The Caucasus Headline
Georgian Business Owners Ignite Protest Against Government’s Coronavirus Restrictions
A group of protesters representing restaurants, hotels, and winter resorts gathered outside the Administrative Building of the Government of Georgia to demand the easing of coronavirus restrictions on businesses. The protesters stated that their businesses will fail to recover unless they are able to reopen and resume sales immediately. To increase public awareness, more than 200 restaurants ceased operations for a 24 hour period as a form of protest.
Armenian Lawmaker Arrested for Alleged Threats Against Prime Minister
Vahan Badsyan, a former lawmaker from the internationally-unrecognized Republic of Artsakh, was arrested for alleged threats against Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. In an interview with reporters on January 28, Badsyan indicated that there are possible ways of removing the Prime Minister from office, even if the use of arms are required. The statement was classified as a death threat by the National Security Service, and Badsyan was detained the same day. A court date has not been set for his case yet.
Water Prices in Azerbaijan to Double on February 1
The Tariff Council of Azersu Open Joint Stock Company held a meeting on January 31 in which it was confirmed that the price of water would double beginning on February 1. The price for one cubic meter of water for cities of the Absheron Peninsula will increase from 0.35 AZN to 0.7 AZN. Despite public criticism, Azersu stated that the increase was necessary in order to facilitate improvements in quality of service, reconstruction of water supply and sewage systems, and cover all operating costs.
Sources: Agenda.ge, Armenpress.am, APA.az
Eastern Europe Headlines
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya Nominated for Nobel Prize
Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. Tsikhanouskaya has been living in Lithuania after fleeing Belarus in August following the disputed presidential elections. The President of Lithuania nominated the activist in order to show Lithuania’s support for the Belarusian democratic movement and support for free elections.
Thousands More Detained in Second Weekend of Navalny Protests
Protesters gathered for a second time on January 31 to show support for Alexei Navalny who remains in prison. According to OVD-Info, an independent site that monitors arrest activity, more than 5,000 people were detained across the country for protesting, with 1,600 individuals detained in Moscow alone. Demonstrations are expected for Tuesday, February 2, when a court will decide whether or not Navalny’s suspended sentence on previous charges should be replaced with a real jail term.
Protests Against Abortion Ban Erupe Across Poland
On January 29, thousands of people gathered for marches in cities across Poland to protest a near total ban on abortions put in place by the government earlier in the week. The protests come after a Constitutional Tribunal ruling in October that terminating pregnancies under the context of fetal defects was unconstitutional. The decision came into effect on January 27.
Sources: VOA News, CNN, Reuters
Russian Foreign Minister Hosts Meeting with South Ossetian Counterpart
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosted Dmitry Medoev, the Foreign Minister of the unrecognized South Ossetian government, for a meeting on January 25. The two parties discussed growing bilateral ties in trade, culture, and humanitarian areas. Lavrov and Medoev signed the Consultation Plan 2021-2022 for the continued development of bilateral coordination of foreign policy. At the meeting’s conclusion, Lavrov awarded Medoev with a Russian Foreign Ministry Badge for his contribution to the development of Russia-Ossetian relations.
South Ossetia State Security Committee Releases Report on 2020 Border Detentions
South Ossetia’s State Security Committee released a report indicating that in 2020, 423 individuals were detained at the territory’s borders with both the Russian Federation and Georgia proper. 184 detentions were for attempting to illegally cross the State Border, 227 for illegal stay within the border zone, and 12 for disobeying the orders of Ossetian KGB and Russian FSB officers. 11 criminal cases were initiated based on the detentions.
Abkhaz Foreign Minister Discusses Business Cooperation With Pakistan
On January 28, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Daur Kove met with Javad Rahman, the President of the Association for the Promotion of Business Relations with Pakistan. The Foreign Ministers discussed opportunities in developing cultural, trade, and economic ties across various fields. Kove noted that he is prepared to facilitate the establishment of business contracts between Pakistan and Abkhazia. It should be noted that Pakistan openly supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijan, and does not recognize Armenia as a country. The interest in developing business relations with Abkhazia goes against Pakistan’s typical position on territorial integrity.
Sources: civil.ge, Apsnypress, State News Agency “Res”
Ukrainian Reintegration Ministry to Promote Crimean Tatar Language
The Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine developed a draft of a plan to promote the Crimean Tatar language. The draft plan was created after several rounds of consultations with experts from the National Academy of Sciences, teachers, the Mejlis of Crimean Tatars, and NGOs. The Ministry has already requested help from Google and Duolingo to implement the use of Crimean Tatar language in their platforms. The draft is now up for public debate, after which it will become a proposal to be considered by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine.
Russian Anti-Ship System Deployed to Crimean Peninsula
The Russian military deployed an anti-ship missile launcher to the Crimean Peninsula shortly after the United States sent a third naval vessel to the Black Sea region. Russian officials state that the system, officially part of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, was deployed for military drills on the peninsula. The system is capable of defending more than 600 kilometers of coastline.
Slovakia Latest Country to Join Expanding Crimean Platform
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry reported that Slovakia is the latest country to announce its plans for attending the Crimean Platform Summit later this year. Slovakia’s Foreign Minister described the importance of Ukraine as a neighboring country and noted its support for Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Slovakia also reaffirmed that it does not recognize the violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Sources: UNIAN Information Agency, 112 International
OSCE Monitoring Mission Spots Heavy Weaponry in Russian-Occupied Territories
An unmanned aerial vehicle belonging to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine spotted heavy weaponry in sites in Russian-occupied districts of Donbas. On January 28, the drone discovered mortars and battle tanks at a training ground located in Donetsk. Ten infantry fighting vehicles were spotted in the same area, which is considered as a military presence in the security zone, violating the Package of Measures agreed upon by Russia.
Russia Deploys Sputnik Vaccine to Donetsk
Russia has begun to supply the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine despite a ban by the Ukrainian government. The Ukrainian government plans to receive Western-made vaccines and has banned the use of the Russian vaccine. According to Denis Pushilin, the head of the unrecognized Donetsk republic, stated that a few thousand doses of vaccine have been supplied and that vaccinations would begin soon.
U.S., Russia Ready for Dialogue on Solution to Donbas Conflict
According to the Russian Presidential Press Secretary, Dmitriy Peskov, stated in a press conference that as a result of the recent conversation between President Biden and President Putin, there is a readiness to continue dialogue on the resolution of the Donbas conflict. Russia views the situation in Donbas as a domestic Ukrainian conflict, and the United States supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and labels the situation as ongoing Russian aggression.
Sources: UNIAN Information Agency, Reuters, 112 International
OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs Announce Future Visit to Nagorno-Karabakh
According to an announcement issued by the Spokeswoman of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are currently having discussions to organize an official visit to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally-recognized as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, but the portion including the city of Khankendi (Stepanakert) is still held by ethnic Armenians following the 2020 war. Zakharova noted that the date of the visit has not yet been confirmed.
Turkish-Russian Ceasefire Monitoring Center Opens in Aghdam
The Turkish-Russian Joint Monitoring Center in Aghdam was inaugurated on January 30. The establishment of the Joint Monitoring Center was a result of the trilateral peace agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 10, 2020. The objective of the Center is to increase the effectiveness of monitoring both sides’ compliance with the ceasefire agreement. Azerbaijan views the opening of the Center as a crucial step in implementing the 3+3 cooperation format, which would include Russia, Turkey, and Iran as external partners, and Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia as the regional members.
Expert Subgroups to be Formed for Transportation Developments in Nagorno-Karabakh
In a statement released by Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Alexei Overchuk, Azerbaijani, Russian, and Armenian officials met in Moscow to discuss the creation of subgroups of specialists for developments in transport and security following the trilateral peace agreement. The three countries decided to form subgroups on numerous topics including on rail infrastructure, road investments, and border controls. The formation of the expert subgroups are expected to be completed by February 2.
Sources: Armenpress.am, Report.az, Oxu.az
Transnistrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Meets with OSCE Officials
Transnistria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Vitaly Ignatiev met with the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Thomas Mayer-Harting, the Ambassador from Sweden to Moldova Anna Lieberg, and the head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova Klaus Neukirch. The representatives discussed several topics, including road transportation issues that have recently been the subject of debate between Moldova and Transnistria. The parties also discussed the prospects of holding a discussion in the 5+2 format, but this was not confirmed nor was a date established.
Transnistrian President Meets With Board of Ministry of Internal Affairs
President of Transnistria Vadim Krasnoselsky took part in a virtual meeting with the board of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to discuss the results of work conducted in 2020. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Ruslan Mova, devoted the majority of his speech to describing the efforts used to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Krasnoselsky issues several instructions for activities to be completed in 2021. He indicated that Trasnistria’s Safe City system has proven to be effective, but requires further development. The President encouraged the Ministry of Internal Affairs to make improvements without requesting additional funds from the state treasury.
Sources: MFA PDR, Novosti Pridnestrovya