17 February 2020, 16:59
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 10-16, 2020
Publication of outputs of parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan and dispersal of those who disagree with them; toughening the sentence to Gigi Ugulava, former Tbilisi Mayor; sharp reaction to words of Russian Ambassador to Turkey about Circassians, – read the review of these and other events in the Caucasus over the week of February 10-16, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
Publicizing outcomes of parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan and dispersal of those in dissent therewith
The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Azerbaijan announced the victory of the ruling "Eni Azerbaijan" (New Azerbaijan) Party at the parliamentary elections held on February 9. In its turn, the National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) of Azerbaijan has stated that the elections were held in an atmosphere of "mass falsifications and flagrant lawlessness." The oppositional "Musavat" Party has demanded new elections, while the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) questioned the voting outcomes. On February 13, 2020, the CEC examined complaints about election violations and cancelled the outcomes in four constituencies. However, activists assert that violations were everywhere.
On February 11, some candidates for MPs and voters supporting them went out to a protest rally at the premises of the CEC of Azerbaijan. Policemen dispersed the protesters by force; and about 10 activists turned for medical help. Journalists were among the victims. The "Reporters Without Borders" (RWB) reported about at least 18 facts, when journalists encountered obstacles in their work. Seven journalists were detained and beaten up, the RWB has stated. Besides, the Human Rights House Foundation has demanded from Azerbaijani authorities to allow peaceful meetings in central Baku and to investigate the excessive use of force by the policemen during the dispersal of the rally in Baku.
A new action against election frauds scheduled by the opposition in Baku for February 16 was disrupted by policemen, who detained at least 55 persons by using force, activists reported.
Toughening sentence to former Tbilisi Mayor, Gigi Ugulava
On February 10, the Georgian Supreme Court (SC) considered the complaint of the Prosecutor's Office (PO) against the verdict on the case of embezzling about 20 million US dollars and sentenced Gigi Ugulava, a former Tbilisi Mayor, to three years, two months and eight days in prison. On February 28, 2018, the court sentenced him to a year and three months in prison, but found the punishment already served. The opposition has treated the new verdict as a political repression, and refused to negotiate with the authorities. The SC's board that passed the verdict was biased, because it was headed by Shalva Tadumadze, who was the Public Prosecutor General of Georgia during the investigation, the country's Ombudsperson and some NGOs have stated.
Sharp reaction to words of Russian Ambassador to Turkey about Circassians
In his interview to the "Sputnik" Agency, Alexei Erkhov, Russian Ambassador to Ankara, stressed the Circassians' criminal way of life and their peaceful resettlement from Northern Caucasus to Turkey as a result of the Caucasian War. These words outraged the Federation of Caucasian Associations of Turkey (Kafkas Dernekleri Federasyonu – KAFFED) and the Federation of Circassian Associations. According to their version, Erkhov has distorted the history and insulted the Circassian nation. The KAFFED's statement is actively discussed in the Russian segment of the Facebook. Asker Sokht, the chairman of the NGO "Adyge Khase" of the Krasnodar Territory, has treated the Ambassador's statement as "outright disinformation." Let us remind you that the 1763-1864 Caucasian War put the Adyg nations on the brink of extinction – most Circassians were forced to resettle to more than 40 countries of the world. Circassian organizations demand from Russian authorities to recognize the Circassians' genocide during the Caucasian War.
End of acceptance of documents for running for NKR's presidency
On February 15, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) finished accepting documents for participation in the presidential election. Fourteen candidates will contend for the presidency; and ten parties and two political blocs will run for seats in the Parliament. Both elections are scheduled for March 31, 2020.
End of fixed-route minibus drivers' strike in Makhachkala
On February 10, in Makhachkala, the striking drivers decided to quit collectively. From February 7, they refused to go on routes in protest against the sale of their enterprise to a Saint Petersburg carrier and plans to increase the fares. They demanded to allow them to select a transport company for cooperation by themselves. The townspeople have supported the drivers. This is the third wave of their protests since 2018.
Kadyrov's justifies of his cadre decisions
Ramzan Kadyrov made a series of personnel changes in the Chechen government, for which he had to make excuses. Kadyrov's relatives received new posts: his nephew, the 23-year-old Khamzaa Kadyrov, the ex-head of the Kurchaloi District, was appointed Minister of Physical Culture and Sports of Chechnya. On February 10, Kadyrov appointed his nephew, the 29-year-old Ibragim Zakriev, a former Mayor of Grozny, as the head of the joint administration of the head and government of Chechnya. Residents of Chechnya were sceptical about this cadre reshuffling, pointing to the continuation of the policy of family-clannish relations in the republic.
In his turn, Kadyrov has stated that most of his male relatives are holding rank-and-file positions in law enforcement bodies. Meanwhile, he acknowledged that kinship with Akhmat-haji Kadyrov (his father) promotes one's career in Chechnya. Kadyrov is trying to show that it was not his personal power that has established in Chechnya, but the power of his clan, founded by Akhmat Kadyrov, said Alexei Malashenko, an expert.
Removal of head of Georgievsk from post after initiation of criminal case
Maxim Kletin, the Mayor of the city of Georgievsk, is suspected of threatening to kill a local female resident, and of using a fake diploma, the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) has reported. Screenshots of the correspondence attributed to Kletin appeared in the network, which contained harsh expressions with threats of murder. In 2014, Kletin, the then deputy head of Kislovodsk, was suspected of participating in a robbery attack on a businessman in 2000. In 2015, the case was closed due to the expiry of the state of limitations. On February 12, Vladimir Vladimirov, the governor of the Stavropol Territory, removed Kletin from the post of the Mayor of Georgievsk.