30 November 2020, 15:24

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 23-29, 2020

Return of refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh; demining of territories in the Karabakh conflict zone; coronavirus infection spread statistics in Caucasus; attempt by the Armenian opposition to create conditions for declaring no confidence in Prime Minister Pashinyan; arrest of a top-ranking police officer from Dagestan in a case on a terror act in Moscow, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of November 23-29, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Return of refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh

Throughout the past week, refugees continued to return to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), by November 28, during two weeks, Russian peacekeepers accompanied 23,500 refugees returning to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia after the ceasefire in the Karabakh conflict zone, which had been announced on November 10. More than half of the residents – about 30,000 people – returned to the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh after the announcement of the armistice, reported Stepanakert City Mayor David Sargsyan on November 27. Refugees from the territories of the unrecognized republic that came under the control of Azerbaijan also arrive in Stepanakert. The local authorities rent housing for refugees. On November 27, in Stepanakert, one of the schools was re-opened, while on November 26, the operation of public transport and electricity and water supply were resumed.

Meanwhile, residents of Nagorno-Karabakh have problems with the Internet access. The heads of the administrations of Stepanakert and the Martakert District associate the above problems with the loss of Karvachar, through which territory a fibre-optic cable passed. On November 26, residents of Stepanakert complained about a very weak mobile phone signals and said they could hardly use the mobile Internet. Against the background of communication problems for the Karabakh people in Shusha, which came under the control of Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani 4G base stations were installed. The "Azercell Telecom" Company announced the installation of 4G base stations in all territories that came under the control of Baku.

Demining of territories in Karabakh conflict zone

On November 28, four Azerbaijani citizens were killed in an explosion of an anti-tank mine in the village of Ashagy Seidakhmedli, earlier located in the Hadrut District of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. On November 23, an Azerbaijani soldier was killed in a mine explosion near the village of Madagiz, and a Russian peacekeeper and four rescuers from the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) of Nagorno-Karabakh were injured. The incident occurred while they were searching for bodies of the soldiers killed in the conflict zone. To prevent such incidents, Russian combat engineers are engaged in works to demine the territory. During demining in Nagorno-Karabakh, 24.67 hectares of territory, 8.2 km of roads, 83 households, and three socially significant facilities were cleared, while 766 explosive items were discovered and neutralized, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported on November 29.

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. Georgia again became the leader in the growth of the number of infection cases over the past week. By the evening of November 29, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Armenia reached 134,768 (8544 new cases over the week), in Azerbaijan – 118,195 (25,101 new cases over the week), in Georgia – 132,368 (27,636 new cases over the week), in Abkhazia – 5883 (503 new cases over the week), in Nagorno-Karabakh – 421 (no new cases over the week), and in South Ossetia – 1838 (70 new cases over the week). As of 8:00 p.m. on November 29, Armenia registered 2142 deaths from COVID-19, Azerbaijan – 1361, Georgia – 1230, Abkhazia – 81, Nagorno-Karabakh – 2, and South Ossetia – 33.

The number of coronavirus-infected patients is also increasing in regions of Southern Russia. While by the evening on November 22, 191,055 cases were registered in all southern regions of the country, then by the evening on November 29, the total number of patients infected with COVID-19 amounted to 215,654 (24,599 new cases over the week). Over the past week, the Rostov Region, where 39,673 cases were registered, still leads in the number of coronavirus-infected patients. The Rostov Region is followed by the Stavropol Territory where 27,488 COVID-19 patients have been already registered. In the Volgograd Region, 26,924 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, while in the Krasnodar Territory – 21,923, in Dagestan – 18,872, in the Astrakhan Region – 13,561, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 12,620, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 12,130, in Kalmykia – 11,569, in Ingushetia – 9393, in North Ossetia – 9288, in Adygea – 7951, and in Chechnya – 4262.

Over the week, the coronavirus death toll also increased: from 4281 to 4653 (372 new cases over the week). According to the sad death toll statistics, the Rostov Region still leads among the regions of Southern Russia: the region has already registered 1311 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The Rostov Region is followed by Dagestan where 943 COVID-19 deaths have been already registered, and the Krasnodar Territory with 593 COVID-19 deaths takes the third place in the sad death toll statistics. As of 8:00 p.m. on November 29, in the Stavropol Territory, 545 patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection died, in the Volgograd Region – 305, in the Astrakhan Region – 254, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 210, in Kalmykia – 140, in Ingushetia – 111, in North Ossetia – 76, in Chechnya – 66, in Adygea – 65, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 34.

Attempt by Armenian opposition to create conditions for declaring no confidence in Prime Minister Pashinyan

On November 26, by 56 votes against 36, the Armenian parliament rejected the opposition's initiative to lift the martial law regime. In the course of the parliamentary meeting, Shaki Isayan, an MP from the "Prosperous Armenia" Party, stated that in case of the abolition of the martial law regime, the next step should be the impeachment procedure against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The ruling "My Step" faction opposed the initiative to lift the martial law. The abolition of the martial law regime will create additional security threats, the spokesperson for the Armenian Ministry of Defence (MoD) claims.

Arrest of top-ranking police officer from Dagestan in case on terror act in Moscow

On November 23, the Basmanny Court of Moscow arrested Police Colonel Gazi Isaev, the chief of the ROVD (District Interior Division) for the Kizlyar District in Dagestan of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). Gazi Isaev is charged under articles on participation in a criminal community with the use of official power, on banditry, and on terrorism. According to the investigators' information, Gazi Isaev joined the "Imarat Kavkaz", a terrorist organization, banned in Russia by the court and used his official position to provide information about law enforcers to militants, and in 2010, he helped a female suicide bomber get to Moscow and commit an explosion in the Moscow metro. The defence appealed against the arrest of Gazi Isaev. According to his advocate, the arrestee does not receive the necessary medicines in a SIZO (pre-trial prison). The advocate treats the warders' refusal to take medicines for Gazi Isaev from his relatives as an attempt to put pressure on the defendant. Colleagues of Gazi Isaev stood up for him and stated that the militants had attempted to kill him in revenge for his fight against terrorism. On November 26, police officers of the Kizlyar ROVD held a protest action with the demand to release their chief.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on November 30, 2020 at 09:16 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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