20 February 2023, 23:16
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 13-19, 2023
Public activity of Ramzan Kadyrov, continuation of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and peace negotiations, reaction of the Caucasus to the earthquake in Turkey, struggle of the Azerbaijani oppositionists, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of February 13-19, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.
Public activity of Ramzan Kadyrov
The experience of the “Wagner” Private Military Company (PMC) has proved the need for private military companies, says the leader of Chechnya. Ramzan Kadyrov has announced his plans to found a private military company after leaving the civil service and compete with Yevgeny Prigozhin, a founder of the “Wagner” PMC.
Meanwhile, on the other day, after General Mordvichev had been appointed the commander of the troops of the Central Military District, Ramzan Kadyrov said that the personnel changes in the bodies of the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) were not related to his assessments. The leader of Chechnya has emphasized that he has no disagreements with the Russian MoD, although in the course of the special military operation in Ukraine he repeatedly criticized the decisions of officials from the Russian Ministry of Defence.
The leader of Chechnya has also called on the regional authorities “not to comment on the losses.” Ramzan Kadyrov suggests that the regional authorities should not report about the number of those killed in the special military operation, but should simply provide assistance to the families of the dead. At the same time, Ramzan Kadyrov himself previously reported about the deaths of military personnel from Chechnya. Since the beginning of the special military operation, the information about the deaths of at least 80 Chechen law enforcers in Ukraine has been officially confirmed.
On February 13, Ramzan Kadyrov reported that Apti Alaudinov, the commander of the “Akhmat” special forces unit, and two of his adjutants were hospitalized after coming into contact with an envelope soaked in a poisonous substance. “An investigation into the assassination attempt is underway ... There have been results already,” the leader of Chechnya announced.
Lachin Corridor blockade and peace negotiations
The Lachin Corridor linking Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and the outside world has been blocked by Azerbaijani activists since December 12, 2022. The activists demand from Russian peacekeepers to provide them with access to the “Gyzylbulag” and “Demirli” mining deposits which they intend to monitor. The unrecognized republic suffers from a shortage of food products and medicines, kindergartens are closed, petrol stations do not work from time to time, the gas supply is turned off, and the republic’s authorities introduced a schedule for the supply of electricity. The road to Nagorno-Karabakh has been blocked for the 70th day already.
Tigran Petrosyan, the leader of the “Tomorrow’s Artsakh” opposition party (Artsakh is the self-name of Nagorno-Karabakh, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”), requested the creation of a new committee to overcome the crisis and the consequences of the Lachin Corridor blockade. Araik Arutyunyan, President of Nagorno-Karabakh, has noted that “after the 2020 war, the state bodies do not fully reflect public sentiment” and agreed to create an advisory council under the republic’s president.
On February 18, a meeting was held in Munich between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. Ilham Aliev and Nikol Pashinyan confirmed their desire to conclude a peace agreement. At the same time, Ilham Aliev declared the insolvency of the OSCE Minsk Group and advocated the opening of checkpoints on the border with Armenia, while Nikol Pashinyan announced his concerns about the activities of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Ilham Aliev’s consent to negotiations with Karabakh came as a news. Azerbaijan is ready to discuss guarantees for the Armenian population of Karabakh, Ilham Aliev has declared. “We are ready for that. But with those members of the Armenian community who were born and lived all their lives in Karabakh,” the president of Azerbaijan said.
Caucasian echo of earthquake in Turkey
On February 6, a series of earthquakes occurred in Turkey. As of February 17, more than 40,000 people were killed and more than 108,000 were injured in the country as a result of the earthquakes. More than 6000 people have died in Syria and more than 5000 others have been injured. The death toll includes five citizens of Georgia and ten citizens of Azerbaijan, 565 Azerbaijani citizens were evacuated, and there is no information about two more natives of Azerbaijan who could stay in the earthquake zone.
On February 14, trucks with the second batch of humanitarian aid from Armenia crossed the border of Turkey.
Georgia has allocated one million laris (about 380,000 US dollars) to help victims in Turkey. More than 100 tons of humanitarian aid has been sent to the country, including medicines, baby food, warm clothes, and other items.
Dry hunger strike by Bakhtiyar Gadjiev
Bakhtiyar Gadjiev was hospitalized on the 33rd day of his hunger strike under arrest. On the 39th day of the hunger strike, the activist declared a dry hunger strike in protest against the restrictions in the hospital. A warder was assigned to Bakhtiyar Gadjiev in order to constantly monitor him. That fact angered the activist. He stated that he would start drinking water only if the warder was removed from him.
Bakhtiyar Gadjiev is the director of the Institute for Public Policy. Being well-known for criticizing the Azerbaijani authorities in international forums, the activist was repeatedly arrested.
On February 17, advocate Elchin Sadygov and doctor of medical sciences Adil Geibulla visited the medical institution of the Penitentiary Service. According to the advocate’s report, Bakhtiyar Gadjiev moves with great difficulty from weakness and mostly lies down. The doctor has emphasized that the prisoner had been on the hunger strike for a long time, and, under the most favourable scenario, he would hardly survive 5-7 days without water.