24 May 2021, 18:59

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 17-23, 2021

The ongoing border conflict in the Syunik Region; Ramzan Kadyrov’s threats against a social media user and the subsequent apologies; new strikes and the interethnic conflict in Georgia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 17-23, 2021, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Ongoing border conflict in Syunik Region

Armenia and Azerbaijan continued negotiations that they began on May 15 after a border conflict in the Syunik Region. On May 20, Nikol Pashinyan, the acting Prime Minister of Armenia, reported that 500-600 Azerbaijani soldiers still stay in the country. He also announced his intention to sign an agreement with Azerbaijan, but did not disclose the content of the document. Despite the opposition’s indignation, the Armenian parliament allowed Nikol Pashinyan to sign an agreement with Azerbaijan. That fact provoked new protests in Yerevan. Activists called on residents of the country to unite in order to prevent the signing of a border agreement with Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, a new incident occurred on the border. On May 20, on connection with the approach of the Azerbaijani armed forces, women and children were evacuated from the Armenian village of Khoznavar. A fight broke out between soldiers near the village, in which eleven Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers were injured.

It should be noted that the conflict in the Syunik Region provoked a wide public outcry abroad. French President Emmanuel Macron called on Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops from the border region of Armenia. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan called on Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliev to hold talks, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to create a commission to determine the border and assured that Moscow was ready to act as a mediator.

Deaths of workers at sewage disposal plant near Taganrog

On May 21, eleven workers died and eight others were injured as a result of poisoning at a sewage disposal plant in the village of Dmitriadovka in the Neklinovsky District of the Rostov Region. The preliminary cause of the tragedy was identified as a methane breakthrough. According to sources, “Vodokanal” employees were cleaning a collector. One of the employees accidentally opened a valve and released methane. The employees who were working below lost consciousness after inhaling methane.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s threats against a social media user and subsequent apologies

On May 17, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov threatened to “destroy” a social media user for posting on Instagram a comment reading: “You are not a human being, you are just a shaitan (demon).” Ramzan Kadyrov’s statements fall under the murder threat clause, human rights defenders note. On May 19, a video was posted on the Internet with the apologies voiced by a father and other relatives of the social media user who left the comment in question (a 15-year-old teenager, a native of Dagestan, living in the Moscow Region). Instagram users considered those apologies forced. The apologies for an offensive comment about Ramzan Kadyrov could be voiced by random people, since the leader of Chechnya needed the apologies to demonstrate his force, human rights defenders suggested.

New strikes and interethnic conflict in Georgia

On May 17, in Georgia, about 400 workers of “Borjomi” bottling plants went on strike. They demand better working conditions and higher wages. The administration of the “Borjomi” plants claimed that the wages of the striking employees were maintained despite the pandemic and that the strike was organized by trade unions to sabotage. Miners, metallurgists, drivers, and metro machinists expressed their solidarity with the strikers and threatened with large-scale actions if the demands of the strike participants were not met. On May 20, about 70 employees of the “Nabeglavi” mineral water bottling plant went on strike with the demand of better working conditions and higher wages. Those strikes are not the only ones declared in Georgia recently. On May 16, employees of the “Glovo” delivery company demanded to restore the bonus payment system, and miners from the “Georgian Manganese” Company went on strike from April 23 to 28. They got a 25% wage rise.

On May 16 and 17, in the town of Dmanisi in the Georgian region of Kvemo Kartli, mass fights occurred between ethnic Azerbaijanis and migrants from Svaneti. On May 18, residents of Dmanisi announced that they had reconciled among themselves and the causes of the conflict had been eliminated. The conflict was provoked by a domestic reason and ended in reconciliation after a visit of top-ranking law enforcers. Andria Jagmaidze, the spokesperson for the Georgian Patriarchate, called Dmanisi a region with an unfavourable ethnic balance, which drew criticism from human rights defenders. Due to the omissions in the ethnic policies in Georgia, members of different communities exist separately from each other and in case of conflicts, with the connivance of local authorities, they cross the line of what is permissible, analysts note. According to them, the aggravation of the confrontation in Dmanisi has been triggered by economic problems.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 24, 2021 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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