Oleg Orlov. Photo: Yuri Timofeyev RFE/RL

16 October 2023, 22:55

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 9-15, 2023

Azerbaijan and Armenia, verdict to Oleg Orlov, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, knife attack on a school in France, 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 October 9-15, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Azerbaijan and Armenia

On October 15, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev raised the flag of Azerbaijan on the central square of Khankendi (the Azerbaijani name for Stepanakert, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”) in front of the building of the former regional committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which housed the authorities of the unrecognized republic.

On September 19-20, Azerbaijan carried out the military operation and, as a result of the actual capitulation of Stepanakert, gained control over the region. On September 28, the President of Nagorno-Karabakh signed a decree ending the existence of the unrecognized republic. By October 7, 100,632 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Nagorno-Karabakh arrived in Armenia.

Ilham Aliev visited several towns and villages in Nagorno-Karabakh and accused the mediators who were trying to find peaceful solutions to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem of trying to “make the conflict never ending.” The President of Azerbaijan called the military operation itself “inevitable.”

According to a report of public figure Artak Beglaryan, the former State Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh, 99.96% of the population left Nagorno-Karabakh, and “no more than 40 residents, including the missing,” still stay in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Public organizations and ordinary citizens participate in raising funds and assistance for refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh. People are being provided with food, groceries, clothing, furniture, and money.

13,320 children from Nagorno-Karabakh entered schools in Armenia, reports Araksiya Svadjyan, the country’s Deputy Minister for Public Education. All schools in Armenia that have free places accept children of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, even if they do not have appropriate documents. The government of Armenia also approved a simplified employment programme for 1500 teachers from Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenian schools.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, 21 peacekeeper observation posts have been closed since September 19, after the military operation of Azerbaijan, the Russian Ministry of Defence reports. According to a statement of the Russian presidential press secretary, further actions of the Russian peacekeeping contingent will be discussed with Baku. On October 9, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that amid the closure of the peacekeeper observation posts, 25 guard checkpoints, including 14 joint checkpoints with the Azerbaijani militaries, had been arranged to guard weapons seized in Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to the UN’s report, the amount of 100 million US dollars is needed over six months to help refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh. The number of aid recipients includes 136,000 refugees, taking into account the people who had fled Nagorno-Karabakh earlier because of the hostilities.

The monasteries and places of religious worship in Nagorno-Karabakh, which came under the Azerbaijan’s control, should be respected and protected as part of the local culture, stated Pope Francis.

Verdict to Oleg Orlov

On October 11, the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow held a hearing on a case against human rights defender Oleg Orlov, accused of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. A public prosecutor petitioned to send Oleg Orlov for a psychiatric examination, but the court refused. The public prosecutor requested the court to find Oleg Orlov guilty in the case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and to fine him 250,000 roubles. A defender has claimed that the article on discrediting the Russian Army, under which the human rights defender is being persecuted, contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the international law. Oleg Orlov himself recalled the rule of law. The court sentenced the human rights defender to a fine of 150,000 roubles.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

In Vladikavkaz, a court fined journalist Ruslan Totrov 20,000 roubles for his post about the detention of a young woman who was reading a book in Ukrainian. The court regarded the comment posted by Ruslan Totrov as inciting hatred or enmity. This is the third fine imposed on the journalist, and he filed appeals against the first two fines with no success. Ruslan Totrov lives abroad.

Three witnesses did not appear at a court hearing in a case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces against Valery Badmaev, the editor-in-chief of the “Modern Kalmykia” publication. The court in Elista agreed to introduce a public defender into the proceedings and gave him time to examine the case materials.

Volgograd street artist Philip Kozlov, also known as Philippenzo, left Russia after searches and detention by law enforcers. The street artist explained his departure from the country by the threat of imprisonment in a criminal case.

Attack on a school in France

On October 13, a teacher was killed in a school in the French city of Arras, and two other persons were seriously injured in the knife attack. The attacker was a 20-year-old Chechen native born in Russia, the French news broadcast television and radio network BFMTV reports. He and his younger brother were detained. In France, attacker Mokhamad Mogushkov was included in the “S” list for “radical Islamism,” the French newspaper Le Figaro reports.

Three years ago, on October 16, 2020, teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in the suburbs of Paris. During a lesson on freedom of speech, the teacher showed his students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo magazine. The alleged killer was shot dead by the police. He was identified as Abdulak (Abdullakh) Anzorov, an 18-year-old native of Chechnya, who was granted refugee status in France.

Mokhamad Mogushkov and his brother have been arrested in a case on the knife attack on a school in Arras, and six other persons have also been detained, report the authorities of France. The maximum level of terrorist threat has been announced in the country.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By October 15, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 2708 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1352 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1356 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 643 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 545, in the Rostov Region – 304, in the Krasnodar Territory – 229, in North Ossetia – 213, in the Astrakhan Region – 206, in Stavropol Territory – 184, in Chechnya – 137, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 108, in Ingushetia – 43, in Adygea – 34, in Kalmykia – 38, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 24.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on October 16, 2023 at 09:00 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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