13 December 2021, 14:20

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 6-12, 2021

Support by MPs in the regions of Southern Russia of a bill on QR codes amid protests; armed incidents near the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan; resonance from the Sokurov’s statements on the problems of Northern Caucasus; Geneva Discussions on the situation in Southern Caucasus; revocation of parliamentary powers of an activist in Yeisk, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 6-12, 2021, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Support by MPs in regions of Southern Russia of a bill on QR codes amid protests

Over the past week, the parliaments of more regions have approved a federal bill on the use of digital passes in public places, confirming the fact of vaccination against COVID-19 or recovering from the illness. The State Duma plans to consider the bill on December 14.

In several regions, including the Krasnodar Territory and the Rostov Region, activists organized campaigns to collect signatures against the new restrictions. In the Astrakhan Region, the decision of members of the local Duma to support the bill on QR codes was criticized by the regional Public Chamber of the Astrakhan Region, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry also negatively assessed the consequences of the introduction of QR codes. Residents of the Volgograd Region are actively protesting against the QR-code system. Solo protest actions have already taken place there. On December 10, at a picket in Volgograd, members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) declared their disagreement with the introduction of QR codes, since, according to them, it in no way protects against infection and has nothing to do with medicine. People from the region complain about mass suspension from jobs for refusing to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

Armed incidents near border between Armenia and Azerbaijan

Starting from December 8, several armed incidents have occurred near the border between the Kelbadjar District of Azerbaijan and the Gegarkunik District of Armenia. On that day, Azerbaijan reported about the death of a soldier, and on December 9, Armenia announced that two of its soldiers were wounded. The Armenian side accumulated additional armed forces near the border and shelled the Azerbaijani positions, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Azerbaijan reported on December 10. Its Armenian counterpart claims that it repulsed an attack of Azerbaijani soldiers; however, during the shootout, one Armenian military was killed and eight others were wounded. Analysts in Baku and Yerevan associated the escalation of the situation near the border with the upcoming December 15 meeting in Brussels between the Armenian Prime Minister and the Azerbaijani President. Armenian analysts interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot” suggest that Azerbaijan is trying to increase pressure on Yerevan with military conflicts near the border. Armenia may benefit from the escalation of the situation on the eve of the meeting, as it may change the agenda of the meeting and reduce negotiations from discussing border delimitation and opening transport communications to reaching agreements on de-escalation, an Azerbaijani political observer believes.

Resonance from Sokurov’s statements on problems of Northern Caucasus

President Vladimir Putin and film director Alexander Sokurov argued at a meeting of the Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights held on December 9. The Russian President reacted sharply to the Alexander Sokurov’s statement about alleged separatist sentiments among residents of Northern Caucasus and the film director’s proposal to release participants of the protests against the agreement on the Chechen-Ingush border. The discussion was commented on by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who condemned the film director for his statements about the possibility of allowing some regions of Northern Caucasus to secede from Russia and urged to check the Alexander Sokurov’s proposal for extremism. Social media users supported Alexander Sokurov and noted that separatism in the Caucasus and other problems highlighted by the film director should be discussed in public.

Geneva Discussions on situation in Southern Caucasus

On December 7-8, Geneva hosted the 55th round of the International Geneva Discussions on Security and Stability in the Transcaucasus, in which representatives of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Georgia, Russia, and the United States took part, co-chaired by the UN, EU and OSCE. All delegations, except for the Georgian one, assessed the situation on the line of demarcation with Abkhazia as calm, although the Abkhazian side pointed out the regular violation of the border along the Inguri River by Georgian citizens. The participants of the Geneva Discussions exchanged reproaches for the breakdown of the negotiations. So, a representative of the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) stated that the Russian delegation refused to discuss the issue on the return of refugees to Abkhazia, and the Abkhazian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the Georgian side of disrupting the agreement on the text of the document on international guarantees of the non-use of force.

Revocation of parliamentary powers of activist in Yeisk

On December 8, the Yeisk District Council revoked the powers of independent MP Alexander Korovainy for violating anti-corruption laws, the fact of which he himself did not admit. The Prosecutor’s Office found an MP’s undeclared bank account of 1992. Alexander Korovainy himself claims that he closed the mentioned bank account in 2012, when he first applied for participation in the elections. According to the supervisory authorities, another violation was a transfer of a small amount to a MP’s bank card at a request of his friend, which he immediately withdrew and gave to her. Alexander Korovainy said that he did not indicate the amount in his declaration, as he did not consider it to be his income. On December 2, Alexander Korovainy said that he associated the initiative to deprive him of his deputy powers with the regional authorities, who wanted to stop the struggle of independent MPs against abuses.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on December 13, 2021 at 09:35 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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