Welcome to ICRC’s weekly briefing covering conflicts in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine.
This week, Georgian elections spark protests in Tbilisi, Moldovan elections lead to a runoff between a pro-Russian incumbent and pro-Western former Prime Minister, and attacks in Nagorno-Karabakh may be identified as war crimes.
Georgian Dream Party Wins the Election, Rejected by the Opposition
Georgia’s ruling party the Georgian Dream claimed to have won the Oct. 31st parliamentary elections, but the largest opposition party, the United National Movement (ENM), rejected the results and called for a protest in Tbilisi. Thousands of demonstrators gathered on Nov. 1st demanding new elections. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) concluded that elections were competitive but fundamental freedoms were not violated. The Georgian Dream received 48.15 percent of votes and ENM stood at 27.14 percent. Abkhazia and South Ossetia did not vote in the election.
Ukraine Calls France to Join “Crimean Platform”
Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba invited his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian to join the “Crimean Platform” – an initiative by the Ukrainian government to end Russian occupation and protect human rights. French representatives said they will consider the invitation and continue non-recognition of the Crimean annexation.
Russia Sentences Three Tatars on Extremist Charges
The Southern Military Regional court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced three Crimean Tatars to 17, 13, and 12 years in a Russian prison. The men were found guilty of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir Islamic, a group legal in Ukraine but labeled extremist in Russia. Over 200 people gathered around the court to protest the sentencing on Nov. 3rd.
COVID-19 Cases Reach 11,300 in Crimea
The occupying authorities in Crimea reported 11,347 confirmed cases, with 2,338 cases reported in Sevastopol. The Crimean Human Rights Group said the total death toll is 206 people but allege the number is underestimated.
Ukraine Invites Russia to Join Crimean Summit
First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Emine Dzheppar encouraged Russia to participate in the Crimean Summit scheduled for 21 May 2021. Countries that expressed their interest in attending the platform include Turkey, the US, and the Baltic States. The summit, also known as the “Crimean Platform” will discuss de-occupation and human rights violations on the peninsula.
U.S. Mission to OSCE Released a Statement on Situation in Crimea
Deputy Chief of U.S. Mission, Courtney Austrian addressed the Permanent Council in Vienna directing Russia to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and end the Crimean occupation. Austrian made note of seven civilian deaths from cluster ammunitions, inability of Ukrainian voters in Donbas and Crimea to vote in local elections, mass conscription of Crimean residents, and human rights violations of Tatars. The Deputy Chief encouraged Moscow to “engage in genuine diplomacy.”
Source: Unian, RFE/RL, Ukrinform, osce.usmission.gov
Ukrainian Serviceman Acquitted in Murder of Italian Journalist in Donbas
Ukrainian National Guard serviceman Vitaliy Markiv returns to Kyiv after being acquitted of the 2014 murder of Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli. Markiv was arrested in 2017 during his visit to Italy and was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Italian prosecutors alleged that Ukrainian National Guard under Markiv’s command deliberately targeted a town outside of Slovyansk knowing that there were journalists on the scene. Milan overturned the conviction on Nov. 3rd.
OSCE Reports 49 Ceasefire Violations in Donetsk, One Man Dead, Two Injured
From Oct. 28– Nov. 3rd, OSCE reported 49 violations of the ceasefire agreements in Donetsk and nine in Luhansk. Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) reported one man killed in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk from a hand grenade detonation, and two men were injured by a detonation of an explosive device in Rubizhne, Luhansk. Armed formations in non-government-controlled Olenivka delayed the mission’s passage for two hours on Oct. 29th.
Zelensky Dismisses Claims of Ukraine Selling Chemical Weapons to Azerbaijan
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky denounced allegations of Armenian-Russian director Sarik Andreasyan that Ukraine supplied Azerbaijan with phosphorus bombs. Zelensky stated that Andreasyan was spreading Russian propaganda and reinstated that Ukraine is “categorically against wars.” Ukrainian President encouraged the director to reconsider his silence on the war in Donbas, citing numerous deaths of Armenian-Ukrainians on the frontlines.
Zelensky Meets with Red Cross President Urging Him to Visit Donbas
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer to discuss access to political prisoners held on occupied territories. Both sides discussed the mine clearance process, safe checkpoints, and COVID-19 support for eastern oblasts.
Western Diplomats Push Kyiv to Find Killers of the Ukrainian Activist
U.S., Canadian, and British Embassies in Ukraine alongside the EU delegation urged Kyiv to find the killers of Kateryna Handzyuk, a Ukrainian civil activist killed in an acid attack in 2018. Officials sentenced five men to prison for terms of between three and 6 ½ years and arrested the head of the regional council Vladyslav Manher on a suspicion of ordering the attack. Human rights activists and western diplomats urge Kyiv to launch a thorough investigation.
Ukrinform, RFE/RL, OSCE, Kyiv Post, Interfax
UNCHR Warns of War Crimes as Attacks Continue
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warns that continuous attacks in Nagorno-Karabakh will amount to war crimes. Despite an agreement reached on Friday between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the central market in Stepanakert/Khankendi was reported to be hit and Azerbaijani sources report an artillery strike on the city of Tartar. Bachelet condemned the use of cluster ammunition after it was reportedly used in a rocket attack in the Azerbaijani town of Barda, resulting in 21 dead and 70 injured. Azerbaijan reports 40,000 people displaced, and Armenia says 90,000 ethnic Armenians fled from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Military Death Toll Rises to 1,177 in Nagorno-Karabakh, 130 Thousand Displaced
Armenian officials in Nagorno-Karabakh reported the deaths of 1,177 servicemen and 45 civilians. Azerbaijan doesn’t disclose military death toll but said the escalations killed 91 civilians and wounded 400 people. UNICEF announced that over 130,000 residents were displaced.
Aliyev Meets Turkish Foreign Minister to Discuss Russia’s Aid to Armenia
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Baku, where they discussed that Armenia has “no basis” to request military aid from Russia. Aliyev said Azerbaijan will “go to the end,” continuing fighting if negotiations fail and Armenian forces are not withdrawn from Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia’s foreign ministry reinforced that they will provide any assistance to Yerevan if fighting spills into Armenia.
Russia Claims It Will Continue Working with Turkey for Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow will work with Turkey to end fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia is also considering the Iranian proposal for Iran to lead peace negotiations. The spokesperson for Collective Security Treaty alliance said Russia has security alignment with Armenia and not Nagorno-Karabakh.
UN Secretary-General Urges for Humanitarian Ceasefire and Dialogue
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a second statement condemning violence and endangerment of civilians under humanitarian law. Guterres fully supports the OSCE Minsk Group’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire and “substantive dialogue” between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
UK Allocates Funding in Humanitarian Help for Nagorno-Karabakh
The United Kingdom allocated a £1million aid package in medical supplies, food, hygiene products, and other necessities to aid civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross will provide life-saving treatment for people caught in the crossfire.
Sources: OHCHR, The Washington Post, Aljazeera, UN News, US News, Reuters, TASS, Gov.Uk
Moldova to Hold Runoff Presidential Elections on November 15th
Pro-Western former prime minister Maia Sandu will face pro-Russian incumbent, Igor Dodon in a runoff election on November 15th. First round results showed that Sandu secured 36 percent votes over Dodon’s 33. In their campaigns, Sandu, a former World Bank economist, promised to get financial support from Brussels, while Dodon was endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
EU Expresses Approval of Moldovan Elections
In a statement on Nov. 2nd, EU spokesperson praised Moldovan officials for upholding democratic election standards during COVID-19 pandemic. The EU will continue to observe situation in Moldova through OSCE/ODHIR Election Observation Mission for the runoff elections.
Source: Aljazeera, EEAS