29 June 2020, 13:08

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 22-28, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; start of voting on amendments to the Constitution and related protests in Southern Russia; cities of Southern Russia hold Victory Parades without spectators; updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 22-28, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Spread of coronavirus infection in Caucasus

The number of coronavirus-infected people still increases in Southern Caucasus and the regions of Southern Russia.

Over the past week, Armenia still leads in Southern Caucasus in both the number of coronavirus-infected patients and the COVID-19 death toll. By the evening on June 28, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Armenia reached 24,645 (4377 new cases over the week, while a week earlier, the number was 20,268), in Azerbaijan – 16,424 (3695 new cases over the week), in Georgia – 924 (18 new cases over the week), in Nagorno-Karabakh – 118 (21 new cases over the week), in South Ossetia – 85 (2 new cases over the week), and in Abkhazia – 38 (no new cases over the week). By 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on June 28, Armenia registered 426 deaths from COVID-19, Azerbaijan – 198, Georgia – 15, and Abkhazia – 1.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia. While by the evening on June 21, it was reported about 52,372 coronavirus-infected patients in all the regions of Southern Russia, then by the evening on June 28, their total number reached 57,704 (5332 new cases over the week). Over the week, the Rostov Region still leads in the number of new cases per week, where 9420 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection. Dagestan still stays at the second place with 7707 coronavirus-infected patients. The Volgograd Region overtook Kuban and occupied the third place with 6135 coronavirus-infected patients. In the Krasnodar Territory, 5860 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in the Stavropol Territory – 4973, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 4905, in North Ossetia – 3960, in the Astrakhan Region – 3419, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 3379, in Ingushetia – 2995, in Adygea – 1795, in Chechnya – 1694, and in Kalmykia – 1462.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased: from 879 to 976 (97 new cases of death over the week). During the week, according to the sad death toll statistics, Dagestan still leads in the region: the republic has already registered 371 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Dagestan is followed by the Rostov Region where 117 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered, and the Stavropol Territory with 94 COVID-19 deaths stays at the third place in the sad death toll statistics. By 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on June 28, in the Krasnodar Territory, 74 patients with the diagnosis of the coronavirus infection died, in North Ossetia – 67, in Ingushetia – 67, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 52, in the Volgograd Region – 36, in the Astrakhan Region – 30, in Chechnya – 22, in Kalmykia – 22, in Adygea – 12, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 12.

Start of voting on amendments to Constitution and related protests in Southern Russia

On June 25, polling stations were opened throughout Russia, including in the southern regions, for the nationwide voting on amendments to the country's Constitution. The voting will be held until July, inclusive, and this day is the main voting day. In some regions, election commissions have already reported high voter turnout. So, according to the Election Commission for Kabardino-Balkaria, on the first day of the voting, the turnout in the republic reached more than 11 percent of the total number of voters. The Election Commission for Dagestan reported that over the first two days of the voting (June 25 and 26), about 20.67 percent of the total number of registered voters voted in the republic. The Election Commission for Chechnya made public an even higher figure of the voter turnout – 28.45%.

According to the interviews conducted by the "Caucasian Knot", many residents of Southern Russia expressed their willingness to take part in the voting. However, a lot of them oppose a constitutional amendment setting the presidential term to zero. Moreover, many residents doubt the accuracy of the voting outcome. Even before the start of the voting, there were reports from public sector employees from Kalmykia and the Krasnodar Territory who claimed coercion to voting. Residents of Krasnodar also complained about persistent agitation for early voting and attempts to force people to vote from home.

The adoption of the law on the constitutional amendments was accompanied by protest actions in the regions, including in Southern Russia. On June 22, Yeysk hosted a rally against the constitutional amendments, during which MP Alexander Korovainy and activist Yevgeny Bulgakov were detained. On the same day, in Sochi, pensioners Galina Lazorskaya and Lyubov Nikolaeva held pickets against the amendments to the Constitution of Russia. The police suggested that the women were conducting a joint unsanctioned rally and detained them. On June 27, members of the "Yabloko" Party held protest actions in ten cities of the Stavropol Territory at once. The protestors claim that the voting to amend the Constitution of Russia is illegal.

Cities of Southern Russia hold Victory Parades without spectators

On June 24, a number of cities in Russia, including in the southern regions, held parades in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in World War II. Stavropol was the only city in Southern Russia, where the number of spectators of the Victory Parade was not limited. In Novorossiysk, only war veterans were invited to watch the Victory Parade, and residents of the city found no sense in holding such an event without spectators. In Dagestan, the Victory Parade was held in Kaspiysk. Some residents of Dagestan criticized organizers for spending budget money on recreational activities during the pandemic, while others voiced criticism for the limit in the number of spectators. Meanwhile, a number of cities in Southern Russia refused to hold Victory Parades on June 24 because of the situation with the spread of the coronavirus infection. So, the authorities of Pyatigorsk, Nalchik, and Krasnodar announced holding no Victory Parades on June 24.

Updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan

On June 23, the "Union for the Freedom of Political Prisoners of Azerbaijan" (UFPPA) released an updated list of political prisoners. The list includes the names of 158 people, including eight journalists, ten political activists, and 51 believers. According to Leyla Yunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD), an author of the updated list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, the country's authorities turned the problem of political prisoners into a bargain with the West: they release some activists from prisons and immediately imprison others. It should be noted that the previous version of the list of political prisoners was made public by the UFPPA on May 13. The list then included the names of 155 people. Meanwhile, it should be noted that the Azerbaijan's authorities deny the presence of political prisoners in the country.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on June 29, 2020 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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