28 September 2020, 15:56

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 21-27, 2020

Hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone; coronavirus infection spread statistics in the Caucasus; major military exercise in Southern Russia and Southern Caucasus, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 21-27, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Hostilities in Karabakh conflict zone

On September 26, the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone escalated sharply. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Azerbaijan has announced the start of a counter-offensive operation. Earlier, the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh accused the Azerbaijani troops of shelling attacks on Stepanakert and border villages. According to the Baku's information, the attack by the Azerbaijani troops was a response to the opening of fire on Azerbaijani villages, which caused casualties among soldiers and civilians. Azerbaijan also announced the return of control over seven Karabakh villages. The Ministries of Defence of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia denied the Azerbaijan's statement, but later, Stepanakert acknowledged the loss of a number of positions in the Karabakh conflict zone.

The martial law and general mobilization have been announced in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. On September 27, the Armenian side reported about 16 killed and more than 100 wounded soldiers, while the Azerbaijani side reported about five killed and 19 wounded civilians.

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 27, in Armenia, the number of coronavirus-infected people reached 49,400, in Azerbaijan – 40,023, in Georgia – 5254, in Nagorno-Karabakh – 421, in Abkhazia – 1132, and in South Ossetia – 93. Armenia registered 951 deaths from COVID-19, Azerbaijan – 586, Georgia – 28, Abkhazia – 9, and Nagorno-Karabakh – 2.

The worst epidemiological situation is in Adjara. Amiran Gamkrelidze, the director of the National Centre for Disease Control, called the coronavirus outbreak an expected consequence of active domestic tourism.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is increasing in regions of Southern Russia, and by September 27, it reached 123,834. Over the past week, the Rostov Region, where 21,357 cases were registered, still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients. In the Stavropol Territory, 15,637 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in the Volgograd Region – 14,786, in the Krasnodar Territory – 13,694, in Dagestan – 13,182, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 7525, in the Astrakhan Region – 6955, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 6819, in Kalmykia – 6232, in North Ossetia – 5715, in Ingushetia – 5530, in Adygea – 3989, and in Chechnya – 2413.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased to 2324. During the week, according to the sad death toll statistics, Dagestan still leads in the region: the republic has already registered 597 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The republic is followed by the Rostov Region where 486 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered, and the Stavropol Territory with 310 COVID-19 deaths takes the third place in the sad death toll statistics. In the Krasnodar Territory, 272 patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection died, in the Volgograd Region – 141, in the Astrakhan Region – 105, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 91, in Ingushetia – 83, in Kalmykia – 71, in North Ossetia – 69, in Chechnya – 40, in Adygea – 31, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 28.

Major military exercise in Southern Russia and Southern Caucasus

On September 21, the Caucasus-2020 military exercise was launched in Southern Russia, Armenia, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. The exercise was joined by about 1000 soldiers and officers from Armenia, Belarus, China, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Iran. According to analysts, the Caucasus-2020 exercise takes place amid conflict between the invited countries. Besides, the analysts suggest that Azerbaijan and India would agree to take part in the Caucasus-2020 military exercise in case if Armenia, China, and Pakistan had not responded to the Russia's invitation. Military observers explain the Azerbaijan's refusal to take part the Caucasus-2020 military exercise by the July aggravation of the situation on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Baku suggests that by participating in the military exercise, Armenia promotes its interests, reminds of the conflict with Azerbaijan, and makes it clear that it has the right to count on the help of Russia as a military ally.

Escape of prisoners in Dagestan

On September 23, it was reported about an escape of six prisoners from the penal colony No. 2 near Makhachkala. Most of them were serving their long sentences. One prisoner was serving the 15-year sentence for murder, and two others were sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment for drug crimes. The prisoners dug a tunnel and escaped through it. Investigators instituted a criminal case under the article on negligence. Vladimir Vasiliev, the leader of Dagestan, called on the escapees to change their minds and come to confess.

Relocation of Uzbekistani citizens awaiting return home from Rostov Region to Volgograd Region

On September 24, citizens of Uzbekistan, who were staying in the regions of the Southern Federal District (SFD), including the Rostov Region, in the wait for returning home, were brought to the city of Volzhsky. In early September, in Rostov-on-Don, citizens of Uzbekistan set up a tent camp because of the impossibility to cross the borders closed in connection with the spread of the coronavirus infection. By September 8, the number of Uzbekistani citizens waiting for the return to their homeland reached about 3000. After the departure of the recent group, 715 people still remained in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky. According to the local authorities, the citizens of Uzbekistan will be transported to Volzhsky and then, on September 25, further to Tashkent by train. However, at least 100 citizens of Uzbekistan failed to buy train tickets. Migrants complain that they feel cold at night. They also note that they are running out of money for food, while speculators benefit from their situation and resell train tickets at higher prices.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on September 28, 2020 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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