25 July 2022, 15:12

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 18-24, 2022

Persecution of pacifists in the southern regions of Russia; sentence to initiators of a rally against epidemiological restrictions in North Ossetia; protests of Makhachkala residents against blackouts; return of Azerbaijani refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh; hunger strike of an activist in Sukhumi, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of July 18-24, 2022, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Persecution of pacifists in southern regions of Russia

In Southern Russia, the persecution of residents who oppose the special military operation in Ukraine and related events continues. So, on July 21, in Volgograd, a court imposed two fines of 15,000 roubles each on public sector employees Danil Zelensky for posting two videos on a social media outlet, finding him guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. Furthermore, on July 21, it became known that the Adler District Court fined a local resident 30,000 roubles, recognizing that a post in her social media account discredited the Russian Armed Forces. The defendant stated that her account had been hacked. On July 22, a court imposed a fine of 30,000 roubles for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces on Rostov activist Konstantin Zhuravlyov, who was under arrest for failure to obey the police during a pacifist picket. On July 17, Konstantin Zhuravlyov held a picket in Rostov-on-Don, and he was sentenced to nine days of arrest on the charge of failure to obey the police. On July 23, it became known that a court fined Vadim Kharchenko, a blogger from Gelendzhik, 30,000 roubles on the charge of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces in a video that he had posted on his YouTube channel. The blogger pleaded not guilty in court and stated that he did not post the said video and that it did not contain any negative assessment of the Russian Armed Forces. On the same day, Volgograd artist Philippenzo, engaged in street art, reported that the police had drawn up a protocol against him under the article on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. Earlier, the artist has been fined under the same article for posting an image on a parking wall and posting a graffiti photo on social media. He filed appeals against the court’s decisions.

Sentence to initiators of a rally against epidemiological restrictions in North Ossetia

On July 19, the Rostov Regional Court sentenced Vadim Cheldiev, an opera singer and blogger opposing the North Ossetian authorities, to 10 years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony, finding him guilty of inciting extremism. Two other defendants, Arsen Besolov and Ramis Chirkinov, were sentenced to eight years of imprisonment in a penal colony. According to the investigators’ version, Vadim Cheldiev was an initiator of the rally of opponents of the self-isolation regime in Vladikavkaz. He was charged under four criminal articles. Let us remind you that on April 20, 2020, the police dispersed a rally from Freedom Square in Vladikavkaz, the participants of which demanded to lift the self-isolation regime and dismiss the government, parliament, and the leader of North Ossetia. According to the investigators’ version, thirteen employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and the National Guard of Russia were injured at the spontaneous rally. Earlier, Vadim Cheldiev’s advocate Batraz Kulchiev stated that public prosecutors failed to prove that it was Vadim Cheldiev, Ramis Chirkinov, and Arsen Besolov who organized the riots. The defendants pleaded not guilty. The defence announced an appeal against the verdict for Vadim Cheldiev, Arsen Besolov, and Ramis Chirkinov.

Protests of Makhachkala residents against blackouts

On July 18, several hundred people blocked traffic in the Reduktorny settlement of Makhachkala in protest against frequent blackouts. The director of the “Dagenergo” Company told the protesters that the mass outages occurred due to increased electricity consumption during the hot weather and the operation of air conditioning systems. The protest ended late at night when the power supply was partially restored. During the rally, eleven people were brought to the police, and protocols were drawn up against them for petty hooliganism. On July 20, the city authorities reported about the restoration of the power supply in the central part of Makhachkala. However, Telegram users complained that there was still no electricity in the area of Juma Mosque.

Return of Azerbaijani refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh

On July 19, the authorities of Azerbaijan reported about the start of a mass return of refugees to Nagorno-Karabakh. On that day, ten families of forced migrants, 45 people in total, who were placed in temporary accommodation centres (TACs) in the settlement of Zangilan in the village of Masazyr in the Apsheron District, moved to new houses in the village of Agaly in the Zangilan District for permanent residence. In the village of Agaly, which came under the control of Azerbaijan after the autumn war of 2020, one- and two-storey cottage-type houses with a different number of rooms and their own land plots were built, and 1357 forced migrants expressed their desire to return there. At the first stage, it is planned that 41 families will resettle.

Hunger strike of an activist in Sukhumi

On July 22, activist Djansukh Adleiba announced a hunger strike on Freedom Square in Sukhumi. The protestor demanded to lower fuel prices and prevent the transfer of Abkhazian lands to Russia. Vadim Markholiya, a veteran of the 1992 war, also joined the Djansukh Adleiba’s protest action. Earlier, on June 13, Djansukh Adleiba went on a hunger strike with the demand to the government to lower the price of motor fuel. On June 28, the activist ended his hunger strike after the presidential administration promised that fuel prices would be reduced in Abkhazia within two weeks. On July 4, at a meeting with the president of Abkhazia, Djansukh Adleiba agreed that fuel companies would not be able to immediately reduce prices, while Aslan Bzhaniya promised that fuel prices would decrease during the first half of July. The activist explains his new protest action by the fact that the prices for gasoline and diesel fuel in Abkhazia have not caught up with the prices in Russia. Djansukh Adleiba also protested against the transfer of the state-owned summer residence in Pitsunda to the ownership of Russia. The agreement on the transfer of the “Pitsunda” state-owned summer residence to Russia was signed in early 2022. On July 21, the Abkhazian parliament requested the Constitutional Court to review the above agreement for compliance with the law.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on July 25, 2022 at 09:30 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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