09 May 2022, 19:39
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 2-8, 2022
Arrival of refugees in Southern Russia; deaths in Ukraine of military personnel from southern regions of Russia, and persecution of pacifists; celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Southern Russia; protests in Armenia demanding the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 2-8, 2022, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.
Arrival of refugees in Southern Russia; deaths in Ukraine of military personnel from southern regions of Russia, and persecution of pacifists
Refugees continue to arrive from the zone of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, launched on February 24. According to the Russian FSB Department for the Rostov Region, more than 1.1 million people have already been evacuated. Residents of Donbass, who left even before the start of the special military operation, stated that they had to leave for Russia because of the aggravated situation and at the insistence of local authorities. They told the “Caucasian Knot” correspondent about the fears for their relatives who remained at home. Refugees arriving in the Rostov Region said that they had to apply for allowances in Russia because of the difficult economic situation, and they complained about difficulties in obtaining humanitarian assistance.
Almost every day, the authorities of the regions of Southern Russia report about the deaths in Ukraine of compatriots from among the military personnel. By May 9, the information about at least 288 perished natives of Southern Russia has been confirmed, including 211 natives of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD). Of them, 101 deceased were residents of Dagestan.
In Southern Russia, activists continue to protest against the special military operation in Ukraine. On March 7, in Volgograd, the police detained activist Tamara Grodnikova, who went on a solo picket demanding to unblock independent media. That was the tenth detention of the activist since the beginning of the special military operation in Ukraine. On May 5, a court in Novorossiysk sentenced a local resident to a fine, recognizing the poster with which he went to a picket as discrediting the Russian army. On May 4, a court in Georgievsk fined activist Mikhail Pidenko for posting pacifist messages on social media. On May 2, a court in Astrakhan ordered seven days of arrest for a local resident detained at a solo picket against the special military operation in Ukraine, finding him guilty of petty hooliganism.
Second round of presidential election in South Ossetia
On May 8, in South Ossetia, the voting was held in the second round of the presidential election. The turnout was 68.2 percent. Without waiting for the official results of the voting, Alan Gagloev, the leader of the “Nykhas” Party, declared himself the winner. According to the Central Election Committee (CEC), after the counting of 18% of protocols, Alan Gagloev wins with 59.22% of the votes.
During the voting, information was received about violations, including the discovery of 25 used ballots at a polling station in Tskhinvali. Foreign observers announced that a member of parliament was preventing the monitoring of the presidential election.
Analysts considered it impossible for forces disloyal to Moscow to come to power in South Ossetia. All political forces in South Ossetia are historically oriented towards Russia, note journalists Murat Gukemukhov and Ruslan Totrov. According to them, the Russian authorities do not consider the issue of South Ossetia joining Russia, which President Bibilov raised on the eve of the presidential election, to be a priority.
Celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Southern Russia
This year, the holiday of Eid al-Fitr fell on May 2. On that day, mosques of all regions of Southern Russia held festive collective prayers. The holiday is usually celebrated for three days. People cook refreshments at homes, and there is a tradition to congratulate relatives, neighbours, fellow villagers, go on visits, and visit graves of relatives. Before the start of the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, Muslims must distribute obligatory zakat al-fitr (an obligatory form of alms-giving required of every able Muslim at the end of Ramadan) and kaffarat (a donation to expiate missed days of fasting).
Protests in Armenia demanding resignation of Nikol Pashinyan
Throughout the past week, protests have been held in Armenia demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The protest actions began on April 25 and were provoked by Nikol Pashinyan’s message about calls by the international community to “lower the bar” on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. In the Armenian capital, the protest actions gather thousands of people every day and are accompanied by clashes with the police and detentions of activists. By May 8, the number of criminal cases instituted against protesters reached 12.
The protest movement in Armenia has the potential to paralyze the public administration, but organizers are still misusing the protests, political strategist Armen Badalyan and political analyst Andrias Gukasyan believe. The results of the internal political confrontation in Armenia depend on external factors, observer Naira Airumyan suggests. The likelihood of a change of power in the country is minimal, since the opposition is fragmented and has no alternatives to the figure of Nikol Pashinyan, analysts say. Azerbaijan will benefit if the government of Nikol Pashinyan remains in power in Armenia, since the Armenian Prime Minister is committed to the obligations under the declaration involving Russia, Baku analysts emphasize.
Protests in Georgia demanding release of Mikhail Saakashvili
On May 2, the family of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, kept in prison, announced protests across the country. The reason for the protests was the doctors’ statement about the deterioration of the politician’s health state and the demand of his supporters to transfer Mikhail Saakashvili to a foreign clinic. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of Georgia announces that false information is being spread about Mikhail Saakashvili’s health state. On May 3, in Tbilisi, protesters demanded a meeting with the US Ambassador to report to him about Mikhail Saakashvili’s state of health and ask for assistance in the release of the Georgian politician. On the other day, the prison administration refused to allow a council of doctors to visit Mikhail Saakashvili. At a rally in Tbilisi, relatives of the former Georgian resident announced that the politician’s condition continued to deteriorate and that only a transfer to a foreign clinic could save him. On May 6, supporters of Mikhail Saakashvili took to the streets in three cities of Georgia, including in Tbilisi, in Batumi, and in Rustavi near the prison. In Batumi, there were clashes with the police, and more than 20 protesters were detained.
Let us remind you that Mikhail Saakashvili returned to Georgia in September 2021 and was arrested, as the former Georgian president was sentenced in absentia in his homeland to imprisonment in two criminal cases. Because of the arrest, the politician already held a 50-day hunger strike.
This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 9, 2022 at 09:30 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.