28 December 2020, 15:38

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

Return of refugees, help for people who lost their homes, and search for dead bodies in the Karabakh conflict zone; detention of suspected terrorists in Dagestan and meeting of the region leader with the parents of the killed Gasanguseinov brothers; protest actions with the demand of the Armenian Prime Minister's resignation; approval of the Georgian government composition amid the protests, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 21-27, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Return of refugees, help for people who lost their homes, and search for dead bodies in Karabakh conflict zone

Refugees continued to return to their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), by December 27, with the support of Russian peacekeepers, more than 45,000 refugees returned to Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russian peacekeepers also continue to assist in rebuilding infrastructure in Nagorno-Karabakh. More than 20 kilometres of power lines and 42 pylons have already been repaired, reports Colonel Dmitry Perepyolkin, the deputy head of the Centre for the Russian Peacekeeping Contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to him, "the necessary conditions for living in 60 villages and towns have been created."

On December 23, at the press conference in Stepanakert, Artak Beglaryan, the former Ombudsman of Nagorno-Karabakh, reported that 40,000 residents of Nagorno-Karabakh lost their homes as a result of the hostilities and the signing of the armistice agreement. Starting from December 24, the authorities began to pay a one-off social assistance of 300,000 drams (over 600 USD) for each family member of the families who lost their shelters. Residents of Nagorno-Karabakh considered the above assistance insufficient.

In the zone of the hostilities, a search for dead bodies is underway. In total, the number of the bodies of soldiers found by Karabakh rescuers after the signing of the peace agreement reached 1069, the Nagorno-Karabakh Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) reported on December 24.

Detention of suspected terrorists in Dagestan and meeting of region leader with parents of killed Gasanguseinov brothers

The Russian FSB reports that on December 25, law enforcers detained four members of a unit of the "Islamic State" (IS, a terrorist organization, banned in Russia by the court, – note of the "Caucasian Knot"), who were planning to activate a bomb in Makhachkala. According to the FSB, during a search at the detainees' residence places, law enforcers discovered weapons, an improvised explosive device (IED), and ammunition. Moreover, mobile phones of the suspects contained correspondence with their foreign coordinators. A video of a special operation conducted by the law enforcers was posted on the Internet, and its footage showed the detention of the suspected terrorists, as well as discovered weapons and an IED. The detained suspected terrorists were from 25 to 28 years old, and they did not have any clear plan for a terror act, but they intended to attack the police and then commit suicide, a source from the Dagestani law enforcement bodies reported.

On December 25, Sergey Melikov, the acting leader of Dagestan, met Murtazali Gasanguseinov and his spouse Patimat Gasanguseinova and offered them material support. Let us remind you that Murtazali Gasanguseinov, the father of the killed shepherds, held numerous protest actions and succeeded in seeking an institution of a criminal case on the killing of his sons – 17-year-old Nabi and 19-year-old and Gasangusein – during a special operation conducted in August 2016. The law enforcement bodies declared the killed shepherds as militants, but the parents and their fellow villagers insist that the young men were shepherds and that they were simply grazing sheep in the mountains. The result of a series of pickets held in November 2019 was a disciplinary action against the chief of the police department, who reported the killing of the brothers as two militants: the law enforcer continues to work for the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), but was demoted to a district police inspector. Murtazali Gasanguseinov requests to institute a new criminal case against the above-mentioned law enforcer. However, he has already been refused four times. During the meeting with the acting leader of Dagestan, Murtazali Gasanguseinov thanked Sergey Melikov and noted that he failed to get an appointment with the two former leaders of the republic. While commenting on the news on Instagram, users have noted that the promises of the acting leader of Dagestan to support Murtazali Gasanguseinov and his spouse Patimat Gasanguseinova are not enough and that the authorities are to launch an investigation so that the persons responsible for the deaths of the Gasanguseinov sons are found and prosecuted.

Protest actions with demand of Armenian Prime Minister's resignation

On December 22, a round-the-clock protest action began in front of the Armenian government building with the demand of the Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's resignation. Protesters set up a tent city on Republic Square in Yerevan. During the round-the-clock protest on Republic Square in Yerevan, the police detained activists who were trying to blockade the government building, throwing snowballs at government cars, and preventing them from leaving the territory. On December 24, 94 people were detained, while the protesters called the actions of the police particularly harsh. On December 25, Nikol Pashinyan proposed to the parliament to hold early elections in 2021 to test the level of confidence in the current authorities. The Prime Minister voiced such a proposal in order to maintain his power, suggest Armenian political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot".

Approval of Georgian government composition amid protests

On December 24, without the participation of the opposition, MPs from the "Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia" Party reappointed Giorgi Gakhariya as Prime Minister and approved the previous composition of the Cabinet of Ministers, with the exception of the Justice Minister. Let us remind you that the candidacy of Giorgi Gakhariya, the current chair of the Georgian Cabinet of Ministers, was presented for approval by the Georgian parliament as Prime Minister on December 14. The vote of confidence in Giorgi Gakhariya was considered only by the MPs from the ruling party. On December 11, the opposition did not recognize the results of the voting at the parliamentary elections on October 31 and November 21 and refused to participate in the activities of the Georgian parliament. While the parliament was holding a plenary session, opposition activists organized a protest action in front of the legislative body. Several activists set up four tents and claimed that their protest actions would be round-the-clock.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on December 28, 2020 at 09:17 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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