The police detains people at a protest action against the family's eviction in Tbilisi. January 23, 2024. Photo: Paper Kartuli, https://t.me/paperkartuli/9649

29 January 2024, 23:53

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 22-28, 2024

Repressions in Azerbaijan and conflict with PACE, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, missing people, student unrest in Georgia, 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 January 22-28, 2024, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Repressions in Azerbaijan and conflict with PACE

On January 23, the majority of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution to limit the powers of the Azerbaijani delegation for violations of human rights in the country and the increase in the number of political prisoners, as well as the refusal to invite the PACE delegation to assess the upcoming presidential election. The PACE resolution refers to human rights violations in the Lachin Corridor and states that the PACE “condemned the military operation of the Azerbaijani army in September 2023,” which led to the exodus of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani delegation left the PACE meeting, accusing the institution of using double standards.

The PACE has called for strengthening measures to combat torture in the organization’s member countries, noting the use of torture in Azerbaijan and Russia. Although the powers of the Azerbaijani delegation to PACE are limited, the PACE’s recommendations remain mandatory for implementation, human rights defenders emphasize.

On January 22, in Baku, the police detained at least four persons who responded to a call to hold a protest against the uncontested presidential election. The protest action was announced by activist and blogger Tural Sadygly, who stays in Europe as a political migrant. His parents, who were detained at the place of the protest action, as well as the rest of the detainees, were released from the police department without a protocol.

Since November 2023, a series of arrests of independent media journalists have taken place in Azerbaijan, and several criminal cases have been instituted based on a similar scenario.

On January 25, in Ganja, a court sentenced Osman Narimanoglu, the head of the “Demokratik.az” website, to 6.5 years of imprisonment on the charge of blackmailing. The journalist called the sentence revenge for his professional activities.

On January 26, activists and human rights defenders reported that blogger Arzu Sayadoglu, well-known for criticizing the authorities of Azerbaijan, had not been in touch for the third day. Arzu Sayadoglu was detained by the State Security Service and arrested.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

In Stavropol, the police drew up a protocol on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces against local resident Oksana Kazantseva. The court fined the woman. In the same city, the Promyshlenny District Court fined local resident Yegor Filippov for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces with his pacifist post on a social network. On its official website, the Promyshlenny District Court reported that Yegor Filippov stated he was expressing his personal opinion and did not have the goal of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The court took into account that the defendant removed the defamatory materials himself as a circumstance mitigating liability and imposed a fine on Yegor Filippov.

On January 27, it became known that the Absheronsk District Court fined Svetlana Lukashenko 30,000 roubles for her posts on the social networks “aimed at undermining the authority of the Russian Army.”

In Grozny, the court recognized that the posts published by local resident Magomed-Emi Saidov in Telegram were aimed at discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The man admitted his guilt in court, which the court took into account as a mitigating circumstance and fined the defendant 15,000 roubles.

Natalia Dorozhnova, a pensioner from Volgograd, has been found guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces for the second time since the beginning of the year. The court obliged the pensioner to pay a fine of 30,000 roubles. In court, Natalia Dorozhnova referred to the resolution of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation dated May 12, 2012, which explained the essence of the article, according to which people can be brought to liability only for a real threat.

Irina Skorovarova, a resident of Taganrog, has been accused of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces for her pacifist position, states the human rights project “Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial”. The human rights defenders consider Irina Skorovarova a political prisoner.

The Supreme Court (SC) of North Ossetia closed the case against local resident Eduard Kerashvili, accused by the police of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces with a video posted on a social network in which artist Vakhtang Kikabidze criticized the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine.

Missing people

In 2023, 1608 residents of Chechnya were listed as missing. According to the recent statistics released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), among the regions of Russia, Chechnya took third place after Moscow and the Moscow Region in terms of the number of missing people.

According to the MIA’s information released on the state statistics website, a total of 36,307 people were listed as missing in Russia in 2023. The largest numbers of the missing people were listed in Moscow (2014), the Moscow Region (1814), and Chechnya (1608).

At the same time, in 2022, 1601 people were officially listed as missing in Chechnya, in 2021 – 1639 people, in 2020 – 1700, and in 2019 – 1712.

Student unrest in Georgia

On January 26, students began a protest action at the office of the Tbilisi State University with the demand to release graduate student Georgi Khasaya and Doctor of Historical Sciences Akaki (Kako) Chikobava. The students were outraged by the statement voiced by the university rector who said that the university would not demand the release of Georgi Khasaya and Akaki (Kako) Chikobava.

Georgi Khasaya is a graduate student at Ilia State University in Tbilisi, and Akaki (Kako) Chikobava is a history teacher at the Tbilisi State University. They are also leaders of the “Khma” (Voice) movement. Georgi Khasaya and Akaki (Kako) Chikobava were suspected of damaging a car at the protest action held on January 23 and were arrested. After their arrest, more than 40 university employees signed an appeal to the Georgian authorities calling for the release of Georgi Khasaya and Akaki (Kako) Chikobava.

In Zugdidi, a rally in support of Georgi Khasaya and Akaki (Kako) Chikobava was held in front of the prosecutor’s office building, and friends of the detainees and NGO activists gathered there. The protesters called the arrest of the graduate student and the history teacher an example of selective justice.

On January 23, the police tried to evict Marina Khatiashvili’s family from their house on Kekelidze Street in Tbilisi. People came to the scene to support the family and clashed with the police. The President of Georgia called the eviction of the Marina Khatiashvili’s family from their only home unlawful, and human rights defenders called on the country’s authorities to review the legislation. Twenty people were detained at the protest action, and eighteen of them were later released.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By January 28, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3315 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1617 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1697 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 724 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 665, in the Rostov Region – 379, in the Krasnodar Territory – 292, in Stavropol Territory – 269, in the Astrakhan Region – 258, in North Ossetia – 256, in Chechnya – 172, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 119, in Kalmykia – 58, in Ingushetia – 46, in Adygea – 46, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 31.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on January 29, 2024 at 09:04 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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