December 23 – December 28
Welcome to ICR Center’s weekly briefing on conflicts in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Ukraine. This week Azerbaijan reports an Armenian armed attack in Khojavend, Maia Sandu becomes the new president of Moldova and the Armenian PM discusses the possibility of early parliamentary elections.
The Caucasus Headlines
Georgian Parliament Approves Resolution Supporting EU and NATO Ascension Goals
On Dec. 26, Georgia’s parliament unanimously adopted a resolution supporting the country’s aspirations of gaining membership in NATO and the European Union. Previously, the Executive Secretary and Political Council Member of the ruling Georgian Dream party Irakli Kobakhidze stated that Georgia will apply for full EU membership in 2024. The resolution also supports the peaceful settlement of all conflicts.
Armenian Prime Minister Discusses Possibility of Early Parliamentary Elections
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced on Dec. 25 that he is ready to discuss the possibility of holding early parliamentary elections. Many have called for early elections as a result of dissatisfaction with Armenia’s military defeat in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war. Despite the consideration of early elections, Pashinyan continues to ignore demands for him to step down from his position as Prime Minister.Azerbaijan to Mediate Discussions Between Turkey and Israel
Azerbaijan cooperated with both Turkey and Israel during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war and following the signing of a trilateral peace agreement in November, Azerbaijan is now attempting to mend the relationship between Israel and Turkey. Relations between Israel and Turkey have deteriorated since the 2008 Gaza war, however, it has been reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has responded positively to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s request of improving relations.
Sources: TASS, AP, Axios
Eastern Europe Headlines
COVID-19 Cases Rise in Belarus Prisons
Activists report a spike of COVID-19 infections in detention prisons in Belarus connected to the mass incarceration of protesters demonstrating against the authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko. Incarcerated protesters allege lack of medical treatment, overcrowded cells and poor ventilation.
Putin Allowed Ex-Presidents Become Senators for Life
President of Russia, Vladimir Putin signed a law permitting former presidents to become lifelong senators in Russia’s upper house of parliament. Presidents can also name up to 30 senators to the Federation Council. Other legislation currently in the works would grant ex-presidents political immunity for life.
Source: Associated Press, Reuters
Georgian State Minister for Reintegration Declares South Ossetia as ‘Closed and Isolated’
Georgia’s State Minister for Reintegration and Civic Equality Tea Akhvlediani described the current status of South Ossetia as ‘closed and artificially isolated’ in a recent statement. South Ossetia has kept the crossing points connecting the territory with the rest of Georgia closed for over a year. The Georgian delegation of the Geneva International Discussions recently raised the issue of the humanitarian situation in the territory, noting that locals have been unable to receive medical treatment. It was noted that 16 people have died as a result of blocked access to urgent medical facilities and delayed hospitalization.
Abkhaz Forces Construct New Barriers between Abkhazia and Georgia
The Georgian Security Service recently announced that Russian-backed occupation forces in Abkhazia have constructed new, illegal barriers dividing the territory from the rest of Georgia. The Georgian Security Service stated that barriers and barbed-wire fences were installed near the Pakhulani village of the Tsalenjikha municipality on Dec. 26-27. Georgia has stated that the new barriers further complicate the security situation and restricts the free movement of the local population.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia Expresses Concern Over Georgia’s Military Expansion
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia published a response to Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Garibashvili’s recent announcement of plans of purchasing reconnaissance and combat aerial vehicles and plans for partnering with Israel to modernize the country’s air defense system. The Abkhaz side alleges that these actions limit the possibility of reaching a peaceful settlement on existing conflicts and partially places blame on the United States for its support of Georgia. Sources: Agenda.ge, Apsyn Press
Ukraine to Prevent Construction of Russian Water Desalination Plants in Crimea
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuebla announced that Ukraine is intending to block the Russian construction of water desalination plants in Crimea. Ukraine formally provided 85% of water to the peninsula before the Russian annexation. As a result of the drought, five Crimean rivers and reservoirs are drying up.
Zelensky to Call Putin in Normandy Four Is Delayed
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he will call Russian President Vladimir Putin if the meeting of the Normandy Four leaders is delayed. The advisors to the Normandy Four (Ukraine, Germany, France and Russia) were scheduled to meet in December. Zelensky noted that calling Putin would be more effective as the Normandy format only discusses Donbas and not Crimea.
Russia Initiates Trial Against 25 Crimean Political Prisoners
The Crimean Solidarity human rights group wrote that the trial for the Hizb ut-Tahrir case charging 25 Crimean Political Prisoners will begin on Dec. 28th in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. Almost all prisoners are Crimean Solidarity activists, and three defenders are journalists. All 25 defenders are currently detained in Crimea and will be transferred to Rostov-on-Don the day of trial.
Sources: 112 International, Interfax, Urkinform
OSCE Reports 171 Ceasefire Violations, Restricted Freedom of Movement
From Dec. 23 to Dec. 27th, OSCE reported 130 violations of ceasefire agreements in Donetsk region and 37 in Luhansk. The Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) followed up with civilians crossing the two entry-exit checkpoints in Donetsk and three crossings in Luhansk. The Mission noted restrictions on movement in Donetsk checkpoints near Shevchenko and Zaichenko.
Zelensky Signs a Law on Special Status of Donetsk and Luhansk Regions
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law that prolonged for one year the possibility of temporary procedures for local self-government in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The law allows for the creation of legislative initiatives to promote peaceful settlement under the norms of the international law. The law was initially implemented in 2014.
Sources: OSCE, Ukrinform
Armenian Armed Group Attacks Azerbaijani Forces in Khojavend
A group of six armed Armenians, including residual Armenian Armed Forces members that remained in the region following the signing of the trilateral peace agreement ending the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, led an attack on the Azerbaijani army officers on Dec. 27. One Azerbaijani soldier was killed in the attack, and another was injured. All six members of the Armenian group were killed. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense condemned the attack and announced that it will take additional actions if another similar event occurs in the future.
Russian Peacekeepers Continue Demining Work in Nagorno-Karabakh
Specialists from the Russian Ministry of Defense’s International Mine Action Center are continuing demining efforts in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Demining specialists are using modern robotic systems to detect explosive objects. So far, 300 hectares of land have been cleared, as well as 120 kilometers of roadways and 505 buildings. More than 12 thousand explosive devices have been discovered and neutralized since the beginning of demining efforts.
Law Offices Established in Shusha for Returning Refugees
Anar Bagirov, the Chairman of the Bar Association of Azerbaijan, released an announcement on the topic of establishing legal offices in the Shusha. He noted that citizens returning to the region must have access to quality legal services. During the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, the Bar Association collected legal evidence and sent case reports and appeals to international organizations and also provided free legal assistance to families of soldiers and officers involved in military operations. Sources: report.az, ArmenPress, oxu.az
New Moldovan President Takes Office
Maia Sandu was sworn in as the new president of Moldova on Dec. 24th in Chisinau. Sandu promised to unite Moldova by appointing a team of experts to manage the economy and by integrating with the EU. In her inauguration speech she also called for snap legislative elections. Sandu is expected to nominate a new prime minister after pro-Russian PM Ion Chicu and his government resigned on Dec. 23.