Blockade of the Lachin Corridor. Photo by Alvard Grigoryan for the "Caucasian Knot"

27 March 2023, 19:14

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 20-26, 2023

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, sentence of General Muzraev, continuation of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, case on Inal Djabiev’s death, official data on the natives of Southern Russia who perished in Ukraine, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 20-26, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

On March 4, 2022, a new article was included in the Code of Administrative Violations of Russia, which provided a fine for citizens for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The people, who participate in pacifist actions, criticize the militaries, and post negative comments on social media are being brought to liability under the mentioned article. Repeated violation within a year threatens criminal prosecution.

Last week, the Prikubansky District Court of Krasnodar fined local resident Vitalina Zhemchuzhnikova. The Leninsky District Court of Astrakhan fined local resident Alexander Pochtoev under the same article. In addition, Islam Mambetov, a resident of the Zolsky District of Kabardino-Balkaria, and Irina Skorovarova and Vladimir Shapovalov, two residents of Taganrog, were also fined.

On March 23, the Primorsky District Court of Novorossiysk sentenced Askhabali Alibekov, an author of the “Wild Paratrooper” YouTube channel, to a year and two months of imprisonment in the case on repeated discrediting of the Russian Armed Forces.

Meanwhile, on March 20, because of identified shortcomings, the Chegemsky District Court of Kabardino-Balkaria returned to the police an administrative protocol on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, drawn up against Khasansh Urusov. On March 23, in Sochi, due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, which was three months in the case, a court closed the case on discrediting the Russian militaries, instituted by the law enforcement bodies against local resident Denis Afanasev, because of the inscription on a glass of his car.

General sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment

On March 22, the Southern District Military Court sentenced Mikhail Muzraev to 20 years of imprisonment and deprived him of his title of Lieutenant General of Justice and of his state awards. Vladimir Zubkov was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment.

The case against General Mikhail Muzraev, the former chair of the Investigating Department for the Volgograd Region of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), and Vladimir Zubkov, a businessman from Volgograd, accused of committing a terror act, has been considered since August 2021. Mikhail Muzraev denied the accusation of setting fire to the governor’s house. The General stated that he supported the governor’s policy and had friendly relations with Andrei Bocharov. According to the defendant’s version, the house was set on fire by a criminal grouping which leader wanted to take revenge on Andrei Bocharov.

Blockade of road to Karabakh and continuation of conflict

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 mining deposits. The unrecognized republic suffers from a shortage of food products and medicines, the gas supply is turned off regularly, and the republic’s authorities introduced a schedule for the supply of electricity.

On March 25, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the country’s armed forces had taken control of dirt roads north of the Lachin corridor, since calls to stop the supply of weapons from Armenia to Karabakh along those roads were unsuccessful. The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities accused Azerbaijan of violating the line of contact and called on Russian peacekeepers to intervene. The Russian Ministry of Defence confirmed that the Azerbaijani troops occupied a height with a mark of 2.9 kilometres northeast of Mount Sarybaba and began to equip a post. The Russian Ministry of Defence considered those actions of Azerbaijan a violation of the agreements and demanded to stop work and withdraw troops to their previous positions.

On March 24, the Ministry of Defence of Azerbaijan reported that the country’s military officials again detected a movement of a convoy carrying out “illegal military cargoes” along the road of Khankendi (Armenian name is Stepanakert, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”) – Khalfali – Turshsu (Armenian name is Lisagor, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”). The Azerbaijani military officials made similar statements on March 24 and March 11.

On the other day, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities reported that the height occupied by the Azerbaijani troops was taken under control by the Russian peacekeepers.

Case on Inal Djabiev’s death

The Prosecutor’s Office of South Ossetia reported about the completion of the preliminary investigation into the death of Inal Djabiev. It has been noted that new defendants from among top-ranking officials may be involved in the case. Alan Gagloev, the leader of South Ossetia, announced that the case would soon be brought to court. “Only those responsible for the case will be brought to justice. No innocent will be harmed,” the leader of South Ossetia emphasized.

Inal Djabiev died on August 28, 2020 after being interrogated in a case on an attempt on the life of the Minister of Internal Affairs of South Ossetia. Inal Djabiev’s death caused mass protests and a political crisis in South Ossetia: in the period from autumn 2020 to February 2021, 16 MPs boycotted parliament sessions. Relatives of Inal Djabiev, being dissatisfied with the progress of the investigation, held a round-the-clock protest on the square in Tskhinvali from December 4, 2020 to February 26, 2021. The opposition and the protesters sought the dismissal of General Prosecutor Uruzmag Djagaev, but stopped the protest actions without achieving their goals.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

Since the beginning of the special military operation, the information about at least 163 residents of the Rostov Region perished in Ukraine has been officially confirmed. In total, at 11:00 p.m. Moscow time on March 26, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 1669 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 927 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 742 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported on 413 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – on 302, in the Krasnodar Territory – 120, in North Ossetia – 156, in the Stavropol Territory – 128, in the Astrakhan Region – 111, in Chechnya – 98, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 85, in Ingushetia – 32, in Adygea – 27, in Kalmykia – 19 and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 15.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 27, 2023 at 00:39 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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