11 May 2020, 18:51

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 4-10, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; Victory Day celebration in the conditions of self-isolation; Georgia's negative reaction to Mikhail Saakashvili's new post in Ukraine, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 4-10, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Spread of coronavirus infection in Caucasus, recognition of COVID-19 situation in Dagestan as most alarming in Russia, and intensification of charitable foundations' activities

Last week, in Southern Caucasus, all regions appeared to be affected by the coronavirus infection. By the end of the week, the number of coronavirus-infected people in South Ossetia reached 22, in Georgia – 635, Azerbaijan – 2422, Armenia – 3313, Abkhazia – 7, and Nagorno-Karabakh – 14. The coronavirus death toll is also growing. By May 10, Georgia has already registered 10 deaths, Azerbaijan – 31, and Armenia – 45, and Abkhazia – 1.

On May 9, the metro resumed its operation in Baku, but to use its services, passengers had to wear masks and receive a permission to leave home. On May 5, Georgia launched the second stage of lifting the restrictions, and on May 7, the authorities announced that they were developing a plan for economic recovery. Entrepreneurs complained about the lack of customers after the restrictions had been lifted, while local residents noted a growth of food prices.

The number of coronavirus-infected people has increased in regions of Southern Russia. By May 10, it reached 15,140 (4450 new cases over the week). Dagestan leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients (2653), while Ingushetia registered the highest COVID-19 death toll (29).

On May 8, the Russian Ministry for Public Health found the situation with COVID-19 in Dagestan to be the most alarming in the country. The "Community of Doctors of the Republic of Dagestan" doubted the official statistics, which reported about 1500 patients and 12 deaths by the beginning of May. NGOs in the field of health protection claimed more than 4500 patients and 157 deaths.

Charitable foundations have intensified their activities in the regions of Southern Russia. So, in Dagestan, the "Hope" and "Pure Heart" charitable foundations provide assistance with food and housing for the needy. In Kabardino-Balkaria, philanthropists, in particular, the "Caucasus-Nur" Foundation, organized fundraising to help the people in need. Activists from the group "Help to Compatriots from Syria" and the public organization "Peryt" distribute food aid packages to Circassian repatriates. In Adygea, the former president Hazret Sovmen's foundation provided food aid to residents of auls (villages), war veterans, and the poor.

Victory Day celebration in conditions of self-isolation

In Southern Russia, major celebrations on May 9 in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in World War II were cancelled because of the spread of the coronavirus infection. The "Immortal Regiment" action was held online, and new memorials were opened in the regions. The limited celebration of the Victory Day was brightened by air parades. Military aircrafts flew over 10 cities of Russia, including in the southern regions. Despite the restrictions, some residents of Sochi went to lay flowers at the memorial complex, and the police did not interfere with their actions.

Residents of Kuban complained that they felt no atmosphere of the holiday because of the quarantine and that many older people would not be able to take part in online memorial actions, because they did not know how to use the Internet. In Makhachkala, war-time songs were broadcasted through loudspeakers at mosques. In social networks, most Muslims expressed their indignation and wrote that no music should sound at mosques. Their opponents noted that Muslims also fought during World War II. They have emphasized that the day of May 9 is a special day when everyone may listen to songs on the military theme. The Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) explained that they wanted to increase the morale of residents on self-isolation and apologized to believers.

Georgia's negative reaction to Mikhail Saakashvili's new post in Ukraine

On May 7, former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was appointed the chairman of the National Council for Reforms of Ukraine. Georgia has withdrawn its ambassador from Ukraine. David Zalkaliani, Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, has emphasized that the appointment of the person sentenced in Georgia as a strategic partner in Ukraine raises questions. Meanwhile, David Zalkaliani has assured that Georgia does not plan to break off the diplomatic relations with Ukraine. In Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili was sentenced in absentia to three years of imprisonment in a case on abuse of authority in pardoning persons sentenced for murdering businessman Sandro Girgvliani and to six years of imprisonment – in a case on beating in 2005 of MP Valery Gelashvili. Besides, Mikhail Saakashvili is also charged with embezzlement of the country's budget, dispersal of an opposition rally in November 2007, pogrom at the office of the "Imedi" TV Company, and seizing property from billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili.

Flooding of residents' houses because of river flows in Ingushetia and Chechnya

On May 6, heavy rains caused flooding of houses in the village of Verkhniye Achaluki in the Malgobek District of Ingushetia. The authorities have announced that flooding threatens residents of 116 houses in Karabulak and began their evacuation. Heavy rains caused flooding of dozens of houses in the Sunzha District. On May 8, the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) of Ingushetia reported that the water level in the Sunzha River dropped and there was no longer any threat of flooding. According to the Ingush MfE, the flood did not cause casualties and destruction. The bad weather also affected residents of neighbouring Chechnya. Rains increased the water level in the rivers and provoked flooding of houses and interruptions in electricity supply. In the Shali District, a mudflow came down and blocked a road in the area of the Serzhen-Yurt village.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 11, 2020 at 09:10 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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