14 September 2020, 14:59

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 7-13, 2020

Spread of the coronavirus infection in the Caucasus; public outcry around a video with Chechen native's self-humiliation for cooperation with a Telegram channel, nomination of Mikhail Saakashvili for the post of Georgian Prime Minister, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 7-13, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Coronavirus infection spread statistics in Caucasus

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 September 13, in Armenia, the number of coronavirus-infected people reached 45,862, in Azerbaijan – 38,327, in Georgia – 2227, in Nagorno-Karabakh – 335, in Abkhazia – 656, and in South Ossetia – 90. Armenia registered 916 deaths from COVID-19, Azerbaijan – 562, Georgia – 19, Abkhazia – 6, and Nagorno-Karabakh – 2.

Over the past week, in Southern Russia, the Rostov Region still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients, where 18,870 cases were registered. The Stavropol Territory, where 13,663 coronavirus-infected patients were detected, took the second place. The Volgograd Region with 13,375 coronavirus-infected patients found itself at the third place. In the Krasnodar Territory, 12,377 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in Dagestan – 12,008, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 6941, in the Astrakhan Region – 6263, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 5899, in Kalmykia – 5315, in North Ossetia – 5250, in Ingushetia – 4859, in Adygea – 3650, and in Chechnya – 341.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased to 2013. During the week, according to the sad death toll statistics, Dagestan still leads in the region: the republic has already registered 523 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The republic is followed by the Rostov Region where 400 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered, and the Stavropol Territory with 268 COVID-19 deaths stays at the third place in the sad death toll statistics. By 8:00 p.m. Moscow time on September 13, in the Krasnodar Territory, 220 patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection died, in the Volgograd Region – 125, in the Astrakhan Region – 87, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 82, in Ingushetia – 77, in North Ossetia – 68, in Kalmykia – 65, in Chechnya – 40, in Adygea– 30, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 28.

First elections in Southern Russia during coronavirus pandemic

On September 13, citizens of the Russian Federation, including in the southern regions, except for Kabardino-Balkaria, voted at the elections. The Krasnodar Territory and the Rostov Region were electing governors, while other regions were holding local elections.

The new specific feature of these elections was early voting amid the threat of the spread of the coronavirus infection. Meanwhile, violations were detected during the voting. For example, on September 11, cases of ballot stuffing, repeated voting, non-admission of observers to polling stations, and fraudulent voting at home were detected in Kuban, reported David Kankiya, a coordinator of the movement "Voice" in the Krasnodar Territory. Observers from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) reported that in the Dagestani city of Kizlyar, soldiers came to a polling station without the right to participate in the elections. In the Rostov Region, the Alexei Navalny's office claimed violations related to home voting. On September 13, in Anapa and Novorossiysk, observers reported about violations, including attempting to prevent their activities, campaigning, and ballot stuffing. In Sochi, there were reports about threats from people visiting polling stations.

Public outcry around video with Chechen native's self-humiliation for cooperation with Telegram channel criticizing authorities

In Chechnya and beyond, a public outcry was provoked by a video in which a naked man, who introduced himself as Salman Tepsurkaev, was sitting on a bottle. The young man claimed he was doing the above in punishment for his cooperation with the "1ADAT" Telegram channel, which criticized the authorities of Chechnya. Salman Tepsurkaev also said that he was "handed over" to the secret services and explained his self-humiliation by the threat of death. Authors of the "1ADAT" Telegram channel stated that their moderator was kidnapped by law enforcers. Salman Tepsurkaev was tortured for the poem "The Delimkhanov Family", written by an agent of Adam Delimkhanov, the very adviser to the leader of Chechnya, the editor-in-chief of the "1ADAT" Telegram channel reports.

Human rights defenders blamed the authorities of Chechnya for the incident. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Russian authorities to investigate the torture and rape.

Experts of adats (local customary practices observed by a Muslim community, – note of the "Caucasian Knot") did not find any excuses for the humiliation of Salman Tepsurkaev. Meanwhile, Ramzan Kadyrov and Magomed Daudov excused the violence used against the young man. The speaker of the Chechen parliament considered that correct to impose such a punishment for insulting women. The "Grozny" TV Channel made public a video appeal from the Salman Tepsurkaev's father, who said that he had disowned his son several years ago because of the young man's disobedience. Some Instagram users noted that the high-resonant story affected the image of all Chechen natives.

Problems of Uzbekistan's citizens gathered in Rostov Region

In Rostov-on-Don, citizens of Uzbekistan set up a tent camp, since the borders are closed because of the spread of the coronavirus infection. The migrants are waiting to be sent home. Residents of the Rostov Region expressed their concern over the forced neighbourhood with the Uzbekistan's citizens, who had to live in tents without sanitary facilities. The residents of Rostov-on-Don claimed the risk of infection spreading. By September 8, the number of the Uzbekistan's citizens waiting to be sent home reached about 3000. The tent camp provides acceptable living conditions, while people accommodated at a construction base are not provided with drinking water and sleeping places, and they are denied medical assistance, migrants complain.

Nomination of Giorgi Gakhariya and Mikhail Saakashvili for post of Georgian Prime Minister

In Georgia, the parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 31. The ruling "Georgian Dream" Party has nominated Giorgi Gakhariya, the chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, for the post of the Prime Minister. Former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili became a candidate from the "United National Movement" (UNM) Party and the "Strength in Unity" union of opposition parties. Political analysts argued about the chances of Mikhail Saakashvili and Giorgi Gakhariya at the elections. The "Georgian Dream" Party will win, because Giorgi Gakhariya has proved himself to be an excellent crisis manager during the epidemic, political analyst Vakhtang Maisaya believes. Nika Chitadze argues that the Giorgi Gakhariya's reputation is inferior to the Mikhail Saakashvili's status as a political leader. Meanwhile, the political analysts doubt the idea of the Mikhail Saakashvili's return to the power in Georgia. Even if the former Georgian President wins the election, he will not be able to take the post of the Prime Minister, because he has no Georgian citizenship, notes the NGO "New Generation for Democratic Georgia".

"Kinotavr" Film Festival in Sochi

The 31st "Kinotavr" Russian Film Festival was launched in Sochi on September 11. The festival programme includes films about the terror act at the Dubrovka Theatre and the shooting of workers in Novocherkassk. To attend the film screenings, a person should get accreditation. Residents of Sochi expressed their dissatisfaction with such a screening policy and treated it as disrespect for the city residents and tourists. The "Kinotavr" Film Festival is being held in a "business format," since the entertainment programme has been cancelled because of the pandemic, organizers report.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on September 14, 2020 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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