A spontaneous memorial to Navalny in Tbilisi. Screenshot of the video posted on the Telegram channel of Nikolai Levshits on March 1, 2024 https://t.me/nlevshitstelegram/15375

04 March 2024, 23:35

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 26-March 3, 2024

Funeral of Alexei Navalny* and Caucasus, refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, six suspects killed in Ingushetia, sentence to Nikita Zhuravel, 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 February 26-March 3, 2024, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Funeral of Alexei Navalny* and Caucasus

Actions in memory of Alexei Navalny* took place in many cities of Southern Russia and abroad, in particular, in Tbilisi, Batumi, and Yerevan. On March 1, the Armenian police did not interfere with a rally in memory of Alexei Navalny* held in front of the Russian Consulate in Gyumri. Russian migrants took part in the action. About 25 people lit candles and laid flowers.

On March 2, in Sochi, the police did not permit a local woman to lay flowers at the monument to the victims of repression, claiming that laying flowers was only permissible on October 30, the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Political Repression in Russia.

In Tbilisi, dozens of people came to the Russian Federation Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia to lay flowers and light candles in memory of Alexei Navalny*. “What happened on February 16 was predictable, but no less shocking. It’s still difficult to realize that he is no longer with us,” said a participant of the action.

In Sochi, a court sentenced to arrest Russian cross-country skiing champion Nikolai Zimiryov, who was detained after an action in memory of Alexei Navalny*. According to the court’s information, Nikolai Zimiryov posted on his page in a social network “a flag representing a modified Russian flag with three horizontal stripes, on which the red stripe was replaced by a white one.” The image, according to the court’s decision, is an attribute of an extremist organization banned in Russia.

Refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh

On March 1, the Armenian government changed the programme of financial support for displaced people from Nagorno-Karabakh. As from now, monthly allowance for rent and utility costs will be paid only to minors. At the same time, the authorities have introduced a new bonus to pensioners and people with disabilities, and the list of recipients of one-time assistance has been expanded, announces David Khachatryan, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia.

On October 7, 2023, 100,632 displaced Nagorno-Karabakh residents arrived in Armenia. The Armenian government is involved in the social issues of rendering assistance to refugees. The authorities have announced that the displaced persons are provided with accommodation in hotels and boarding houses. In addition, each displaced person will receive one-time assistance in the amount of 100,000 drams (about 250 US dollars) and monthly allowance for six months amounting to 50,000 drams (about 125 US dollars) for renting housing, as well as 10,000 drams (about 25 US dollars) for purchasing utilities.

The housing programme developed by the Armenian government for refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh provides for mandatory registration as an Armenian citizen, but the announced amount will not let people purchase real estate, the displaced Nagorno-Karabakh residents say.

Public organizations and refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh called on the authorities of Armenia to maintain assistance programmes for the displaced persons. Activists warn that many people will have to leave Armenia due to the changes proposed by the Armenian authorities. “The government’s plans do not correspond to the situation and do not meet the needs of the displaced persons from Artsakh,” states the page of the Public Council of Nagorno-Karabakh on its page in a social network.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

Alexei Yevdokimov, a resident of Rostov-on-Don, was fined 30,000 roubles for an extremist slogan. The Sovetsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don fined local resident Alexei Yevdokimov. The court found that on November 14, 2023, while staying in the entrance of a multi-storey building, Alexei Yevdokimov voiced an extremist slogan widespread in Ukraine. “By voicing the slogan, [the citizen] publicly discredited the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in order to protect the interests of the Russian Federation and its citizens,” the court’s resolution says.

In the Privolzhsky District of the Astrakhan Region, a court fined local resident Oleg Stepanov for voicing an extremist slogan. According to the law enforcers’ version, the man shouted the slogan in a public place and also negatively assessed the actions of the Russian Armed Forces and the President of Russia. Oleg Stepanov was sentenced to a fine of 30,000 roubles.

Six suspects killed in Ingushetia

On March 2, a counterterrorist operation (CTO) legal regime was introduced in the centre of Karabulak. The National Antiterrorism Committee (NAC) reported that while law enforcers were trying to detain suspected militants, the suspects opened fire on them, a shootout took place, and residents of nearby houses were evacuated.

As a result, six suspects were killed. The suspected militants have been preliminary identified. According to the NAC’s information, the suspects were supporters of the international terrorist organization “ISIL” (a terrorist organization, banned in Russia by the court, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”) and were involved in a number of terrorist crimes, including an attack on a road-and-patrol police service (known as DPS) checkpoint and the killing of three policemen in March 2023.

False information about the CTO in Karabulak is being spread on social networks, claims the FSB Department for Ingushetia. The FSB warned people of criminal liability for disseminating false information. The CTO legal regime was cancelled on the same day.

Sentence to Nikita Zhuravel

On February 27, the Visaitovsky District Court of Grozny pronounced a decision in the criminal case against Nikita Zhuravel. The court found the defendant guilty of violating articles of the Russian Criminal Code “Violation of the right to freedom of conscience and religion” and “Hooliganism” and imposed on him a sentence of imprisonment in a penal colony for a term of three years and six months.

Taking into account the circumstances, the sentence to Nikita Zhuravel may be regarded as harsh, lawyers and human rights defenders point out. Soon the young man will be able to apply for conditional early relief, and, given the gravity of the crime, he is to serve his sentence in a penal colony closer to his home.

An advocate explains that taking into account the time period served in the SIZO (pre-trial prison), Nikita Zhuravel will be able to apply for conditional early relief (CER) after he serves a half of his sentence.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By March 3, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3509 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1727 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1782 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 770 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 686, in the Rostov Region – 389, in the Krasnodar Territory – 326, in Stavropol Territory – 297, in the Astrakhan Region – 270, in North Ossetia – 262, in Chechnya – 172, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 128, in Kalmykia – 61, in Ingushetia – 51, in Adygea – 50, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 47.

*On January 25, 2022, the “Rosfinmonitoring” (the Russian Federal Service for Financial Monitoring) included Alexei Navalny into the register of extremists and terrorists. He is a founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (known as FBK), an NCO that is included by the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in the register of NCOs performing functions of a foreign agent, recognized as extremist and banned in the Russian Federation. The Alexei Navalny’s offices, which previously operated in the Russian regions, are recognized in Russia as extremist organizations and included in the list of prohibited organizations.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 4, 2024 at 09:05 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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