of Jermuk, which residents were on protest against the development of the mine since 2014. People do not agree with the conclusions of the international expert opinion, according to which the environmental risks during the development of the mine were minimal. Residents of Jermuk believe that the gold mining will turn the resort town into a mining one. At night on August 4, the "Lydian Armenia" Company, engaged in the development of the Amulsar mine, replaced its trailers, in which residents were on duty on the outskirts of Mount Amulsar. On August 5, about 200 activists gathered there. They demanded from the Armenian authorities to revise the conclusions about the impact of the mine on the environment. During the protest action, clashes took place between the protestors and the police, and after that seven activists were detained. On the other day, the residents of Jermuk blocked the road with the same demand: to move the trailers of the "Lydian Armenia" Company. The protesters did not leave the place until the Mayor of Jermuk promised to resolve the problem voiced by the protestors. On August 7, the trailers of the "Lydian Armenia" Company were moved from the side of the road, as demanded by the activists. The residents of Jermuk were also supported by the people living in Yerevan. On August 6, in the capital of Armenia, activists tried to hold a bike ride in defence of Amulsar, but were detained by the police. The activists who came on the same day to the government building to protest against the development of the Amulsar field were also detained: the police stopped the protest action and referred to the ban on mass gatherings imposed by the commandant's office. Furthermore, law enforcers did not allow the activists to gather in the Mashtots City Park. According to the protesters, the police were detaining even those people who were not going to participate in the protest action. All the detainees were released after reports of disobedience to the police were drawn up against them.

Mass apologies voiced in public by Chechens returned from Moscow to Grozny

In the evening on August 3, the Chechen state-run "Grozny" TV Company released a story reporting how the authorities of Chechnya forced about a hundred natives of the republic, whom the law enforcement bodies declared to be drug addicts and lawbreakers, to return home from Moscow. According to the author of the TV report, the number of the Chechen young people returned from Moscow included "criminals, swindlers, and drug addicts." The young people voiced their apologies in public. Adam Delimkhanov, a member of the State Duma of Russia and the adviser to the leader of Chechnya, reported that all the young people returned from Moscow would be involved in community service. Ruslan Alkhanov, Chechen Minister of Internal Affairs, accused the returned young men of discrediting the Chechen people. Local residents note that the authorities humiliate offenders and subject their relatives to pressure instead of punishing lawbreakers under the law. According to social network users and readers of the "Caucasian Knot", such actions organized by the law enforcement bodies and officials are ineffective and look like an attempt to earn political points. It should be noted that the Chechen law enforcers regularly reprimand offenders in public and then force them to community service, while the practice of forced public apologies adopted in Chechnya has spread far beyond the Caucasus.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on August 10, 2020 at 09:00 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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