Georgia's "Europe March". Photo by the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, May 11, 2024

13 May 2024, 22:55

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 6-12, 2024

Protests in Georgia, claims against Nikol Pashinyan in Armenia, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, Nadezhda Kevorkova’s case, 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 May 6-12, 2024, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Protests in Georgia

Seven Georgian opposition parties have requested the ruling “Georgian Dream” Party to withdraw the draft law on foreign agents, since it contradicts the country’s course to join the European Union and NATO.

The ruling “Georgian Dream” Party has submitted to the Georgian parliament the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence”, that is, a modified version of the previous draft law on foreign agents. On May 1, the parliament of Georgia adopted the draft law. Georgian oppositionists and their supporters call the draft law “Russian” and treat it as a threat to the country’s European path of development. In February 2023, a similar initiative was also met with large-scale protests, and the ruling party had to postpone it.

On May 7, activists opposing the law on foreign agents marched through Tbilisi. They called on opposition parties to unite at a critical moment for the country. Many opponents of the law on foreign agents received phone calls with threats. On May 8 and 9, at least six activists were attacked. Activists and journalists who complained to the police about the threats noted that they did not get a response from the law enforcement bodies, which confirms that intimidation methods are being used at the behest of the authorities.

On May 11, a mass procession took place in Tbilisi. The call to protest against the law was supported by students from twelve Georgian universities. Students of the Tbilisi University declared being on a strike.

Since May 13, the Parliament of Georgia has been on a “yellow level” of security with entry restrictions. Of the media, only TV crews will be allowed into the parliament building.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has announced her intention to veto the law on foreign agents.

Claims against Nikol Pashinyan in Armenia

On May 9, participants of the procession led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstyan reached Yerevan and headed to Republic Square. In their hands, the activists were holding the flags of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Thousands of people took part in the procession. The “Tavush for the Motherland” movement demands the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan, states Bagrat Galstyan, accusing the authorities, in particular, of failing to secure the country.

On April 19, the state commissions of Azerbaijan and Armenia came to the conclusion to agree on the border of the two countries in its northern section along the line at the time of the collapse of the USSR. After that, protests began in the border Tavush Region, and the protestors were supported by residents of other regions. The reasons for the residents’ dissatisfaction were the transfer of territories to Azerbaijan, although experts see the preconditions for the situation in the way the border demarcation was made between the two countries after the collapse of the USSR.

Several opposition members of the Armenian parliament began negotiations with the rally participants demanding a vote of no confidence in the government and the prime minister.

Meanwhile, Aik Kondjoryan, the leader of the ruling “Civil Contract” parliamentary faction, has announced that Russian border and military checkpoints in the Ararat, Vayots Dzor, Gegarkunik, Syunik, and Tavush Regions will cease their activities. A decision has also been approved to cease the activities of Russian border guards at Yerevan Zvartnots Airport.

On May 8, it became known that the Armenian authorities do not intend to participate in financing the activities of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) this year, but the country remains a member of the CSTO.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

On March 23, 2023, Askhabali Alibekov was sentenced to a year and two months of imprisonment, when the court recognized that the video posted by the blogger on his YouTube channel discredited the Russian Armed Forces. In November of the same year, Askhabali Alibekov was released. On March 29, a spouse of Askhabali Alibekov reported that the prosecutor’s office was not satisfied with the verdict in the case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and challenged it. The Court of Cassation in Krasnodar cancelled the Askhabali Alibekov’s sentence and sent the case for review.

The blogger has already served his sentence, but is now back in a SIZO (pre-trial prison). The court will consider the same charge under the article on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces again.

Marina Melikhova, who was convicted in the case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, thanked activists for their support and publicity of the violation of her rights, since thanks to the people’s support and public outcry the administration of the SIZO in Armavir improved the conditions of detention.

Nadezhda Kevorkova’s case

On May 6, journalist Nadezhda Kevorkova was detained. She was accused of justifying terrorism because of her post on a Telegram channel about the “Taliban” movement* and a repost of a publication prepared by journalist Orkhan Djemal, advocate Kaloi Akhilgov reports.

The Basmanny Court of Moscow has placed Nadezhda Kevorkova in custody until July 6. The defence has requested the court to place the journalist under house arrest.

Earlier, Nadezhda Kevorkova has critically assessed the actions of law enforcers in Northern Caucasus in general and in Kabardino-Balkaria in particular. So, on the night of July 3, 2021, the law enforcement bodies announced that they carried out a counterterrorist operation (CTO) in Nalchik and Baksan, as a result of which five suspected militants were declared killed. Nadezhda Kevorkova reported that one of those killed suspects was identified as Khasanbi Khupsirgenov, convicted in the case on the attack on Nalchik in 2005. According to the journalist’s information, all five killed suspects, including Khasanbi Khupsirgenov, Anzor Barazov, Arsen Mendokhov, Mamaz Chikhradze, and Khasan Shogenov, had been kidnapped before the special operation and the very special operation was stage-managed.

Lawyer Timofei Shirokov has pointed out that that psychological and linguistic examination has become a punitive tool and that, without clear criteria determined, investigators can easily use such examination to confirm the conclusions they need.

Journalist Maxim Shevchenko, a former husband of Nadezhda Kevorkova, said that in recent years, she no longer worked in the media and that her publications about the events in Nalchik in 2005 were highlighting the torture to which detainees were subjected. Maxim Shevchenko noted that his former wife’s publications irritated the law enforcement bodies. At the same time, Nadezhda Kevorkova “did not support terror in any form,” Maxim Shevchenko claims.

*The Supreme Court (SC) of the Russian Federation recognized the movement as a terrorist organization and banned it in Russia.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By May 12, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 3966 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1966 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 2000 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 871 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 742, in the Rostov Region – 429, in the Krasnodar Territory – 382, in Stavropol Territory – 366, in the Astrakhan Region – 316, in North Ossetia – 282, in Chechnya – 189, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 141, in Kalmykia – 78, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 59, in Ingushetia – 58, and in Adygea – 53.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 13, 2024 at 09:00 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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