18 May 2020, 15:44

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 11-17, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; doctors' complaints in Southern Russia about the absence of compensations and protective gear; special operation in Ingushetia; pardon of sentenced oppositionists in Georgia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 11-17, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Spread of coronavirus infection in Caucasus

Over the past week, there has been still an increase in the number of coronavirus-infected patients in Southern Caucasus and in the regions of Southern Russia.

By the evening on May 17, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Georgia reached 695 (60 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan – 3274 patients (852 new cases over the week), in Armenia – 4472 (1159 new cases over the week), in Abkhazia – 20 (13 new cases over the week), in Nagorno-Karabakh – 28 (14 new cases over the week), and in South Ossetia – 34 (12 new cases over the week). The coronavirus death toll is also growing. As of 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on May 17, Georgia registered 12 deaths, Azerbaijan – 39, Armenia – 60, and Abkhazia – 1. Thus, Armenia leads in both the number of coronavirus-infected patients and the COVID-19 death toll.

On May 14, in connection with the difficult situation with the spread of the coronavirus infection, the Armenian government pronounced a decision to extend the state of emergency in the country until June 13. Meanwhile, starting from May 11, Georgia opened all types of enterprises and retail and wholesale outlets with entrances from the street, with the exception of shops selling clothes and shoes. Shopping malls are still closed in Georgia. On May 15, the Azerbaijani authorities reported lifting the permit system for leaving home starting from May 18, as well as opening catering facilities, museums, and exhibition halls.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is increasing in regions of Southern Russia. By the evening on May 17, the total number reached 20,507 (5367 new cases over the week). Over the week, Dagestan still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients, where 3371 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection. In the Krasnodar Territory, 2605 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in the Rostov Region – 2427, in North Ossetia – 2090, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 1759, in the Volgograd Region – 1596, in Ingushetia – 1480, in the Stavropol Territory – 1465, in the Astrakhan Region – 1029, in Chechnya – 943, in Kalmykia – 693, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 651, and in Adygea – 398.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased significantly: from 165 to 217. Like a week earlier, the highest death toll was registered in Ingushetia (35). As of 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on May 17, in the Rostov Region, 31 patients with the diagnosis of the coronavirus infection died, in Dagestan – 29, in the Stavropol Territory – 26, in the Krasnodar Territory – 25, in North Ossetia – 15, in the Volgograd Region – 13, in Chechnya – 9, in Adygea – 8, in Kalmykia – 8, in the Astrakhan Region – 7, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 7, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 4. Meanwhile, in Dagestan, the authorities reported the statistics, according to which the incidence of pneumonia had significantly increased in the region. So, on May 12, Dagestani leader Vladimir Vasiliev reported about 481 patients who died from community-acquired pneumonia since the outbreak of the pandemic. According to the leader of Dagestan, in April 2020, the incidence of pneumonia increased by 33.6% compared to April 2019.

Doctors' complaints in Southern Russia about absence of compensations and protective gear

In various regions of Russia, including in Southern Russia, doctors engaged in treatment of coronavirus-infected patients and ambulance medical officers voiced complaints about the absence of compensations. The incentive compensations "to medical and other workers directly engaged in treatment of citizens diagnosed with the new COVID-19 coronavirus infection" were provided for by the regulations approved by the resolution issued of the Russian government on April 12. So, on May 16, in Armavir, ambulance medical officers complained that they had not received the promised compensations for treatment of patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection. The Prosecutor's Office and the authorities of the Krasnodar Territory launched an inspection. Similar complaints also came from Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia.

Furthermore, doctors voiced the information about the lack of protective gear in medical institutions. In some cases, the above mentioned lack resulted in sad consequences for medical officers. A clear example of the above is the situation in the Gudermes District Hospital, where the chief doctor resigned after audio and video appeals from hospital staff who had complained about the lack of protective gear and the need to buy protective items at own expenses. According to Magomed Daudov, the speaker of the Chechen parliament, the chief doctor of the Gudermes District Hospital failed to explain to his subordinates that the medical institution was only preparing to receive patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection and did not yet need protective gear for the staff. On May 15, one of the protesters, radiotherapist Zaur Borchashvili, was also dismissed. On the same day, on the air of the "Grozny" TV Company, his colleagues apologized for their protest and declared their complaints unfounded. On the other day, the leader of Chechnya ordered to bring to responsibility the hospital medical officers who complained about the working conditions and their relatives.

Special operation in Ingushetia

On May 13, in the Sunzha District of Ingushetia, law enforcers launched operative-search actions over the Assa River. Residents of local villages were warned that they should not visit the area where the special operation was underway, reported Magomed Dzeitov, the head of the Sunzha district administration. Meanwhile, local residents noted that the special operation did not affect their everyday routine. Law enforcers are combing forests in a search for a grouping of militants led by Aslan Byutukaev (also known as Amir Khamzat). Aslan Byutukaev is considered to be the organizer of the attack on Grozny in 2014, and he is also suspected of involvement in a terror act committed at Domodedovo Airport in 2011. In Ingushetia, the law enforcers' actions are aimed at searching for some separate militants and do not indicate the intensification of armed resistance in the region. This opinion was voiced by Sergey Goncharov, the president of the International Association of Veterans of the "Alpha" Anti-Terrorist Division, and Caucasus expert Mikhail Roschin. Human rights defenders Magomed Mutsolgov and Timur Akiev believe there are no active members of the armed underground in Ingushetia. It should be noted that the special operation launched on May 13 became the second one in the Sunzha District since March 4.

Pardon of sentenced oppositionists in Georgia

On May 15, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili signed a decree pardoning two sentenced leaders of opposition parties, namely Irakli Okruashvili, the founder of the "Victorious Georgia" Party, and Giorgi Ugulava, Secretary General of the "European Georgia" Party, the former Mayor of Tbilisi. Salome Zurabishvili explains the act of pardon does not mean that the oppositionists are acquitted: they remain in the status of the guilty persons, but are exempted from punishment. The release of political prisoners, including three opposition leaders – Irakli Okruashvili, Giorgi Ugulava, and Giorgi Rurua, an investor of the Georgian opposition "Mtavari Arkhi" TV Company – was one of the conditions in the agreement on changes to the system of parliamentary elections, achieved on March 8 at a meeting involving foreign diplomats and Georgian authorities. The decision of the Georgian President was the best option to meet the opposition's demands and to "keep the ruling party's front going," noted political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" while commenting on the pardon. The opposition is not satisfied with the Georgian President's decision. Oppositionists claim they will not support the changes to the electoral system in Georgia until Giorgi Rurua is pardoned.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 18, 2020 at 09:10 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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