18 January 2021, 16:55

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 11-17, 2021

Return of refugees, post-war victims, new agreement on the Karabakh conflict, and the human rights defenders' demand to investigate war crimes; coronavirus infection spread statistics in Caucasus; verdict in a case on attempted murder of a Chechen blogger in Sweden, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 11-17, 2021, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Return of refugees, post-war victims, new agreement on Karabakh conflict, and human rights defenders' demand to investigate war crimes

According to the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), by January 17, with the support of the Russian peacekeepers, over 49,000 refugees had returned to their homes in Karabakh. The Russian peacekeepers also help with the rebuilding of infrastructure facilities and demining of the conflict zone. On January 12, two accidents occurred at once. An Azerbaijani soldier was killed in a car explosion on a mine in the Gubadli District, and a resident of Karabakh was blown up by a mine during earth work excavation in the Martakert District. On January 13, an employee of the Azerbaijani road administration was injured after hitting an anti-tank mine with a bulldozer.

The total number of the bodies of deceased soldiers found by rescuers after the armistice had been signed reached 1235. On January 12, the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan released a list of 2841 soldiers killed in the Karabakh conflict zone.

According to human rights defenders from the "Amnesty International" (AI), the parties to the conflict committed war crimes as the conflict escalated in the autumn. The AI urges to bring those responsible to justice. Azerbaijan and Armenia used inaccurate weapons during shelling attacks on cities, towns, and villages, and as a result, dozens of civilians were killed.

On January 11, the negotiations took place in Moscow with the participation of the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia. The leaders agreed to create a joint working group to solve the problems of the economy and infrastructure of Karabakh. Ilham Aliev said that the Karabakh conflict went to the past, while Nikol Pashinyan mentioned the exchange of prisoners of war (POWs) between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the issue on the status of Karabakh among the problems requiring solution. Political analysts noted the benefits Ilham Aliev and Nikol Pashinyan got from negotiations with Vladimir Putin. The Azerbaijani President obtained the confirmation of his plans to resume railway communication with Nakhichevan, while the Armenian Prime Minister secured political support from Russia amid protests organized by the Armenian opposition.

Coronavirus infection spread statistics in Caucasus

Over the past week, Georgia still leads in Southern Caucasus in the number of coronavirus-infected patients, while Armenia leads in the COVID-19 death toll. By January 17, the number of coronavirus-infected people in Georgia reached 247,805, in Azerbaijan – 227,273, in Armenia – 164,586, in Abkhazia – 10,486, in Nagorno-Karabakh – 2031, and in South Ossetia – 2542. Azerbaijan has already registered 3009 deaths from COVID-19, Armenia– 2992, Georgia – 2933, Abkhazia – 152, Nagorno-Karabakh – 31, and South Ossetia – 61.

Over the past week, the Rostov Region, where 58,315 cases of infection were registered, still leads in Southern Russia in the number of coronavirus-infected patients. The Volgograd Region with 39,871 COVID-19 patients follows the Rostov Region. In the Stavropol Territory, 39,186 people were diagnosed with the coronavirus infection, in the Krasnodar Territory – 30,967, Dagestan – 26,156, the Astrakhan Region – 21,955, Kabardino-Balkaria – 17,495, Karachay-Cherkessia – 16,536, Kalmykia – 16,330, North Ossetia – 13,425, Ingushetia – 13,300, Adygea – 12,278, and Chechnya – 10,175.

Over the past week, the Rostov Region registered the highest COVID-19 death toll – 2334. In the Krasnodar Territory, 1200 patients diagnosed with the coronavirus infection died, in Dagestan – 1185, in the Stavropol Territory – 848, in the Volgograd Region – 540, in the Astrakhan Region – 459, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 294, in Kalmykia – 225, in Ingushetia – 153, in Adygea – 106, in North Ossetia – 105, in Chechnya – 101, and Karachay-Cherkessia – 45.

Mass poisoning by drinking water in Dagestani Buynaksk

By January 14, in Buynaksk, 90 patients, including 76 children, were hospitalized with signs of poisoning. On January 17, the Mayoralty reported that 303 people addressed doctors for help. According to the "Rospotrebnadzor" (Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare), the mass cases of poisoning were caused by poor-quality drinking water. City residents were warned that drinking water from taps was dangerous, and a water supply was organized for the people. The Buynaksk Mayoralty associated the poor water quality with dilapidated water supply pipelines.

Investigation into financial pyramid case in Kabardino-Balkaria

In Kabardino-Balkaria, an investment fraud with the "Smart Buyers" financial pyramid has been reported. Investors claim that they fell victim to a fraud involving local bloggers who advertised high-interest deposits. According to the police, the amount of damage exceeded 200 million roubles. According to a source, by January 15, the number of victims exceeded 1000 people. The affected investors have too little chances to return even part of their money, lawyers say. The victims trusted the advertising on quick earnings. Instagram users criticized the victims who invested in a typical financial pyramid for their naïve approach to the money.

Verdict in case on attempted murder of Chechen blogger in Sweden

On January 11, in Sweden, a court recognized Russian citizens Ruslan Mamaev and Elmira Shapiaeva as participants of an attack on Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov and sentenced them to ten and eight years of imprisonment, respectively. The court recognized the criticism of the Chechen authorities by the blogger as the motive for the crime, but the role of the republic's authorities was not investigated in detail. The blogger called on the Swedish authorities to respond to the mild, according to him, sentence to the participants of the assassination attempt. Tumso Abdurakhmanov requests the Swedish authorities to react to the attempt on him like the authorities of European countries reacted to the murder of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The coordinator of the assassination attempt on Tumso Abdurakhmanov is connected with close associates of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" reports.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on January 18, 2021 at 08:55 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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