13 April 2020, 14:43

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 6-12, 2020

Increase in the number of coronavirus victims in Southern Russia and in the countries of Southern Caucasus; celebration of Easter by Catholics and believers of the Armenian Apostolic Church amid the coronavirus pandemic; pardoning of prisoners in Georgia and Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of April 6-12, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Increase in number of coronavirus victims in Southern Russia and in countries of Southern Caucasus

Over the past week, the number of coronavirus-infected people has increased significantly in the countries of Southern Caucasus and Southern Russia. By April 12, in Georgia, the number of people infected with coronavirus reached 252 (78 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan 1098 (514 new cases over the week), in Armenia 1013 (191 new cases over the week). The coronavirus death toll is also growing. Georgia has already registered 3 deaths, Azerbaijan 11, and Armenia 13. In Nagorno-Karabakh, the number of coronavirus-infected people has reached six, and in Abkhazia three.

By April 12, cases of the coronavirus infection were registered in all regions of Southern Russia, and their total number reached 654. In the Krasnodar Territory, 169 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in Dagestan 84, in Chechnya 47, in the Stavropol Territory 74, in the Rostov Region 52, in Kabardino-Balkaria 35, in the Volgograd Region 38, in Kalmykia 32, in Adygea 20, in the Astrakhan Region 29, in North Ossetia 34, in Ingushetia 29, and in Karachay-Cherkessia 11. As at April 12, 10 people died, including three in the Krasnodar Territory, three in Chechnya, two in the Stavropol Territory, one in North Ossetia, and one in Ingushetia.

The regions of Southern Russia still maintain the self-isolation regime, and local residents began to receive fines for its violation. By April 9, in the Krasnodar Territory, 831 people were found guilty of violating sanitary standards and were fined.

Easter celebration by Catholics and believers of Armenian Apostolic Church amid coronavirus pandemic

On April 12, the Catholic and Armenian Apostolic Church celebrated the holiday of Easter. In Nagorno-Karabakh, worship services in temples were held behind closed doors because of the threat of the coronavirus infection. In Armenia, believers were also not able to attend the worship service. In Krasnodar and Stavropol, people understood the need not to go to churches and to watch online broadcasts of the Easter worship service. In Yerevan and Gyumri, believers did the same.

Pardoning of prisoners in Georgia and Azerbaijan

On April 6, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev signed a decree on the early release of 176 prisoners over 65 years old in connection with the spread of COVID-19. One of them is a citizen of Russia, while the others are citizens of Azerbaijan. Human rights defenders expressed their disappointment with the decree on pardoning. According to the human rights defenders, the number of the pardoned convicts includes only two political prisoners, while generals sentenced for dozens of crimes were also pardoned.

On April 7, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili issued a decree on pardoning dated to the Annunciation Day. Nine women with minor children were pardoned: crimes committed by them were not classified as violent crimes. Georgia still does not amnesty prisoners because of the coronavirus epidemic, but it is possible that if the situation worsens, the authorities can make such a decision, reports Zaal Andjaparidze, a programme coordinator for the International Centre on Conflict and Negotiation (ICCN).

In its petition on the "Change.org" website, the Moscow Helsinki Group called for the widest possible amnesty because of the coronavirus epidemic. The call will be heard by the authorities, and, in particular, activists in Northern Caucasus will be able to enjoy the amnesty, human rights defenders suggest.

Preparations for second round of presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh

Nagorno-Karabakh, the second round of the presidential election is scheduled for April 14. The election was held on March 31, and none of the candidates gained the required number of votes. The opposition called on the authorities to impose quarantine because of the threat of the coronavirus infection and postpone the second round of the presidential election. Masis Mailyan, one of the candidates running for the second round, called on voters to ignore the voting, while second candidate Araik Arutyunyan, on the contrary, called on citizens to be more active. Karabakh and Armenian political analysts questioned the legitimacy of the presidential election amid the epidemic.

Indictment for Rauf and Raul Arashukov

The final indictment had been brought against Rauf Arashukov, a former senator from Karachay-Cherkessia, and his father Raul Arashukov, the adviser to the head of the "Gazprom Mezhregiongaz". The Arashukov son and father were arrested since January 2019. The former senator is accused of involvement in a criminal community, organization of two murders committed with mercenary motives, and putting pressure on a witness. Raul Arashukov was suspected in a case on embezzlement of gas for the amount exceeding 30 billion roubles. As a result, Rauf Arashukov was accused of abuse of office and knowingly false denunciation of three new episodes. According to the investigators' version, Raul Arashukov ordered his son to organize the killings of Circassian activist Aslan Zhukov and Fral Shebzukhov, the adviser to the head of Karachay-Cherkessia, and Rauf Arashukov instructed top-ranking law enforcers and an investigator not to investigate the murder of Aslan Zhukov. Raul Arashukov is charged with a murder, organization of a criminal community, and embezzlement. Meanwhile, the charge with theft of gas was removed from the businessman.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on April 13, 2020 at 09:10 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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