February 2 – February 8
Welcome to ICR Center’s weekly briefing on conflicts in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The Caucasus Headlines
U.S. Naval Destroyer Docks at Georgian Black Sea Port
The USS Donald Cook, a destroyer from the U.S. Naval Forces arrived in Georgia’s Black Sea port in Batumi on February 5. After refueling, U.S. Naval Forces will engage in training with the Georgian Coast Guard to “improve readiness, strengthen maritime domain awareness, and refine bilateral interoperability” according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Georgia.
New U.S. Secretary of State Holds Call with Russian Foreign Minister
The incumbent U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Blinken raised the issues of possible Rusisan interference in the 2020 U.S. elections, Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine and Georgia, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, the SolarWinds hacking incident, and other issues. Both the U.S. State Department and the Russian Foreign Ministry released press briefs after the call, and the Russian press brief left out references to regional conflicts.
Sources: Agenda.ge, Civil.ge, Mid.ru
Eastern Europe Headlines
President Zelenskiy Blocks Russian-Backed TV Channels
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy met with G7 and E.U. ambassadors on February 3 to explain his decision to block the 112, NewsOne, and ZIK television channels. Zelenskiy justified his decision by claiming that it was a necessary measure to fight Russian aggression and disinformation. The channels are believed to belong to Russian-national Viktor Mevedchuk, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and supports the Opposition Platform for Life, a political party popular in Southeastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian City in Donetsk Will Possibly be Renamed ‘New York’
The Parliamentary Committee on the Organization of Public Authority introduced legislation to rename the settlement of Novhorodske in the Donetsk region to ‘New York.’ Members of Parliament previously introduced this concept in 2017, but the measure was revoked. Parliament Members have once again suggested renaming the settlement, explaining that it is based on the historical name of the town. The settlement appeared on military maps from 1846 as ‘New York’ and was renamed Novhorodske in 1951.
Source: 112 UA, RFE/RL
Georgia Requests Support from EU, US in Securing Release of Georgian Citizen
Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia met with the Head of the E.U. Delegation Carl Hartzell and US Ambassador Kelly Degnan to request support in securing the release of a Georgian citizen being held by authorities in the occupied South Ossetia region. Zaza Gakheladze was detained by South Ossetian forces in summer 2020, and he was charged with illegally crossing the border and attempted murder. Ossetian authorities sentenced him to 12 years in prison.
Woman’s Death in Akhalgori Result of Delayed Medical Care
Zamira Chochieva, a teacher in the Akhalgori district of the occupied South Ossetia region, died of a heart attack due to delays in receiving medical assistance. Activists say that Akhalgori has been isolated from Georgia proper for more than one year, and the local population is unable to receive vital services including medical services. Since September 2019, more than 20 individuals have died in Akhalgori as a result of closed border checkpoints and delays in receiving medical assistance.
Russian Parliamentary Delegation Visits South Ossetia
A Russian parliamentary delegation, led by the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev, visited South Ossetia on February 5. The delegation met with the President of the regime occupying Georgia’s Tskhinvali region, Analtoly Bibilov, as well as members of this government’s parliament. The Parliament of the South Ossetian regime has been protesting and has not convened since September 2020. The visit from Moscow was designed in part to put pressure on the local government to improve the relations with Moscow as a whole.
Sources: Agenda.ge, Civil.ge
Ukraine Maintains Position on Crimean Water Supply
Ukranian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba gave an interview to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian Service, and in this interview, he stated that the water supply to the Crimean peninsula can only be restored after the end of Russian occupation. Prior to Russia’s occupation, Ukraine supplied up to 85% of freshwater supplies to Crimea through the North Crimean Canal. Since 2014, droughts and low water supplies in reservoirs have become common, and local authorities have imposed water restrictions on residents.
Ukraine Imposes Sanctions on Nicaragua for Opening Consulate in Crimea
According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister spokesman Oleg Nikolenko, the establishment of an honorary consul of Nicaragua in Crimea is a violation of Ukrainian and international law. Ukraine has responded to the situation with sanctions on Nicaragua. Ukraine proposed sanctions against Nicaragua in November 2020, however, it wasn’t until February 2 that the Verkhovna Rada adopted Resolution No. 4689 which formally applied sanctions and ‘other restrictive measures’ on the Republic of Nicaragua.
Sources: unian.info, Ukrinform
Russia to Supply Sputnik V Vaccine to Occupied Parts of Eastern Ukraine
On February 3, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the Russian government will supply separist regions of Eastern Ukraine with the Sputnik V vaccine despite Ukraine’s ban on the Russian product. A Donetsk-based media outlet claimed that shipments of the Russian vaccine had begun, but the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad, said that it did not supply the occupied territories of Ukraine.
Massive Arms Cache Discovered in Donetsk
According to the Press Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office, a massive arms cache was discovered in an abandoned building in the Primorsky district of Mariupol in the occupied Donetsk region. Law enforcement officers discovered more than 1,600 hand grenades, 2,000 flares, 1,060 fuses, dozens of handguns, and 124 boxes of cartridges. A case has been opened to investigate the mishandling of weapons, ammunitions, and explosives.
Sources: Reuters, 112 UA
Azerbaijan to Launch Regional Radio Service in Liberated Territories
The National Television and Radio Council of Azerbaijan convened for a videoconference on February 8 to discuss the organization of expanding radio broadcasting into the territories recently liberated in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. New broadcasting frequencies will be introduced in the areas returned to Azerbaijan, and national radio channels will be broadcasted through the Shusha Radio and Television Broadcasting Station to provide service to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Foreign Diplomats Examine Destruction in Liberated Territories
Presidential Aide Hikmet Hajiyev led a delegation of ambassadors, military attaches, and representatives of international organizations on a visit to Jabrayil and Zangilan on February 6 to examine the destruction caused to Azerbaijani territory during three decades of occupation. The purpose of the visit was to provide representatives of foreign governments and entities with first-hand knowledge and awareness of the widespread destruction committed by ethnic Armenians when they occupied these territories.
Sources: Report.az, Azernews
WHO Provides Humanitarian Aid to Transnistria
A shipment of humanitarian aid from the World Health Organization was delivered to Transnistria. The WHO provided supplies for prevention and control of COVID-19, including ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and oxygen masks. Transnistria has had 24,527 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 13,920 confirmed recoveries and 464 deaths.
Transnistrian and South Ossetian Foreign Ministers Meet in Tiraspol
The Foreign Minister of the Pridnestrovian Moldovan Republic Vitaly Ignatiev met with the Head of the Official Representative Office of the Republic of South Ossetia Vitaly Yankovsky on February 3. The two parties discussed their relations, and the South Ossetian representative expressed gratitude to the Transnistrian government for holding the Commemoration Ceremony for Victims of Ossetian People Genocide dated 1918-1920. The two parties also discussed bilateral cooperation in the cultural field including through the International Drawing Competition.
Source: Novosti Pridnestrovie, MFA PMR