09 March 2020, 13:33

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 2-8, 2020

76th anniversary of deportation of Balkar nationals; special operation in Ingushetia; onset of coronavirus in the Caucasus; election of Dmitry Trapeznikov as Elista City Mayor; hunger strike in Sukhumi and hospitalization of oppositionist Aslan Bzhaniya, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 2-8, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

76th anniversary of Balkars' deportation

On March 8, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria held commemorative events dedicated to the 76th anniversary of the deportation of the Balkar people. Participants of the rally laid flowers at the memorial and visited the "Nalchik" Resort Culture House, which opened the exhibition of artist Ibragim Zankishiev dedicated to the tragedy of the deportation victims. The victims receive only insignificant benefits, and support from the authorities does not compensate for the deprivations experienced by the victims during the years of repression, note protesters in Nalchik. Let us remind you that the operation on eviction of the Balkars to Kazakhstan and Central Asia took place in Kabardino-Balkaria on March 8, 1944. In total, 37,713 people were deported, and 562 people died within 18 days of the way to exile. It was not until 1957, when the Balkar people were allowed to return to their homeland.

Special operation in Ingushetia

On March 4, a suspected militant was killed during a special operation conducted in the village of Alkun in the Sunzha District of Ingushetia. According to a source from the law enforcement bodies, the suspect was killed during a shootout. The man was not identified at the time of the incident, but he was allegedly a native of Dagestan. The killed suspect had weapons, food, and a sleeping bag with him, an informed source reported. According to the source, law enforcers began searching for his possible accomplices. The special operation became the first armed incident in Ingushetia since early 2020 and the fourth within the past 12 months.

Onset of coronavirus in Caucasus

Over the past week, the number of people infected with coronavirus in the countries of Southern Caucasus has grown significantly. While by March 1, three persons were diagnosed with coronavirus in Azerbaijan, then by March 8, nine persons infected with the coronavirus were detected in the country. On March 7, the authorities extended the quarantine in connection with the coronavirus virus in educational institutions of Azerbaijan. Schools, kindergartens, universities, concert halls, and other publicly attended institutions will begin to work on March 27. In Georgia, the number of people infected with the dangerous virus increased from three to 13 over the week. Most of the persons infected with coronavirus came to Georgia from Italy. After the first case of coronavirus was detected in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia completely closed the borders with the country. On March 4, the South-Ossetian authorities announced that residents of the republic were allowed to urgently leave for medical treatment in Georgia. According to the chief sanitary officer of South Ossetia, people are allowed to visit Georgia for treatment in local hospitals, but they will be placed in quarantine for two weeks upon their return because of the coronavirus.

Till present, no cases of the coronavirus infection in the southern regions of Russia have been reported. On March 6, the Ministry for Public Health of Chechnya announced placement for quarantine of three local residents who returned from Italy. The initial analysis did not reveal the presence of the coronavirus infection. On March 6, in his appeal, Chechen Mufti Salakh Mezhiev called the coronavirus epidemic in China a manifestation of God's wrath and associated it with the persecution of Muslims. On the same day, Rustam Amaev and Aslan Sadaliev, two residents of Chechnya, publicly apologized for the panic spread on social networks of the information about the alleged coronavirus epidemic.

Election of Dmitry Trapeznikov as Elista City Mayor

On March 3, members of the Elista City Council voted to appoint Dmitry Trapeznikov the head of the city administration. Earlier, his candidacy has provoked a wave of protests in Kalmykia. 19 members of the Elista City Council voted for Dmitry Trapeznikov, two voted against him, one abstained, and one more did not participate in the voting. Let us remind you that Dmitry Trapeznikov, who headed the unrecognized Donetsk People's Republic (known as DNR) in the summer of 2018, became the acting head of Elista on September 26, 2019. That fact caused massive protests of the city residents. During the protest actions, protestors also demanded the return of direct mayoral elections and the resignation of Kalmyk leader Batu Khasikov.

Hunger strike in Sukhumi and hospitalization of oppositionist Aslan Bzhaniya

On March 2, in Sukhumi, three activists began a hunger strike with the demand to ratify an article on illicit enrichment included in the UN Convention against Corruption. The hunger-strikers insist that amendments to the law should enter into force before the presidential election scheduled for March 22. MPs who met the protesters failed to convince them to stop the hunger strike. On March 8, the number of the hunger-strikers increased to seven persons. According to the protestors, they managed to collect more than 5000 signatures in support of the anti-corruption law.

On March 2, in Abkhazia, presidential candidate Aslan Bzhaniya was urgently hospitalized in the Krasnodar Territory. His supporters suggested that politician was poisoned. Doctors diagnosed Aslan Bzhaniya with pneumonia, the Ministry for Public Health of Abkhazia reported. If the hospitalization of Aslan Bzhaniya prevents him from taking part in the presidential election, that fact will entail a full-blown political crisis with unpredictable consequences, Abkhazian journalists believe. However, on March 6, Aslan Bzhaniya announced his intention to take part in the presidential election, and his promise reduced the severity of the political crisis in Abkhazia. Starting from the same day, the candidates resumed their election campaigns, suspended because of the Aslan Bzhaniya's disease.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 9, 2020 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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