06 April 2020, 13:51

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 30-April 5, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection and new methods to combat it in Southern Russia; special operation in the Stavropol Territory; presidential and parliamentary elections in Nagorno-Karabakh; updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 30-April 5, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Spread of coronavirus infection and new methods to combat it in Southern Russia

Over the past week, the number of coronavirus-infected people has increased significantly in the countries of Southern Caucasus and regions of Southern Russia. By the evening of April 5, in Georgia, the number of people infected with coronavirus reached 174 (84 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan 584 (375 new cases), and in Armenia 822 (398 new cases). The coronavirus death toll is also growing. According to the Johns Hopkins University (JHU), as at 0:00 a.m. Moscow time on April 6, Georgia has already registered 2 deaths, Azerbaijan 7, and Armenia 7.

In regions of Southern Russia, the number of patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection has also increased. By the evening on March 29, 43 coronavirus-infected people were reported in eight regions of Southern Russia, and by the evening on April 5, cases of dangerous coronavirus infection were already registered in all regions of Southern Russia, with the exception of Karachay-Cherkessia, and the total number of people infected with coronavirus reached 80. In the Krasnodar Territory, 39 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in Dagestan 25, in Chechnya 15, in Stavropol 11, in the Rostov Region 9, in Kabardino-Balkaria 8, in the Volgograd Region 8, in Kalmykia 7, in Adygea 7, in the Astrakhan Region 5, in North Ossetia 5, and in Ingushetia 140. In regions of Southern Russia, the only death from the coronavirus decease was registered in Chechnya, where an 82-year-old woman died on April 1 (according to the "Rospotrebnadzor" (Russian Federal Agency for Consumer Supervision) and the Russian Ministry for Public Health as at 0:00 a.m. Moscow time on April 6).

In Southern Russia, like throughout the whole country, the past week was non-working in accordance with the decree issued by the Russian President. In their regions, governors imposed a regime of self-isolation and strictly recommended local residents to stay at home. On April 2, Vladimir Putin extended the non-working period in the country until April 30 because of the spread of the coronavirus infection. The Russian President also ordered the leaders of the regions to prepare by the end of the week a list of measures necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection. The self-isolation regime has been extended in almost all southern regions of the country. Meanwhile, for example, starting from March 31, in Kuban, a person is required a special permission to drive personal vehicles, and the issuance of such special permissions caused lines. On April 1, in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov announced a ban on entry and exit from the republic to be imposed on April 5. Furthermore, on April 3, the leader of Chechnya announced measures to strengthen the quarantine regime and impose a curfew. However, several hours later, Ramzan Kadyrov declared that Chechnya imposed not a curfew, but a "stop traffic" regime in order not to interfere with special vehicles to be engaged in cleaning of the streets. Residents of Chechnya reacted to the announcement of the closure of the republic's borders by buying food products. The ban on night traffic astonished users of social networks.

The self-isolation regime has affected small businesses. In North Ossetia, the Rostov Region, Kalmykia, and other regions of Russia, entrepreneurs claimed that they were already suffering serious losses. If the situation with the coronavirus infection lasts a long time, then many businesses will collapse, entrepreneurs from Kabardino-Balkaria complain. Small businesses go online wherever possible, Volgograd entrepreneurs report. Meanwhile, regional authorities have already voiced their support measures for small businesses, in particular, tax cuts and deferred rent payments.

Special operation in Stavropol Territory

On April 3, the FSB reported about a special operation conducted in the city of Neftekumsk. During the special operation, one of the supporters of the "Islamic State" (IS), a terrorist organization banned in Russia by the court, was killed, and another was detained. The special operation took place in an apartment building, and no civilians were injured, the governor of the Stavropol Territory reported. According to the FSB, a IS unit involved a local resident and a native of Dagestan. At the place of the special operation, FSB agents found components for manufacture of an improvised explosive device (IED), weapons, and banned extremist books. The special operation in Neftekumsk became the first armed incident between law enforcers and militants in the Stavropol Territory since March 14, 2019.

Presidential and parliamentary elections in Nagorno-Karabakh

On March 31, Nagorno-Karabakh held voting at the presidential and parliamentary elections. Following the results of the voting, five parties gained seats in the parliament. They are: the "Free Homeland" / "Unified Civil Alliance" bloc, led by former Prime Minister Araik Arutyunyan, the "United Homeland", "Justice", ARF "Dashnaktsutyun", and "Democratic Party of Artsakh". In total, ten parties and two blocs claimed seats in the parliament. None of the 14 presidential candidates gained the required number of votes. So, the second round of the presidential election is scheduled for April 14. Two candidates who won most votes will be participating in the second round of the election. According to the preliminary information, they are former Prime Minister Araik Arutyunyan with 49.6% of the votes and Nagorno-Karabakh Foreign Minister Masis Mailyan with 26.7% of the votes. Masis Mailyan was not a member of the "power clan," although he headed the Nagorno-Karabakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, note Armenian analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". Observers from Armenia pointed out violations committed during the elections in Nagorno-Karabakh. In particular, some polling stations violated the principle of secret voting, there were cases when persons voted instead of other votes, and the chairs of the election commissions did not contact the police to report such cases. A lot of violations took place during the voting, but the election commissions did not register most of those violations, confirmed Arthur Osipyan, the chairman of the Artsakh "Revolutionary Party". Azerbaijan and the European Union did not recognize the elections held in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

On March 30, the Human Rights Union "For Freedom of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan" released an updated list of political prisoners. The list contains surnames of 140 people, including five journalists, seven political activists, and 54 believers. Meanwhile, authors of the list emphasize that a new group "Sentenced in Terter Case" is highlighted in the list for the first time. It should be noted that the previous version of the list of political prisoners was released by the Union "For Freedom of Political Prisoners in Azerbaijan" on November 6, 2019. The document then included surnames of 135 people. However, it should be noted that the Azerbaijani authorities deny the presence of political prisoners in the country.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on April 6, 2020 at 09:45 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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