26 October 2020, 15:40

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 19-25, 2020

Hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone; resumption of sending Azerbaijani citizens home from a camp near the Kullar village; killing of well-known Chechen surgeon Salakh Dagaev, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 19-25, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Hostilities in Karabakh conflict zone

Over the past week, the hostilities that began on September 27 in the Karabakh conflict zone continued. On October 23, the number of villages, towns, and cities, the restoration of control over which Azerbaijan announced, reached 132. On October 25, President Ilham Aliev reported that the Azerbaijani troops had occupied the city of Gubadly (the Armenian name for the city is Sanasar) and a number of villages in the Zangilan, Djebrail, and Gubadly Districts. Meanwhile, Armenia refuted the information about the loss of Djebrail and Hadrut. Russian experts suggest that the contradictions in the statements of the parties to the conflict are a part of the information war.

During the week, the parties to the conflict reported not only about intense fighting, but also about missile attacks on villages, towns, and cities. On October 24, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Armenia stated that about 90,000 residents of Nagorno-Karabakh became refugees. As of October 25, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Karabakh, 974 soldiers were killed. Moreover, 37 civilians were killed and 118 others were injured. On October 24, the General Prosecutor's Office of Azerbaijan reported that 65 civilians had been killed and 298 others had been wounded as a result of shelling attacks. On October 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that each of the parties to the conflict – Armenia and Azerbaijan – had lost about 2000 people in the fighting.

The parties to the conflict agreed on a new truce starting from October 26. Earlier, the parties have already twice, on October 10 and 17, announced a truce, but the fighting and shelling attacks on villages, towns, and cities continued.

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. On October 25, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Armenia reached 77,837, in Azerbaijan – 49,959, in Georgia – 28,431, in Abkhazia – 3739, in Nagorno-Karabakh – 421, and in South Ossetia – 481. Armenia registered 1180 deaths from COVID-19, Azerbaijan – 671, Georgia – 201, Abkhazia – 35, Nagorno-Karabakh – 2, and South Ossetia – 2.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia. Over the past week, the Rostov Region, where 28,746 cases were registered, still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients. In the Stavropol Territory, 20,136 patients were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in the Volgograd Region – 19,133, in the Krasnodar Territory – 16,603, in Dagestan – 15,537, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 9564, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 9084, in the Astrakhan Region – 8846, in Kalmykia – 8514, in Ingushetia – 6992, in North Ossetia – 6862, in Adygea – 5346, and in Chechnya – 2577.

Over the week, according to the sad death toll statistics, Dagestan still leads in the region: the republic has already registered 762 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The republic is followed by the Rostov Region where 745 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered, and the Stavropol Territory with 404 COVID-19 deaths takes the third place in the sad death toll statistics. In the Krasnodar Territory, 385 patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection died, in the Volgograd Region – 191, in the Astrakhan Region – 154, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 127, in Ingushetia – 94, in Kalmykia – 93, in North Ossetia – 70, in Chechnya – 45, in Adygea – 45, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 30.

Hostage-taking in Georgia

On October 21, in the city of Zugdidi, an armed man broke into a branch of the Bank of Georgia and took 43 people hostage. A bank employee who managed to escape said that the robber shot several times. In exchange for the release of most of the hostages, the police provided the criminal with a car and 500,000 US dollars. The robber with three hostages in a car left towards Abkhazia. Then he set the hostages free and fled. If the criminal is caught, he will be immediately extradited to Georgia, assures Sergey Shamba, the chairman of the Security Council of Abkhazia. On October 25, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Georgia reported that investigators had identified the criminal.

According to Vakhtang Gomelauri, Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs, the attacker was paid the required amount, since human lives "are a priority." Such statements can trigger a wave of hostage-taking, security experts warn.

Completion of investigation into Dagestani journalist Gadjiev's case

According to the investigators' version, Abdulmumin Gadjiev, a journalist of the Dagestani newspaper "Chernovik" (Draft), and his alleged accomplices raised 68 million roubles and 200,000 US dollars for terrorists. Abdulmumin Gadjiev, Kemal Tambiev, and Abubakar Rizvanov were accused of participating in a terrorist organization and financing terrorism. The investigators suggest that the suspects misled donors of foundations by claiming that they were raising money to help orphans, seriously ill people, and refugees in Syria and to build a mosque. According to the investigators' version, in his articles, Abdulmumin Gadjiev was allegedly calling on people to make donations to the above foundations and "was trying to influence the consciousness of people to involve them in a terrorist organization." The colleagues of Abdulmumin Gadjiev consider his criminal prosecution as the pressure on the newspaper "Chernovik".

Resumption of sending Azerbaijani citizens home from camp near Kullar village

On October 20, 206 residents of Azerbaijan were sent home from a camp near the Dagestani village of Kullar. This is the first cross-border flight after the outbreak of the hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone. Let us remind you that a temporary accommodation centre (TAC) was opened near the Kullar village for the citizens of Azerbaijan who had failed to get home because of the closure of the state borders in connection with the spread of the coronavirus infection. The citizens of Azerbaijan staying in the camp were being sent home in groups every week. The cold weather complicated the living conditions in the camp.

Killing of well-known Chechen surgeon Salakh Dagaev

Social networks disseminated the information about the death of surgeon Salakh Dagaev in Chechnya. According to reports, he performed an unsuccessful surgery, and his female patient, a relative of an associate of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, died. According to the 1Adat Telegram Channel, after the patient had died, the surgeon was kidnapped and beaten to death. The information about the brutal murder of Salakh Dagaev points to the lawlessness in Chechnya, Internet users write in their comments. The incident became an indicator of the atmosphere of fear in the region, where it is risky for doctors to perform complex surgeries, human rights defenders note.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on October 26, 2020 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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