25 May 2020, 14:45

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 18-24, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; celebration of Eid al-Fitr amid the pandemic; unofficial information about the Ramzan Kadyrov's illness, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 18-24, 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 24, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Georgia reached 730, in Azerbaijan – 4122 patients, in Armenia – 6661, in Abkhazia – 28, in Nagorno-Karabakh – 33, and in South Ossetia – 37. The COVID-19 death toll is also growing. Armenia registered 81 deaths, Azerbaijan – 49, Georgia – 12, and Abkhazia – 1. Thus, Armenia leads in both the number of coronavirus-infected patients and the COVID-19 death toll.

On May 23, Georgia decided not to extend the state of emergency and lifted the curfew. Some quarantine restrictions remained in effect, including the obligation to wear masks and to keep social distancing. The state of emergency is still in force in Armenia, but the operation of public transport was started on May 18. Starting from May 18, Azerbaijan launched a new stage in the mitigation of the quarantine measures: the ban on leaving home for people over 65 years old was lifted, and parks and museums were opened.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia. On May 24, the total number reached 26,409. Dagestan still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients, where 4095 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection. The COVID-19 death toll per week also increased: from 217 to 317. Over the week, the leader in the above statistics has changed: Ingushetia was replaced by Dagestan, where already 84 deaths had been registered.

Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that Dagestan had not enough systems for testing for the coronavirus infection. The Russian President promised to provide assistance to the republic. On May 23, the Ministry for Public Health of Dagestan announced that medicines had already been sent from Moscow to the republic. Soldiers and officers also arrived in Dagestan to help combat COVID-19. The federal troops will arrange places for medical centres in Khasavyurt, Kaspiysk, and Derbent.

Celebration of Eid al-Fitr amid pandemic

On May 24, Muslims of the countries of Southern Caucasus and the regions of Southern Russia began celebrating the holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Residents of Azerbaijan met Eid al-Fitr without festive namaz (prayer) in mosques and visits to relatives and friends, but they went to cemeteries to pay tribute to their dead relatives. The cemeteries were crowded, residents of Baku reported. In Georgia, prayers and sermons were held in mosques of Tbilisi and Batumi. In mosques, administrations watched that believers were to keep social distancing, officials from the Muftiate reported.

In Southern Russia, where Muslims refused collective prayers during Ramadan because of the spread of the coronavirus infection, visits to mosques were restricted. In Adygea, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kuban, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, and the Stavropol Territory, religious leaders urged believers to celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Fitr at home. In Ingushetia, because of the rejection of the collective celebrations, adults decided not to cook delicious dishes, but prepared sweets for children, local residents reported. In Kabardino-Balkaria, residents also listened to the recommendations of the Muftiate and refrained from visiting their relatives on the Eid al-Fitr holiday, but contacted them by phone to voice their best wishes on the occasion of the holiday.

Unofficial information about Ramzan Kadyrov's illness

On May 21, a source reported that the leader of Chechnya was placed under medical supervision because of the suspected coronavirus infection. Magomed Daudov, the speaker of the Chechen parliament, reported that Ramzan Kadyrov was in good health. Meanwhile, State Duma member Adam Delimkhanov said he was praying for Ramzan Kadyrov's recovery. On May 23, a video appeared on social networks in which a man with a voice, similar to the one of Ramzan Kadyrov, congratulated believers on the occasion of the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Ramzan Kadyrov did not appear in the video, but recorded only an audio message, noted Instagram users and residents of Chechnya. They suggest it is possible that Ramzan Kadyrov is actually sick. It should be noted that prior to the above video, Kadyrov's speech was broadcasted in the news released on May 15, when the leader of Chechnya held a meeting of the operational headquarters to combat the coronavirus infection.

CTO in Dagestan

On May 22, a counterterrorist operation (CTO) took place in the Khasavyurt District of Dagestan. A shootout occurred in a forest between the villages of Goksuv and Mutsalaul. As a result of the shootout, six suspects were killed and a law enforcer was wounded. The killed suspects were involved in the "Islamic State" (IS), a terrorist organization, banned in Russia by the court, and they were plotting terror acts, the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) reported. Out of the six killed suspects, five were identified as natives of the Endirei village, aged 19 to 23 years. Suspected militants were the rest members of the "Endirei" militant grouping, a source reported. It should be noted that on May 14, the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) announced a search for five natives of the Dagestani village of Endirei, who were allegedly plotting attacks on law enforcers. The suspects killed during the CTO in Dagestan recently returned to their native village from Moscow, where they went to work, the source reported. The law enforcement bodies must provide evidence of the killed suspects' involvement in militant groupings, Instagram users note. In their comments, the social network users also mentioned the killing of Dagestani shepherds Gasanguseinov in 2016.

Online actions in memory of victims of Caucasian War

On May 21, at the initiative of Circassian activists from Kabardino-Balkaria, users of social networks held a flash mob to pay tribute to the memory of victims of the Caucasian War. On their pages in Facebook and Instagram, users posted photos with their left hands raised. The organizers of the online flash mob explain that the Circassians have a tradition to raise their left hands in a sign of grief and solidarity with someone's loss. On May 21, Circassian activists usually hold rallies and horse processions. This year, the memorial actions were held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Activists posted thematic videos on the social networks and called on residents of Kabardino-Balkaria and other regions of Northern Caucasus to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the Caucasian War at home. For Circassians, the problems of repatriation, cultural integration, and preservation of the native language are relevant, believe philologist Madina Khakuasheva, Ramazan Tlemeshok, the chairman of the "Adyge Khase" in Adygea, and Abubekir Murzakanov, the leader of the "Adyge Kheku Circassia".

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 25, 2020 at 08:12 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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