Welcome to ICR Center’s weekly briefing on conflicts in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Ukraine. This week Armenians call for PM Nikol Pashhinyan’s resignation, Russia resumes the construction of Nord Stream 2 and Georgian opposition parties agree to the third round of negotiations with the Georgian Dream party.
The Caucasus Headlines
|Georgian Opposition Parties Agree to Third Round of Talks with Ruling Party|
Opposition parties in Georgia established a common position and will proceed with the third round of negotiations with the Georgian Dream party and US and EU ambassadors. The opposition parties are calling for repeat parliamentary elections, which were originally held on October 31. The latest round of elections was held under the new system in which 120 candidates were elected through the proportional system, and 30 were elected according to the majoritarian system.
Lower House of French Senate Accepts Resolution for ‘Recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’
The Lower House of the French Senate adopted a resolution affirming the need to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh. This action comes shortly after the adoption of a similar resolution in the Upper House of the French Senate on November 25. Jean-Yves Le Drian, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, released a statement indicating that Armenia does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh, so France should not recognize it either.
Sources: JAM News
Eastern Europe Headlines
Russia Resumes Construction of Nord Stream 2
German shipping authorities issued a travel advisory for the Baltic Sea area where the last kilometers of the Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 is constructed. On Dec. 5, Russian pipe-laying ship Fortuna left the German port to construct another section of the pipeline. The completion of Nord Stream 2 will bypass Ukraine and will double Russian gas deliveries to Germany. It is speculated German Chancellor Angela Merkel will stop supporting the construction following the poisoning of Russian opposition personality Alexei Navalny.
Belarus Protests for 18th Consecutive Week
Thousands of protestors marched on Dec. 6 denouncing the “rigged” victory of President Alexander Lukashenko. Over 300 protestors have been detained. Witnesses report seeing military vehicles, water cannons and uniformed men in helmets grabbing civilians.
International Criminal Court Allocates Funds for Victims of 2008 War
The Directorate of Trust Fund for Victims, belonging to the International Criminal Court, has launched a three-year program with a budget of 600,000 euros to support victims of the 2008 war. According to Gocha Lortkipanidze, the Acting Minister of Justice, the funds will support medical treatments, psychological rehabilitation, and other health initiatives for individuals on both sides of the internationally unrecognized border between Georgia and South Ossetia.
Enguri Bridge Opens for One-Week Humanitarian Corridor
The Enguri Bridge crossing point linking Georgia with the occupied territory of Abkhazia was opened on December 3 as part of an initiative to establish a humanitarian corridor and will remain open until December 10. The crossing point has been closed since March in light of the global pandemic.
Georgian Government Delivers 10,000 Doses of Flu Vaccine to Abkhazia
According to the Head of the National Center for Disease Control Amiran Gamkrelidze, the Georgian government has delivered 10,000 doses of flu vaccine to the occupied region of Abkhazia. Gamkrelidze indicated that the private sector in Georgia purchased more doses than expected, resulting in a government surplus. Vaccinations will be prioritized for high-risk groups, including military personnel and teachers.
Abkhaz President Notes Goal of Common Defense and Security System with Russia
As a result of the recent developments in Nagorno-Karabakh, the de facto President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania stated that the creation of a common defense and security agreement with Russia is a primary goal for the territory. The effort of establishing this type of agreement is seen as a continuation of the partnership signed in 2014, which established a ‘socio-economic space’ with Russia.
Latvia Charges Russian State Media Journalists for Sanctions Violations
Latvian officials charged seven Russian state media journalists from Rossiya Segodnya news agency for their affiliation with Dmitry Kiselyov, who was sanctioned by the EU for pro-Crimean annexation propaganda. Latvia’s counter-intelligence State Security Service initiated “court-sanctioned proceedings” against unnamed journalists alleging violations of EU sanctions.
Ambassador Reeker Discusses Crimean Occupation, Sentencing of Activists
U.S. Ambassador Philip T. Reeker addressed the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stating that Russian occupation of Crimea undermines regional security in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Middle East. He said he was disturbed by Crimean activist Server Mustafayev’s 14-year imprisonment. The Ambassador noted that more than 90 Ukrainians are unjustly imprisoned for peaceful dissent.
OSCE Ministerial Council Opens with Discussion on Conflict Settlement in Crimea
The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Edi Rama said conflict in Ukraine is the “utmost priority,” including the de-occupation of Crimea at the 27th OSCE Ministerial Council. Rama also called for constructive discussions in the Trilateral Contract Group overseen by the OSCE.
Sources: U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Russia, Reuters, Ukrinform
|OSCE Reports 402 Ceasefire Violations, 13 Anti-Tank Mines|
From Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, OSCE reported 242 violations of ceasefire agreements in Donetsk and 160 in Luhansk. The Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) observed 13 anti-tank mines near non-government-controlled Petrivske, Donetsk Oblast. The mission confirmed that a member of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine was injured from the detonation of an explosive device on Sep. 1st near Stantsia Luhanska, Luhansk Oblast.
Ukraine Denies Talks with Donbas “Representatives” in UN Security Council Meeting
Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) disproved claims made by Russian media about a formal meeting at the UN Security Council between Ukraine and self-proclaimed representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics mediated by Russia. In a joint statement, the U.K., U.S., Estonia, and the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN Sergiy Kyslytsya rejected the notion that Russia is an acting mediator in the Donbas conflict.
Sources: OSCE, Ukrinform, 112 UA
Political Crisis Festers in Armenia After Ceasefire Agreement
After Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia signed the ceasefire agreement on Nov. 10, protests erupted in Armenia, as citizens and officials alike felt that Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had made a unilateral decision. Numerous officials close to Pashinyan resigned, and President Aarmen Sarkissian has begun to distance himself from the Prime Minister. Sarkissian has called on the current government to resign and has made ‘private visits’ to Moscow.
President of Azerbaijan Announces Rebuilding Efforts in Liberated Territories
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received a delegation led by the Deputy Speaker of the Italian Chamber of Deputies on Dec. 7. In this meeting, Aliyev noted the widespread destruction that took place during the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories. Aliyev announced that the Azerbaijani government will soon invite international companies, including those from Italy, to participate in the large-scale reconstruction and restoration efforts.
New Armenian Foreign Minister Meets with Russian Foreign Minister in Moscow
Armenia’s new Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazyan met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Dec. 7. The two parties discussed the process of exchanging prisoners and fallen soldiers in the Karabakh conflict zone. Foreign Minister Lavrov stated that Russia will do its best to promote progress in the resolution of the conflict, noting that Russian peacekeepers are already actively operating in the region.
Sources: Eurasianet, Report.az, Sputnik Armenia
20,000 Protesters Demand Snap Elections in Chisinau
Approximately 20,000 protestors demanded full government resignation and snap parliamentary elections on Dec. 6. President-elect Maia Sandu called the rally after the parliament passed a bill transferring presidential control over Moldova’s intelligence agency to the pro-Moscow government. European Union External Action Service said the voting failed to respect the necessary parliamentary procedures. In 2019, parliament voted to move the power over the intelligence agency to the pro-Russian President, Igor Dodon.
Low Turnout at Transnistrian “Parliamentary Elections”
Transnistrian “parliamentary elections” for the Supreme Council on Nov. 29th recorded a voter turnout of 27.79%, making it the lowest in history. Self-proclaimed Transnistrian authorities validated the victory of the Obnovlenie Party, led by oligarch Viktor Gushan. Tiraspol has staged seven parliamentary elections since 1992.
Russian Officials Respond to President-Elect’s Agenda for Transnistria
Kremlin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov responded to the Moldovan President-elect’s refusal to sign any agreements to station the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Transnistria, saying the change in the status quo will destabilize the region. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded to Sandu’s statement on the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers, calling it “irresponsible” to withdraw troops until the conflict is resolved. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reinstated that Russian troops in Transnistria violate Moldova’s territorial integrity.
Sources: Moldova.org, RFE/RL, European Union External Action Service, Balkan Insight