20 April 2020, 15:12

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 13-19, 2020

Increase in the number of coronavirus-infected people in Southern Russia and in the countries of Southern Caucasus; celebration of Easter by Orthodox believers amid the spread of the coronavirus infection; second round of the presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh; attack on law enforcers in Dagestan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of April 13-19, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Increase in number of coronavirus-infected people in Southern Russia and in countries of Southern Caucasus

Over the past week, the number of coronavirus-infected people was still growing in the countries of Southern Caucasus and in the regions of Southern Russia. By April 19, in Georgia, the number of people infected with coronavirus reached 394 (142 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan – 1398 (300 new cases over the week), in Armenia – 1291 (278 new cases over the week), Abkhazia – 3 (0 new cases over the week), in Nagorno-Karabakh – 7 (1 new case over the week). The coronavirus death toll is also growing. Georgia has already registered 4 deaths, Azerbaijan – 19, and Armenia – 20 (as at 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on April 19).

The increase in the number of patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection forced the authorities of the countries in Southern Caucasus to extend the restrictions imposed earlier. On April 18, Azerbaijan announced the extension until May 4 of the special quarantine regime, which was imposed on March 24. Thus, the ban on entry and exit from the country, suspension of classes in all educational institutions, and closure of the border with Iran and Georgia still remain in force. On April 17, Georgia extended until May 10 the state of emergency, which was imposed on March 21. On April 13, in Armenia, the state of emergency, which was imposed on March 16, was extended until May 14.

The number of coronavirus-infected people is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia. By the evening on April 12, it was reported about 654 people infected with coronavirus in all the regions of Southern Russia, and by the evening on April 19, the total number of people infected with that dangerous infection was 2331 (1677 new cases over the week). In the Krasnodar Territory, 383 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in Dagestan – 292, in Chechnya – 219, in the Stavropol Territory – 232, in the Rostov Region – 232, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 136, in the Volgograd Region – 93, in Kalmykia – 74, in Adygea – 91, in the Astrakhan Region – 123, in North Ossetia – 120, in Ingushetia – 269, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 67. The coronavirus death toll also increased significantly over the week: from 10 to 38. 9 deaths were registered in Dagestan, 5 – in the Krasnodar Territory, 5 – in Chechnya, 5 – Ingushetia, 3 – in the Astrakhan Region, 3 – in Kalmykia, 3 – in the Stavropol Territory, 2 – in Adygea, 2 – in North Ossetia, and 1 – in the Volgograd Region (as at 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on April 19).

Celebration of Easter by Orthodox believers amid spread of coronavirus infection

On April 19, Orthodox believers in the regions of Southern Russia and the countries of Southern Caucasus celebrated the holiday of Easter. In the regions of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), religious ceremonies were limited because of the pandemic. In particular, Archbishop Varlaam of Makhachkala and Grozny called on Orthodox believers of Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia not to attend churches on the holiday of Easter because of the spread of the coronavirus infection. In Chechnya, Orthodox believers met the diocese's call with understanding. Some believers said that they would not go to churches for the Easter holiday for the first time within several years. In North Ossetia, Orthodox believers treated the quarantine measures imposed in churches amid the pandemic as a necessity. They note that the celebration of the Easter holiday at home does not contradict the religion. In Dagestan, where the republic's chief sanitary officer forbade people from access to worship services, Orthodox believers also agreed to celebrate Easter at home because of the spread of the coronavirus infection.

In Azerbaijan, temples held Easter worship services without the participation of believers. Many residents of Tbilisi also had to refuse visiting churches on the Easter holiday because of the quarantine. In the capital of Georgia, participation in the Easter worship services was complicated because of restrictions on the use of personal vehicles, partial closure of churches, and imposition of a curfew, local residents reported. Those people who came to a worship service said that the coronavirus infection was not dangerous for believers. In the morning on April 19, in many churches and temples of Tbilisi, there were crowds of believers who came to attend the Easter worship services after the curfew.

Second round of presidential election in Nagorno-Karabakh

On April 14, Nagorno-Karabakh held the voting in the second round of the presidential election. According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), the total turnout of voters reached 44.9 percent. Two days before the voting, on April 12, the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh imposed a state of emergency in connection with the spread of the coronavirus infection, and the opposition called on citizens of the country to boycott the presidential election. However, the voting took place even in the communities isolated because of the coronavirus infection. According to the preliminary information announced by the Nagorno-Karabakh CEC, former Prime Minister Araik Arutyunyan won the presidential election with 88 percent of the votes. His rival Masis Mailyan, Nagorno-Karabakh Minister of Foreign Affairs, gained 12 percent. Observers called the presidential election valid. Political analysts call Araik Arutyunyan a compromise president of Nagorno-Karabakh and note that he suits all the political forces in the region.

Attack on law enforcers in Dagestan

On April 16, one person was killed in a shootout with law enforcers near the village of Darvaga in the Tabasaran District of Dagestan. According to sources, a car driver failed to obey to the policemen's demand to stop the car and opened fire. The policemen opened fire in return. The shootout occurred during a police raid. The car, which the policemen tried to stop, did not have state registration numbers. The car driver who opened fire on the policemen was killed. No law enforcers were wounded, although bullets damaged the police car. Inside the car driven by the shooter, the policemen found an automatic firearm with a cut and shortened barrel, a plastic bag with white powder, an improvised explosive device (IED), and a large amount of food products, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Dagestan reported. The attack on the law enforcers in the Tabasaran District became the first armed incident in Dagestan within 10 months.

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

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