01 May 2023, 23:43
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 24-30, 2023
Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, case against the Ingush activists, institutionalization of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, scandals around Ramzan Kadyrov, and 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 April 24-30, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.
Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia
Last week, in Southern Russia, courts continued to fine local residents for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. On April 30, it became known that in the Krasnodar Territory, a court fined Valery Kalaidjan, recognizing that an image of the “Z” symbol in the form of a swastika that the man posted on the social media discredited the Russian Armed Forces. On April 28, in Armavir, a court fined Meri Asatryan under the article on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces for posting pacifist videos and photographs. On the other day, the Kirov District Court of Volgograd fined clinic nurse Yevgeniya Derkach, recognizing her pacifist post on the “VKontakte” social media outlet as a discredit to the Russian Armed Forces. The Lazarevskoye District Court of Sochi fined a man detained at his working place after he exchanged posts on the Internet about what was happening in Ukraine.
The law enforcement bodies are tirelessly looking for new victims. So, the police drew up a protocol on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces against a resident of Sochi for a discussion in a chat about the special military operation in Ukraine and quotes from the investigation about President Putin. Sochi activist Vladimir Atamanchuk, accused under the criminal article on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, was visited at night by persons unknown to him who introduced themselves as law enforcers. On April 26, the police detained Alipat Sultanbegova because of her post with a pacifist slogan on the social media. A protocol was drawn up against her in discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.
Case against Ingush activists
On April 27, in the Stavropol Territorial Court, accused activists requested the judge to withdraw the advocates appointed by the court. The defendants were supported by the advocates themselves who announced their recusal. According to the appointed advocates, their participation in the case in the presence of the advocates by agreement was illegal. However, the Stavropol Territorial Court refused to grant the above requests. The advocates have claimed that the judge unreasonably delays the trial and called that fact the evidence of the bias of the court.
On April 28, Musa Malsagov, Barakh Chemurziev, Malsag Uzhakhov, and their defenders filed appeals, calling the verdict unfounded. The judge obliged the defendants to speak in a certain order and thus limited the right to defence, noted advocate Magomed Bekov. Barakh Chemurziev claimed that the accusation of participation in an extremist community was not supported by any evidence.
Blockade of road to Nagorno-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. On April 28, on the 138th day of the blockade, the picketers announced that they were ready to suspend their action. According to the picketers, their demands have been only partially met, and if no monitoring of mining deposits is allowed, the Lachin Corridor may be closed again. After the picketers’ action was stopped, Azerbaijani militaries and police lined up across the road. Azerbaijan installed a border and customs checkpoint on the Khakari Bridge, and Armenia again appealed to the International Court of Justice.
Colonel-General Alexander Lentsov has been appointed the new commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh. Taking into account the information about the installation of the Azerbaijani checkpoint in the Lachin Corridor, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) believes that Alexander Lentsov will build more effective interaction with the parties to the conflict. The new commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh will have to act against the backdrop of Azerbaijan’s desire to prevent the prolongation of the presence of the Russian peacekeepers in the region, political analysts note.
On April 25, US Congressman Adam Schiff introduced a draft resolution in the United States Congress on the international recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Office of the American “Hay Dat” Committee reported.
Scandals around Ramzan Kadyrov
On April 25, the newspaper “Novaya Gazeta.Europe” published an article written by Elena Milashina, in which the journalist announced the material interest of bloggers Tumso Abdurakhmanov and Khasan Khalitov in staging their deaths on the order of the Chechen authorities. Tumso Abdurakhmanov objected that Elena Milashina did not provide any evidence that mediator Bashir Albogachiev, who contacted Tumso Abdurakhmanov, was affiliated with Ramzan Kadyrov.
On April 24, human rights defenders reported that a group of residents of the Alkhan-Kala village, whose whereabouts were unknown after they had been kidnapped by law enforcers in January, were being kept at a Chechen detention facility on the charges of involvement in the militants’ activities. According to the human rights defenders, residents of Chechnya, whose relatives are being held by the law enforcement bodies, do not seek help from human rights organizations out of fear that such appeals will aggravate the situation of their families.
After the report of the FSB of Russia on the search for participants of an attack on police inspectors in Ingushetia, Ramzan Kadyrov called for “increasing cooperation,” after which he announced the appointment of his nephew Khamzat Kadyrov as his adviser on the power bloc. The leader of Chechnya enjoys a special status and is able to influence the Russian law enforcement bodies, Interior Ministry Colonel Amir Kolov emphasizes. Neither Ramzan Kadyrov nor his nephew are able to significantly influence the FSB of Russia, objects Ruslan Kutaev, the president of the Assembly of Caucasian Nations.
Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine
32-year-old Dmitry Shakhov perished in the zone of the special military operation in Ukraine. The man became the 329th resident of Southern Russia who perished in Ukraine. So, the information about at least 328 perished residents of the region has been confirmed. In total, by April 30, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 1800 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 988 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 812 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).
In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 436 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Rostov Region – 178, in North Ossetia – 167, in the Stavropol Territory – 142, in the Krasnodar Territory – 133, in the Astrakhan Region – 125, in Chechnya – 102, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 88, in Ingushetia – 32, in Adygea – 27, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 21, and in Kalmykia – 21.