16 November 2020, 15:37

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 9-15, 2020

End of the hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone; deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh and departure of local residents to Armenia; protests in Yerevan demanding resignation of Prime Minister; start of negotiations between the authorities and the opposition in Georgia, dissatisfied with the election results; death of a sentenced Rostov journalist in a penal colony, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of November 9-15, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

End of hostilities in Karabakh conflict zone

At the beginning of the week, the hostilities were still ongoing in the Karabakh conflict zone. On November 9, Azerbaijan reported on the taking under its control 72 villages in the conflict zone and also released a video from Shushi, confirming the seizure of the city. On the same day, a Mi-24 helicopter accompanying a motor convoy of the Russian military base was shot down in Armenia near the border with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic. Two crew members of the downed helicopter died as a result of a crash, and the third crew member was evacuated with injuries. The Russian military helicopter was shot down by mistake, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Azerbaijan reported. Baku apologized to the Russian side. After midnight, it became known that Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia had signed a ceasefire agreement on the Karabakh conflict zone, which entered into force at 0:00 a.m. Moscow time on November 10. The parties agreed to stop at their positions. The truce agreement also provides for the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the region, as well as for the return of the Agdam, Kelbajar, and Lachin Districts to Azerbaijan.

Deployment of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh and departure of local residents to Armenia

After the parties to the Karabakh conflict signed the ceasefire agreement, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) began deploying the peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian peacekeepers arranged nine observer posts in the southern and northern zones of responsibility in Nagorno-Karabakh, and seven temporary observer posts were also set up in the Lachin corridor, the Russian MoD reported on November 15. It was noted that over just two days, the peacekeepers escorted 28 buses with 725 passengers from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh through the Lachin corridor. The Armenian population began to leave for Armenia en masse also along the Martakert-Karvachar-Vardenis motorway, which, as originally planned, was to be closed on November 15. On November 13, Nagorno-Karabakh President Araik Arutyunyan announced that the Martakert-Karvachar-Vardenis motorway would not be closed on November 15. The Azerbaijani authorities confirmed the information and announced that they agreed to extend the operation of the above motorway until November 25 in connections with its insufficient capacity.

Azerbaijan has not clarified what will happen to the population living in the territories transferred under its control, so residents of Nagorno-Karabakh reasonably fear of ethnic cleansing, and Armenia, where most of Karabakh residents leave, will not be able to accept and provide housing for all migrants, Russian experts have told the "Caucasian Knot".

Protests in Yerevan demanding resignation of Prime Minister who signed truce agreement with Azerbaijan

At night on November 10, residents of Yerevan, dissatisfied with the conclusion of the peace agreement with Azerbaijan, broke into the building of the Armenian government and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. They also broke into the parliament building, attacked Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, and beat him. On November 11, the residents of Yerevan, dissatisfied with the content of the peace agreement, again went to a rally and demanded the resignation of the Cabinet of Ministers. The police detained 129 activists, including Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of the "Prosperous Armenia" Party, and other opposition leaders. On November 12, another protest action with the demand of the Nikol Pashinyan's resignation was organized by supporters of the movement "Sasna Tsrer" (Daredevils of Sassoun), and its participants were dispersed.

Gagik Tsarukyan, the leader of the "Prosperous Armenia" Party, and 11 other oppositionists are suspected of disclosing state secrets and organizing a rally while the martial law was in force, the National Security Service of Armenia reported on November 12. The number of the suspects also includes Arthur Vanetsyan, the leader of the "Fatherland" Party, who was detained in connection with an attempt of unlawful seizure of power and preparation for the assassination of Nikol Pashinyan.

Start of negotiations between authorities and opposition in Georgia, dissatisfied with election results

Throughout the past week, in Georgia, the opposition was protesting against the results of the parliamentary elections announced by the Central Election Commission (CEC) on October 31. At night on November 9, the rally in Tbilisi gathered about 10,000 people. During the rally held in front of the CEC building, the police used water cannons and tear gas against the protesters. 10 protesters, 14 law enforcers, and three journalists were injured. On November 14, the opposition held a rally in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi and announced new protest actions.

Meanwhile, on November 12, members of the ruling "Georgian Dream-Democratic Movement" Party and the opposition parties that managed to get over the electoral barrier at the elections, began negotiations. Political analysts called the negotiations a concession from the authorities. The experts note that the very negotiation process can be delayed.

Death of sentenced Rostov journalist in penal colony

Aleksandr Tolmachev, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Upolnomochen Zayavit" and the magazine "Pro Rostov", died a month before his release from the penal colony, his advocate Aleksandra Izucheeva reported on November 10. Aleksandr Tolmachev was infected with the coronavirus, but that fact did not become a reason for his release on conditional early relief (CER), the advocate noted. Aleksandra Izucheeva believes that the journalist "was helped to die." Let us remind you that Aleksandr Tolmachev was detained in 2011, and in 2014, he was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment on the charge of extorting money from businessmen, who claimed that the journalist had promised not to make incriminating information public for some fee. Earlier, Aleksandr Tolmachev had been sentenced in cases on defamation, but in June 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declared those sentences wrongful and obliged the Russian authorities to pay the journalist 27,450 euros in compensation for moral and material damage. After the journalist's death, his relatives reported that they had not received any compensation for the sentences recognized by the ECtHR as wrongful.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on November 16, 2020 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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