16 March 2020, 15:59

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 9-15, 2020

Protests against a law on amendments to the Constitution of Russia; restrictions in the countries of Southern Caucasus in connection with the spread of coronavirus infection; court ruling in a case of Dagestani residents killed in Chechnya, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 9-15, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Protests against law on amendments to Constitution of Russia

On March 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on amendments to the Constitution of Russia. On March 12, despite protests, the law was approved by the parliaments of Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, Kalmykia, Karachay-Cherkessia, Dagestan, the Astrakhan and Volgograd Regions, Kuban, and the Stavropol Territory.

Among the changes which were proposed for introduction to the Constitution of Russia and which caused criticism in Northern Caucasus, there is an amendment on the Russian nation as a state-forming one. The amendment will deprive other nations of state protection, analysts believe.

Actions of protest took place in various cities of Southern Russia. On March 12, in Kabardino-Balkaria, protestors held pickets in front of the parliament building. The picketers claim that the amendments to the Russian Constitution hurt national feelings and suggest no change of power. In Ingushetia, members of four teips (families) announced a boycott of the voting of the constitutional amendment. They explain their position by the absence of a dialogue between the authorities and society and the persecution of citizens for political reasons.

Restrictions in countries of Southern Caucasus in connection with spread of coronavirus infection

In Northern Caucasus and Southern Russia, one case of the coronavirus infection was detected, and a patient is now receiving medical treatment in Krasnodar. Meanwhile, in each region there are persons placed under quarantine because of suspicions that they may be infected with coronavirus.

On March 15, 26 cases of coronavirus infection were confirmed in Armenia. There are 25 infected people in Azerbaijan, and on March 12, the country registered the first death of a patient diagnosed with coronavirus. In Georgia, 33 people are infected.

Starting from March 14, Azerbaijan cancelled all mass events for a month, closed cinemas, entertainment centres, and gyms. Libraries and museums are also closed in the country. Azerbaijan closed the border with Iran and Turkey.

Starting from March 14, Georgia closed for 10 days the border with Azerbaijan and Armenia, and on March 15, the country decided to close the border with Russia. Georgia also cancelled all public events. Georgian businessmen began to suffer massive losses because of the coronavirus infection, and panic caused by the infection collapsed the national currency against the US dollar.

Armenia introduced quarantine in educational institutions. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his spouse took tests for the coronavirus infection, and the results were negative.

Court ruling in case of Dagestani residents killed in Chechnya

On March 10, the Supreme Court (SC) of Chechnya found eight residents of Dagestan, who were declared as killed in Chechnya in a special operation conducted in 2016, guilty of attempted assassination of law enforcers. Gashim Uzdanov, Pakhrudin Makhaev, Islam Magomedov and Shamil Djamalutdinov, Gusein Guseinov, Klych Klychev, Shamil Djamalutdinov and Kamil Djamalutdinov disappeared on September 28 and October 4, 2016. The law enforcement bodies claim that the above-mentioned people were plotting a terror act and were killed in a shootout in the Gudermes District of Chechnya on October 9, 2016. According to relatives of the killed Dagestani natives, the men were kidnapped and then killed. At a court hearing held on February 3, an eyewitness confirmed that three out of eight Dagestani residents were kidnapped in front of him. Public prosecutors presented an awkward version of how the armed clash occurred, an advocate believes. The relatives of the killed men intend to file an appeal against the ruling of the Chechen SC.

Adoption of anti-corruption law in Abkhazia under pressure of protesters

On March 12, members of the parliament of Abkhazia passed a law obliging officials and MPs to publicly declare their incomes. This was demanded by activists who began a hunger strike on March 2. On March 11, in Sukhumi, hundreds of local residents supported the demands of the hunger-strikers. The people demanded to ensure that the amendments required by the protestors should come into force before the presidential election scheduled for March 22 and threatened to boycott the voting. After the law had been passed, the activists threatened with new protests if the article on illicit enrichment of the UN Convention was not ratified.

Action in defence of rights of Kalmyk people in Elista

On March 14, a rally in defence of the rights of the Kalmyk people was held in Elista. Activists planned to demand the punishment of Vladimir Shtygashev, the chair of the parliament of Khakassia, for his statement. On January 29, he claimed the allegedly revealed mass participation of Kalmyk natives in armed formations that fought on the side of Nazi Germany during World War II. About 400 people gathered at the rally, and the authorities interfered with the protesters' actions, the activists reported. During the rally, the protestors voiced demands on the implementation of the Law "On rehabilitation of repressed peoples" in full.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 16, 2020 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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