Welcome to ICRCenter’s weekly briefing on conflicts in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine. This week, Russia announces Russian-Turkish Ceasefire Monitor Center, Moldova elects pro-EU president, and Pompeo prepares a visit to Georgia.
Pompeo to Visit Georgia to Discuss Georgian Euro-Atlantic Integration
U.S. Department of State officials discussed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Georgia on Nov. 17–18. Senior officials said “free and fair” Georgian runoff parliamentary elections on Nov. 21 are essential for Georgian Euro-Atlantic ties. Officials condemned the Russian invasion of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and reaffirmed their support for Georgia’s sovereignty. Pompeo will meet with President Salome Zourabichvilli, PM Giorgi Gakharia, and Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia.
Putin Meets with Self-Proclaimed President of Abkhazia
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with de-facto President of Russian-occupied Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania in Sochi on Nov. 12. Putin said Russia will continue to be Abkhazia’s “number one partner.” Putin added that 70% of Abkhaz economic development stems from Moscow and hopes that Russian doctors will help the region to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Georgian Ambassador to Austria Ketevan Tsikhelashvili denounced the meeting, calling it a direct violation of Georgian national sovereignty.
U.S. Mission to OSCE to Welcome OSCE Field Presence in Georgia
U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said they would welcome the reestablishment of OSCE field presence in Georgia to reduce local tensions. The Mission commented on Russia’s refusal to participate in the 51st round of Geneva Discussions on Oct. 6–7, declining dialogue about detained civilians and restoration of movement across the Administrative Boundary Lines. Russian Foreign Ministry said Abhaz and Tskhinvali officials did not attend the platform due to COVID-19 concerns.
Sources: State.gov, Agenda.ge
Program to Address Crimean Water Shortages
The Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Marat Khusnullin claims the shortage of water in Crimea is caused by residents stealing water. Khusnullin says that a program to account for water usage and control will be in place by Dec. 1. Ukraine provided 85% of the Crimean peninsula’s freshwater supply prior to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. The peninsula now faces low water levels in reservoirs due to drought.
Ukraine Officials Call on EU to Expand Sanctions Against Russia
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called on the EU to expand sanctions against Russia during the sixth meeting of the EU-Ukraine Association Committee. The Ministry reasoned that the Russian Federation’s State Duma elections in Crimea on Sep. 13 violated Ukrainian national sovereignty, requesting additional diplomatic and economic pressure from the international community.
Sources: 112 International, TASS, Ukrinform
OSCE Reports 141 Ceasefire Violations, 89 Undetermined Explosion
From Nov. 12–14, OSCE reported 97 violations of ceasefire agreements in Donetsk and 44 in Luhansk. The Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) observed 89 undetermined explosions on Nov. 12. Two men were injured due to the detonation of an explosive device in Volnovakha, Donetsk region. OSCE SMM witnessed a surface-to-air missile system near the government-controlled village of Chernenko.
OSCE Official Comments on Upholding of Ceasefire Agreements
The Special Representative of the OSCE Ambassador Heidi Grau stated the ceasefire in Donbas is “generally respected” but there are many repeated violations targeting Donetsk Filtering Station (DFS). Of all violations, 44% were committed around critical water infrastructure, which endangers 380,000 people living on both sides of the contact line.
Separatists Do Not Open Checkpoints in Zolote and Shchastya
Foreign Ministries of Germany and France demanded Russia and the separatists to open checkpoints in Zolote and Shchastya. The separatists have not complied with the Trilateral Contact Group’s agreement opening crossing points on Nov. 10. Ukraine opened two new crossings, abiding with the agreements of the Normandy-format.
Ukraine Proposes to Send 1,500 OSCE Officers to Police Donbas
Ukraine proposes to send 1,500 police officers from OSCE to oversee the conflict in Donbas. OSCE previously considered sending armed monitors to the area only if it was supported by all cooperating states. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration seeks to demilitarize the region to hold elections in Donbas in the future.
UN Report Estimates Nine Million Ukrainians in Poverty Due to COVID-19
The UN report on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic could lead nine million Ukrainians to poverty. In 40% of families, at least one family member lost a job during the pandemic. 15% of families reported being in debt, compared to 11% before March. The report stated Luhansk hospitals are 70% full and the region is negatively affected by the government shutdown of the Stanytsia Luhanska checkpoint.
Sources: OSCE, 112 International, RFE/RL, Reuters, Impact-Repository.org
Russia Announces Russian-Turkish Ceasefire Monitoring Center
On Nov. 11, the Russian Defense Ministry reported a memorandum setting up a joint Russian-Turkish ceasefire monitoring center in Azerbaijan that had been signed between Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar. The following day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov clarified that “No peacekeeping units of the Turkish Republic will be dispatched to Nagorno-Karabakh…The mobility of Turkish monitors will be restricted by the coordinates to be set for the location and deployment of the joint Russian-Turkish monitoring center in the territory of Azerbaijan, that part of it which is not close to Karabakh and is to be agreed on separately.”
Deadline to Withdraw from Kalbajar Extended
On Sunday, Nov. 15, Azerbaijan agreed to extend the deadline for Armenians to leave the Kalbajar district. The withdrawal, originally set for Nov. 15, is part of a Russian-brokered peace deal signed on Tuesday, Nov. 10. According to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s foreign policy adviser Hikmet Hajiyev, “Azerbaijan agreed to prolong the deadline for the withdrawal from Kalbajar of the Armenian armed forces and of illegal Armenian settlers until November 25.”
Armenians Burn Villages as they Leave Azerbaijan
Armenian residents of the Kalbajar district began fleeing villages following the ceasefire agreement last Tuesday. As they leave the area, many civilians are setting fire to their homes so that no Azerbaijanis can move in. The district was settled by Armenians after the war in the 1990s when Armenia occupied the region. Azerbaijan has always viewed these Armenian settlements as illegal.
Azerbaijan Promises to Protect Christian Churches
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has assured Russian President Vladimir Putin that Christian churches will be protected as Azerbaijan regains control over several territories which Armenia has occupied since the war in 1994. Azerbaijan is about 95% Muslim and Armenia is majority Christian. “Christians of Azerbaijan will have access to these churches,” Aliyev’s office said in a statement on Sunday, Nov. 15.
Russia to Establish Humanitarian Response Center in Nagorno-Karabakh
On Friday, Nov. 13, the Kremlin press service reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an executive order to create an inter-agency humanitarian response center for Nagorno-Karabakh. Putin has asked for the Russian Foreign Ministry to work closely with the OSCE Minsk Group, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and UNESCO to help resettle refugees in their permanent homes in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Sources: CBC, France 24, Reuters, The Guardian, BBC, TASS
Pro-EU Candidate Wins Presidency
Pro-EU candidate Maia Sandu has won the presidential runoff elections, securing the majority with 56% votes. Moldova’s Putin-backed incumbent Igor Dodon won 43% of the votes. Sandu’s platform promised to end corruption and establish closer ties with the EU.
Moldova’s War Veterans Patrol Transnistrian Border to Avoid Voter Fraud
Moldovan veterans gathered around the village of Varnita that connects to Transnistria to prevent mass transportation of Transnistrian voters across the border. In the 2016 and 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, pro-Russian incumbent Igor Dodon won by over 70,000 votes because of illegal bussing and bribing of separatist Transnistrian residents. Moldovan authorities banned any vehicles carrying more than eight individuals entering from the de facto state for the runoff elections on Nov.15th.
Sources: DW, Euronews