05 October 2020, 13:02

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 28-October 4, 2020

Hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone; completion of the investigation into the murder of journalist Khadjimurad Kamalov in Dagestan; transfer to court of the case against leaders of the protests in Ingushetia; movement of members of the People's Khural of Kalmykia against republic's leader Batu Khasikov, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 28-October 4, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Hostilities in Karabakh conflict zone

The combat actions with the use of armoured vehicles and artillery that began at night on September 27 in the Karabakh conflict zone continued throughout the week. By October 3, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Nagorno-Karabakh, 208 soldiers and officers were killed. In the period from September 27 to October 4, the number of civilian casualties in the unrecognized republic reached 18, and about 80 others were injured, including residents of Stepanakert, which had been subjected to shelling attacks. The authorities of Azerbaijan have not announced the number of combat losses. Meanwhile, on October 4, it was reported that as a result of the shelling attacks, in Azerbaijan, 24 civilians were killed and 111 others were injured, including victims of the missile attack on Ganja, the second largest and populous city of Azerbaijan after Baku. The shelling attack came from the direction of Armenia. Besides, the Azerbaijani side reported about missile attacks on the cities of Terter and Horadiz and noted that the fire came from the direction of Nagorno-Karabakh. In the evening on October 4, the Azerbaijani side reported about missile attacks on the cities of Mingachevir and Terter, as well as the regions of Khizi and Absheron.

On October 3, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that houses, schools, and hospitals were destroyed in the front-line regions of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, and residents were trying to move to safe places, while some of them were forced to hide in basements. Both parties to the conflict report large losses of enemy military vehicles, without disclosing own losses. On October 1, a group of foreign journalists came under fire in the city of Martuni in the east of Nagorno-Karabakh. Two French and two Armenian reporters were injured, the authorities of Armenia reported.

In the evening on October 3, the President of Azerbaijan announced that the Azerbaijani troops had entered the village of Madagiz. Later, he reported about taking control over seven villages at once, including Talysh in the Terter District, Mekhdili, Chakhyrly, Ashagy Maralian, Shaibey, and Guidjag in the Djebrail District, and Ashagy Abdurrakhmanly in the Fizuli District. On October 4, Ilham Aliev announced that the Azerbaijani troops had occupied the city of Djebrail and several villages in the Djebrail District. However, the Armenian side claimed the information was false.

Analysts have suggested that Armenia and Azerbaijan will not start a full-scale war if no third countries do intervene in the conflict. Meanwhile, Armenia believes that the Turkish air forces are already taking part in the conflict. So, on September 29, the Ministry of Defence of Armenia announced that a Turkish F-16 multirole fighter shot down a Su-25 attack aircraft of the Armenian air force, and the pilot did not survive. The Turkish authorities refuted the information, while the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan stated that the country's air forces had no F-16 fighters. On October 4, the Armenian authorities accused Turkey of involvement in shelling attacks on villages and cities in Nagorno-Karabakh and requested the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to respond to the situation. Furthermore, Azerbaijan and Armenia exchanged accusations of using militants from the Middle East.

Completion of investigation into murder of journalist Khadjimurad Kamalov in Dagestan

On September 29, the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) reported that the case on the murder of Khadjimurad Kamalov, a founder of the newspaper "Chernovik" (Draft), had been sent to the General Prosecutor's Office for the approval of the indictment. The ICRF considers Shamil Isaev, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Dagestan, as a customer of the crime. In January 2020, Shamil Isaev was sentenced in a case on misappropriation of 56.4 million roubles to four years and six months of imprisonment in a penal colony. Let us remind you that Khadjimurad Kamalov, who voiced his position on a variety of topics, starting from confrontations between religious communities and ending with the problems of corruption, armed conflicts, and freedom of the media, was shot dead on December 15, 2011. In March 2018, relatives and colleagues of Khadjimurad Kamalov succeeded in seeking a transfer of the case on his murder to the ICRF's central office. According to advocates of two defendants, the investigators completed the investigation into the case without examining all the versions.

Transfer to court of case against leaders of protests in Ingushetia

On September 28, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" reported that despite the position of the defence, the Supreme Court (SC) of Russia pronounced a decision to consider in the Stavropol Territory a case against seven leaders of the Ingush protest movement. Let us remind you that on March 26, 2019, in Magas, residents of Ingushetia continued their protest without a sanction of the authorities. The activists protested against the reconsideration of the border with Chechnya. In the morning on March 27, clashes occurred between the protestors and the police. Since the early April of 2019, mass arrests of oppositionists took place in the republic. Since December 2019, the Zheleznovodsk City Court in the Stavropol Territory has been passing sentences to rally participants. Ordinary protesters are accused of attacks on law enforcers, while organizers face charges of creating an extremist community. The case against the leaders of the protest movement, including Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, Ismail Nalgiev, Zarifa Sautieva, Malsag Uzhakhov, Bagaudin Khautiev, and Barakh Chemurziev, whom the HRC "Memorial" recognized as political prisoners, was transferred to the Kislovodsk City Court. The trial is expected to start in late October or November.

Movement of members of People's Khural of Kalmykia against republic's leader Batu Khasikov

Batu Khasikov, the leader of Kalmykia, is unable to improve the situation in the republic amid the pandemic and the drought, claim members of the People's Khural from the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia), the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), and the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" in their open letter addressed to the country's president. The appeal is dated September 25, and Arslan Kusminov, an MP from the "Edinaya Rossiya" Party, posted it on his page in a social network at night on September 30. The open letter was signed by nine members of the People's Khural, including the leaders of all parliamentary parties. On October 1, at a specially convened press conference, the leaders of all three parliamentary parties announced that at the next session of the People's Khural of Kalmykia, expected to take place by the end of October, a vote of no confidence in Batu Khasikov would be passed.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on October 5, 2020 at 08:25 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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