30 March 2020, 17:51

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 23-29, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; special operation in Kabardino-Balkaria; protest actions with the demand to postpone elections in Nagorno-Karabakh, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 23-29, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Further spread of coronavirus infection in Caucasus

Over the past week, the number of patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection in the countries of Southern Caucasus and in regions of Southern Russia has grown significantly. On March 29, in Georgia, the number of coronavirus-infected people reached 90, in Azerbaijan 209, and in Armenia 424. It was also reported about 43 people infected with coronavirus in eight southern regions of Russia. In the Krasnodar Territory, 17 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in Chechnya nine, and in the Stavropol Territory five. Four coronavirus-infected persons were detected in Kabardino-Balkaria, four in the Volgograd Region, two in the Rostov Region, one in Adygea, and one in Dagestan.

In the countries of Southern Caucasus, the number of death toll and the number of people recovered from the coronavirus infection are growing. Last week, in Armenia, three patients died and 30 others recovered. Azerbaijan registered four deaths, while 15 patients recovered. In Georgia, 18 patients recovered, and no fatal cases were registered in the country.

On March 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the period from March 28 to April 5 days off because of the threat of the spread of the coronavirus infection. Starting from March 28, mass events are banned in all regions of the country, including in regions of Southern Russia. Cafes and markets are closed, and volunteers help elderly people in self-isolation. Pilgrims from the regions of Northern Caucasus faced the threat of the abolition of the Hajj.

In Chechnya, Friday prayers have been cancelled, and the police patrol the streets at night and ask residents to return to their homes. After three local residents had been diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, the Chechen authorities resorted to harsh criticism of quarantine violators. Ramzan Kadyrov said that people who infected others deserved death and equated quarantine violators with terrorists. Human rights defenders condemned the threats voiced by the leader of Chechnya. Meanwhile, on March 25, despite the quarantine, the Chechen authorities organized a mass celebration in connection with the opening ceremony at the Palace of Arts in Grozny.

Special operation in Kabardino-Balkaria

On March 24, a special operation was conducted near the village of Kremenchug-Konstantinovskoye in the Baksan District of Kabardino-Balkaria. Law enforcers received the information about people plotting a terror act and tried to detain three suspects. All of them were killed in a shootout. Two of the suspects had earlier criminal records for illicit trafficking in explosives, a source from the law enforcement bodies reported. The shootout became the first armed incident in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic (KBR) in 2020. According to the calculations run by the "Caucasian Knot", no special operations were conducted in the republic since February 2019. Relatives of Timur Baksanov, one of the killed suspects, doubted the version reported by the law enforcement bodies. Timur Baksanov was sentenced for possession of ammunition and drugs after a confession, obtained by law enforcers through beatings and threats, an advocate claimed.

Announcement of Aslan Bzhaniya as winner of presidential election in Abkhazia

The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Abkhazia announced the results of the early presidential election held on March 22. Opposition leader Aslan Bzhaniya won the election with a predominance of 21%. His closest rival, Deputy Prime Minister Adgur Ardzinba, gained 35.42% of the votes, while Leonid Dzapshba, former Minister of Internal Affairs, gained 2.22%. Reporters pointed to absence of unity in the winner's team. Aslan Bzhaniya wants to introduce reforms, but Alexander Ankvab, who headed his headquarters, will try to lead, Nadezhda Venediktova believes. Internal rivalry among members of the new president's team can lead the country to a collapse, Zurab Argun notes.

Protest actions with demand to postpone elections in Nagorno-Karabakh

In Nagorno-Karabakh, the presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 31. Meanwhile, the demand to postpone the elections is gaining momentum. On March 21, in Stepanakert, participants of a rally demanded to postpone the voting because of the threat of the spread of the coronavirus infection. On March 23, the activists started a round-the-clock protest. Their demands now also include the resignation of the President and the chiefs of the law enforcement bodies. On March 25, four opposition members went on a hunger strike. Karabakh War veterans Vardan Arzumanyan and Mais Bakhdadyan said they would not stop their protest action until their demands were met. Local residents interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" share the opinion that the elections need to be postponed, but are also ready to vote on March 31.

Court ruling on liquidation of Ingush Council of Teips

On March 27, the Supreme Court (SC) of Ingushetia granted a lawsuit filed by the Ingush Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and pronounced the decision to liquidate the Ingush Council of Teips (family clans) for interfering in the activities of the republic's authorities and making state secrets public. The Ingush Council of Teips eliminated all violations and presented evidence thereof, but the court ignored them, states advocate Magomed-Basir Ozdoev. The decision to liquidate the Ingush Council of Teips is of political nature, notes Murad Daskiev, the head of the organization. It should be noted that Malsag Uzhakhov, the head of the liquidated Ingush Council of Teips, was accused of creating an extremist community and participating in a rally in Magas in March 2019, which resulted in clashes between law enforcers and activists who were protesting against the Chechen-Ingush border agreement.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 30, 2020 at 08:10 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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