17 May 2021, 12:48
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 10-16, 2021
Celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Southern Russia; release from prison of the opposition leader in Georgia; conflict on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan; dissolution of the Armenian parliament and appointment of early elections; beginning of the trial in the Akhra Avidzba’s case in Abkhazia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 10-16, 2021, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.
Celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Southern Russia
In Southern Russia, Muslims began celebrating the holiday of Eid al-Fitr on the same day, on May 13. In connection with the Muslim holiday, the authorities of Chechnya and Ingushetia announced three days off, from May 12 to 14, while the authorities of Dagestan announced two days off: May 13 and 14. In Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, and Adygea, one day off was announced for May 13. Meanwhile, residents of Grozny began to prepare for the holiday in advance. On May 11, women employed in public sector were given a day off so that they could prepare festive tables. However, many residents of the Chechen capital claimed they were short of money to arrange festive tables. In Kabardino-Balkaria, mass events on the Eid al-Fitr holiday were cancelled because of the coronavirus restrictions. The Muftiate recommended believers to celebrate Eid al-Fitr together with their families after the festive prayers. In Adygea, the celebration of Eid al-Fitr was held without strict restrictions this year: believers were only requested to wear masks and keep their distance during the holiday prayer in mosques.
Release from prison of opposition leader in Georgia
On May 10, Nika Meliya, the leader of the Georgian opposition “United National Movement” (UNM) Party, was released from prison where he was kept in connection with the charge of organizing, leading, and participating in group violence. The Tbilisi City Court pronounced a decision to release the politician on the bail of 40,000 laris (11,700 US dollars), which was paid by the European Union on May 8. After his release, Nika Meliya announced his intention to hold consultations with his party colleagues with regard to participation in the work of the parliament. On May 12, a Nika Meliya’s lawyer reported that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had accepted for consideration the opposition’s lawsuit, in which the politician complained about violations during his detention in February. It should be noted that Nika Meliya was released from prison shortly after the ruling “Georgian Dream” Party and opposition parties had signed an agreement on holding parliamentary elections and releasing political prisoners. After the agreement had been signed, oppositional MPs stopped a six-month boycott of the Georgian parliament.
Conflict on border between Armenia and Azerbaijan
On May 12, the Armenian side reported that Azerbaijani soldiers had advanced deep into the Syunik Region of Armenia and attempted to deploy armed forces in the Black Lake region. On the other day, Nikol Pashinyan, the acting chair of the government, reported that about 250 Azerbaijani soldiers stayed in the Syunik and Gegarkunik Regions of Armenia. Baku explained the situation on the border with Armenia by redeployment of the Azerbaijani armed forces. On May 14, Armenia sent an official appeal to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and Nikol Pashinyan requested military assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin. On May 15, at a meeting with the participation of the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent, representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan failed to solve the border conflict.
Azerbaijan takes advantage of the passivity of the Armenian side and makes attempts to deploy its armed forces at more advantageous positions, Armenian military experts suggest. According to them, armed conflicts in the Syunik Region will unlikely occur, since the Armenian side is trying to resolve the situation through diplomatic means. The Azerbaijani troops move on the border following the maps prepared by the USSR Ministry of Defence in the 1970s, Azerbaijani military expert Natiq Djafarli states. The experts on the Caucasus, interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot”, emphasize that the maps created in the USSR do not allow clearly establishing the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Black Lake region.
Dissolution of Armenian parliament and appointment of early elections
On May 10, the Armenian parliament again refused to appoint Nikol Pashinyan as the country’s prime minister, and in accordance with the Armenian Constitution, the voting was followed by the dissolution of the parliament. According to the agreements between the ruling faction and the opposition, MPs were to reject Nikol Pashinyan’s candidacy twice in order to launch the procedure for repeated parliamentary elections. After the dissolution of the parliament, Armenian President Armen Sarkisyan signed a decree to schedule the early elections to the country’s National Assembly for June 20. The start of the pre-election race in the parliamentary elections in Armenia will be given on June 7, and the pre-election campaign will last 12 days, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Armenia reported on May 11.
Beginning of trial in Akhra Avidzba’s case in Abkhazia
On May 12, the Gulrypsh District Court of Abkhazia held the first hearing in a criminal case against Akhra Avidzba, the former aide to the President of Abkhazia, and his bodyguards on illegal possession of weapons. The Court refused to transfer Akhra Avidzba under house arrest, despite the statements from the defence about his health problems, but agreed to the participation of a Russian advocate in the trial. Let us remind you that law enforcers detained Akhra Avidzba on March 4. The former aide to the President of Abkhazia declared a hunger strike with the demand to release him, but had to stop the protest because of his deteriorating health state. The State Security Service of Abkhazia claimed that Akhra Avidzba and his guards were plotting to participate in a coup d’etat. Abkhazian journalists saw political motives in the Akhra Avidzba’s case. They noticed that shortly before his detention, Akhra Avidzba found a common language with the opposition and announced the creation of a new political movement.
This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 17, 2021 at 09:39 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.