Strategic Analysis Caucasus Brief

Monthly review (28.2 – 10.4. 2022)

Tomáš Baranec


Noravank monastery, Armenia. Photo: Mike Ilchenko/

Vahagn Khachaturyan elected the new President of Armenia

In the second round of voting on March 3, members of the Armenian parliament unanimously elected Vahagn Khachaturyan, the only candidate, as the new President, informs Caucasian Knot.

On March 2, in the first round, 69 members of the Armenian parliament voted for Khachaturyan, who was proposed by the ruling “Civil Contract” Party. The opposition boycotted the voting, and the second round of voting was scheduled in the parliament, as the President was not elected in the first round.

In the second round, 71 MPs voted for Khachaturyan – the entire composition of the parliamentary faction of the ruling “Civil Contract” Party. According to the Constitution of Armenia, 3/5 votes or 65 votes are enough for a candidate to be elected in the second round. The President is elected for a term of seven years, and he takes office on the 10th day after the election.

As JAM News reminds, Khachaturyan is an economist. In 1992-96 he was the mayor of Yerevan and an adviser to then-President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan. After his retirement, he often acted as an independent expert on economic issues. In 1996-99 he was a member of parliament.

In the 2007 parliamentary elections, he was a representative of the Impeachment bloc. The main demands of the parties united in it were the resignation of the then President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. The list of the bloc in the elections was headed by the current Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan.

In 2021, Khachaturyan became a member of the Pashinyan Government, taking the post of Minister of High-Tech Industry.

Armenia attracts Russian specialists as rents skyrocket in Yerevan

Roughly 80.000 Russians have arrived in Yerevan as of March 8 due to the increased economic instability and political repression back home caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While the Armenian Government tries to attract Russian specialists, many Armenians face evictions due to rising rents.

As Russian businesses flee their home country to avoid sanctions, Armenia is positioning itself as an attractive destination for them – particularly those from the IT industry, reports Eurasianet.

Armenia has several advantages for Russian IT businesses looking to relocate in a hurry, said Denis, a 36-year-old IT worker who asked that his last name or the precise nature of his business not be mentioned. “Firstly, Armenia is located not far from Russia; many here understand Russian and speak it quite well,” he told Eurasianet. “Secondly, due to Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union, Russians do not need a special work permit. Life here is also relatively inexpensive compared to Moscow.”

Armenia’s Government is actively encouraging the relocations. The Ministry of Economy published a guide for Russian businesses seeking to relocate to Armenia, explaining everything from how to register a business to renting an apartment to bringing pets across the border. It has also set up a working group to answer queries from businesses interested in relocating.

“We are ready to support these companies in settling in Armenia,” Gayane Antonyan, the ministry’s press secretary, told Eurasianet. “Naturally, there are many who want to move to Armenia in the current difficult situation, and for this reason, the ministry published the FAQs.”

Telegram channel associated with the ministry of Economy of Armenia recently published advice on how to transfer money into Armenia using cryptocurrency; Russia has recently introduced strict limits on how much money can be transferred abroad.

Businesses began to move quickly. On March 1, when the invasion was barely a week old, Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan said that “about a dozen companies have actually moved [from Russia to Armenia], and several more companies are on the way.” Many other companies had approached the ministry for information about relocating, he said. “In total, numerous companies applied – dozens, maybe even hundreds of companies,” he told reporters.

Most of the interested companies were involved in IT, which is already a significant industry in Armenia; he said: “Basically, these are companies that are directly related to Western markets. Today’s restrictions prevent them from doing their work in their own country.”

As the OC Media writes, rents in the Armenian and Georgian capitals have more than doubled since Russia invaded Ukraine due to this trend. Narine Gevorgyan, a University student living in Yerevan, has been renting a three-room apartment near the city centre with her five friends for over two years, for roughly $260 per month. Their landlord is evicting them because they cannot pay an additional $150 per month.

“We still did not find a new house. The prices are too high”, Gevorgyan told the OC Media. If she does not find an apartment soon, she said she has no way of continuing to attend her classes and has no choice but to put her education on hold.

In the South Caucasus, the influx of tens of thousands of people seeking long-term housing into cities with a relatively small population — Yerevan has a population of 1 million, Tbilisi 1.2 million — has translated into an unprecedented spike in demand for housing and a commensurate increase in prices.

In Yerevan, for instance, rents for a one-bedroom apartment which varied between $150 to $400, now averages between $600—$700. A similar price multiplication has taken place in Tbilisi.

Both Armenia and Georgia offer visa-free access for Russian and Belarusian citizens. Russia has a reciprocal visa-free regime with Armenia but requires Georgians to apply for visas.

Armenia’s Minister of Emergency Situations arrested over alleged corruption

Armenia’s Minister of Emergencies, Andranik Piloyan and over a dozen ministry employees have been arrested for alleged corruption. Motion to arrest Piloyan has been submitted on March 30, reports OC Media. The Court of General Jurisdiction of the Court of First Instance of Yerevan detained the minister for two months.

According to the Anti-Corruption Committee, the minister and approximately a dozen of his subordinates are investigated over alleged bribery, abuse of office, embezzlement, as well as receiving and granting of illegal payments․

Additionally, during the preliminary investigation, firearms and ammunition were reportedly found and confiscated from the house of the minister’s adviser Ashot Hakobyan.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke about the case in a government session on Thursday, commenting that „the situation is unpleasant, but the rule of law and equality before the law is more important“. „We have publicly undertaken zero-tolerance for corruption, and it is essential to keep this principle,“ he stressed. Piloyan was relieved from duties on April 1.

Piloyan was appointed as a minister in the summer of 2020. During the Second Nagorno-Karabakh war, he was awarded the title of National Hero of Armenia for his actions during the war.

  • AVETISYAN Ani, OC Media, „Armenia’s Minister of Emergency Situations arrested over alleged corruption“,
  •, „Andranik Piloyan was detained for two months“,
  •, „Ex-Minister of Emergency Situations Andranik Piloyan files appellate complaint against pre-trial jailing“,
Pashinyan and Aliyev made diplomatic progress in Brussels

In a Brussels summit, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev agreed to establish a bilateral working group on border delimitation by the end of April and to instruct their respective Ministers of Foreign Affairs to “work on the preparation of a future peace treaty “, reports OC Media. Both leaders met at a summit in Brussels on April 6.

The meeting, which lasted for more than three hours, was facilitated by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

According to a European Council statement released following the summit, the border delimitation working group formally titled the “Joint Border Commission” will “delimit the bilateral border between Armenia and Azerbaijan” and “ensure a stable security situation along and in the vicinity of the borderline”.

Michel praised the meeting as ‘productive’ and that it had brought “concrete and tangible results”. Armenia and Azerbaijan had previously agreed on establishing a bilateral working group for border delimitation at a meeting hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in November 2021.

The framework that Michel laid out corresponded to the five-point plan Baku had recently proposed and Armenia largely accepted, wrote veteran Azerbaijani military journalist Asaf Guliyev. “The most important thing is that all this is done in a bilateral format. The bilateral format means that Russia is out of the game. The European Union supports the bilateral format,” Guliyev wrote in an article on the news website

In Armenia, there was more scepticism. “Unfortunately, Pashinyan only accelerates the processes that are contrary to the interests of Armenia and Artsakh,” wrote Tatevik Hayrapetyan, a former member of parliament in Pashinyan’s coalition, on Facebook. (Artsakh is an alternative Armenian name for Karabakh). “What peace treaty? When you are threatened from morning till night, it is not peace; it is the capitulation of one side.”

Tigran Grigoryan, a Karabakh Armenian political analyst, said that Pashinyan seems to have conceded on another point as well. “Armenia has once again abandoned its declared position,” Grigoryan wrote on Twitter. “The government of Armenia has been saying for months that concrete steps must be taken to stabilise the situation on the border to create conditions for the establishment of the delimitation and demarcation commission. […] In the above-mentioned readout, it is clearly stated that the commission will be established without any stabilising measures on the border.”

Fear that concessions to Azerbaijan might include Karabakh led to a huge demonstration in Yerevan prior to the meeting. Thousands, in the largest demonstration since elections in July 2021, rallied in central Yerevan on April 5 under a banner reading, “Artsakh will not be part of Azerbaijan.” “For the sake of Artsakh, let us save Armenia,” participants chanted.

The rally was organised by the two opposition blocs in parliament, “Armenia” and “I Have Honor,” who accused Pashinyan of putting Armenia’s security at risk with his conciliatory moves toward Azerbaijan. “None of us here want war, but we cannot surrender to the butcher,” Aram Vartevanyan, a senior member of the Armenia Alliance, told the crowd. “We cannot lose again because we have nothing to lose anymore,” said Hayk Mamijanian of “I Have Honor.”

Speakers at the rally demanded that Armenia must remain Nagorno-Karabakh’s security guarantor and that the country could not sign a treaty with Azerbaijan that would violate the rights of the Armenian population of Karabakh to self-determination.

  • OC Media, „Pashinyan and Aliyev agree to establish a border commission by April“,
  • ISAYEV Heydar, KUCERA Joshua, MEJLUMYAN Ani,, „Armenia and Azerbaijan make diplomatic progress in Brussels“,
  • MEJLUMYAN Ani,, „Armenian opposition rallies ahead of Pashinyan-Aliyev meeting“,
For additional information, see:
  • Kucera Joshua,, „Armenia signals willingness to cede control over Karabakh“,
Armenian, Turkish foreign ministers met for the first time

Both Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan agreed on the necessity to normalise relations.

The first meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey took place on March 13 within the framework of a diplomatic forum in Antalya. Turkey and Armenia have agreed to press ahead with efforts to establish diplomatic relations “without conditions” that could lead to reopening their borders for trade, their foreign ministers said on Saturday.

“I can say that it was a very productive and constructive meeting,” Cavusoglu said. “I am glad to see that all people and states of the region are trying to build peace and stability. I want to say that Armenia is ready to establish peace in the region”, Mirzoyan added during a joint briefing with Cavusoglu.

The Turkish Foreign Minister stressed that Azerbaijan also has a positive attitude towards the normalisation of Armenian-Turkish relations: “Recently I was in Baku. Azerbaijan also supports this process. Peace and stability in the region are in the interests of all. We will continue our efforts in this direction”.

Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, shut down its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of solidarity with Baku, which was locked in a conflict with Yerevan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In 2020, Turkey strongly backed Azerbaijan in the six-week conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal that saw Azerbaijan gaining control of a significant part of the region, reminds



Baku Old City, Azerbaijan. Photo: ArtEvent ET/

Nagorno-Karabakh witnessed a flare-up in violence

Since early March, just following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reports of ceasefire violations have accelerated. At the same time, Baku has launched a rhetorical campaign aimed at discrediting the Russian peacekeeping force in Karabakh, writes

Reports of increased firing began about March 5 from both the Azerbaijani military and the authorities of the self-proclaimed Armenian-led Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR), escalating into the sharpest increase in tensions in some time.

It has been reported from the unrecognised NKR that throughout the day of March 9 and on the night of March 10, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces fired intensively in the direction of civilian settlements. A resident of Khramort village, 51-year-old Suren Baghdasaryan, was wounded by a mortar shell. The villages of Khramort and Nakhichevanik of the Askeran region, the settlements of Khnushinak and Karmir Shuka of the Martuni region, as well as adjacent roads were shelled. The Armenian side informed Russian peacekeepers, writes JAM News.

On March 9, in the morning, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan reported violations of the ceasefire in the part of Karabakh, where Russian peacekeeping forces are temporarily stationed.

“The Azerbaijani army does not strike at civilian infrastructure, only at the positions of illegal Armenian armed formations”, the report said.

By the evening of the same day, messages about the start of a counter-terrorist operation in Karabakh began to appear in the Azerbaijani segment of social media.

But around midnight, the Ministry of Defense denied these reports.

“The rumours spread on Armenian social media about an alleged escalation in the territory of Azerbaijan, where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily deployed, are groundless and provocative. We state that the situation in all directions is stable and is under the control of the units of the Azerbaijani army”, the ministry said in a statement.

As Eurasianet stressed, Armenians argue that Azerbaijanis are taking advantage of a distracted world and a Russian military that has its hands full in Ukraine to press its advantage in Karabakh.

“In recent days, taking advantage of the whole world’s and especially Russia’s preoccupation with the situation in Ukraine, the provocations and threats carried out by Azerbaijan against the peaceful population of Artsakh have drastically increased,” Artak Beglaryan, state minister of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said on March 11.

The messages from Baku have been mixed but indicate a concerted effort to highlight the inadequacies and weaknesses of the Russian peacekeepers.

A March 7 article in the pro-government highlighted the recent ceasefire violations, which it blamed on the Armenian side: “Responsibility for maintaining the ceasefire lies entirely on the Russian peacekeepers. That means that either the peacekeepers are unable to manage the functions they have been tasked with, or they are just letting the Armenians do it.”

Another article published on the same day in the military news website, claimed that the commander of the Russian peacekeeping force was involved in a variety of corrupt businesses in Karabakh (for which the article offered no evidence) and, as a result, had become beholden to the Armenian authorities in Karabakh.

The third line of criticism being raised against the Russian peacekeepers is that they themselves present a threat to Azerbaijan. Elman Mamedov, a member of parliament, compared the situation to that of Georgia in 2008 when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia, and Russia – citing the fact that its peacekeepers were based there and came under attack – hit back forcefully. “Russian soldiers were in South Ossetia as peacekeepers,” Mamedov told reporters. “Georgia decided to carry out an operation to restore its territorial integrity. Russia considered that to be a danger to its peacekeepers. The result is known to everyone.”

The situation has been aggravated by the fact that since the night of March 8, the entire territory of the de facto NKR has been deprived of gas. The gas pipeline, through which gas is supplied from Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh, was damaged. The damaged section of the gas pipeline is located in the territory, which, after the Karabakh war in 2020, has been under the control of Azerbaijan. The de facto Human Rights Defender of Nagorno-Karabakh, Gegham Stepanyan, told Azatutyun that he considers it possible that Azerbaijan has “simply blew up the pipeline”.

Roughly 120,000 people live in the parts of Nagorno-Karabakh administered by Armenian de facto authorities in Stepanakert. Most rely on gas for heating during winters characterised by frequent sub-zero temperatures.

  • KUCERA Joshua,, “War in Ukraine spills over into rising Karabakh unrest“,
  • JAM News, „Armenian-Azerbaijani escalation: reports from both sides“,
  • AVETISYAN Ani, OC Media, „Nagorno-Karabakh left in the cold“,
Azerbaijan to build a transport corridor to Nakhichevan via Iran

Azerbaijan has agreed with Iran on the construction of a transport corridor to its exclave – Nakhichevan, bypassing Armenia, reports JAM News.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency informed on March 12 that Tehran and Baku had signed a memorandum of understanding on building the 55-Kilometer Zangezur-Nakhchivan highway through Iran.

The transport corridor, which will consist of railways, roads, and power lines, will run just 5 kilometres from the southern border of Armenia.

  • JAM News, „Azerbaijan to build a road to Nakhichevan bypassing Armenia“,
  •, „Iran agrees to host Azerbaijani corridor bypassing Armenia“,
Residents of two Nagorno Karabakh villages evacuated. Baku denies border-violation

Women and children were evacuated from the communities of Parukh and Khramort as Azerbaijani armed forces violated the line of contact in the Askeran District of Nagorno-Karabakh, says the information headquarters under the de facto government of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The situation on the line of contact with Azerbaijan has escalated, the information headquarters under the de facto government of Nagorno-Karabakh reports. For security reasons, women and children of the village of Parukh and the neighbouring village of Khramort were evacuated.

The “Artsakh24” reports with reference to its source that the Karabakh authorities intend to hand over the Armenian border village of Parukh to Azerbaijan in exchange for resuming the gas supply. Negotiations with Baku regarding the resumption of the gas supply are still underway with the support of Russian peacekeepers, the government of Nagorno-Karabakh reports.

Meanwhile, Vardan Mikaelyan, the village head of Parukh, claimed that Azerbaijani militaries occupied the settlement on March 24. According to Tigran Grigoryan, an independent journalist from Nagorno-Karabakh, after recent tensions near Parukh, Russian peacekeepers negotiated an agreement according to which both sides would withdraw troops from Parukh and would be replaced by a contingent of Russian peacekeepers. Upon the withdrawal of Armenian troops, Grigoryan said that Azerbaijani forces “captured the village without any actual resistance from the Russian side “.

Additionally, the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Defence Army has reported clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces near the village in the early hours of March 25. Officials in Stepanakert have accused Azerbaijan of using armed drones during the fighting.

As of publication, five Armenian soldiers were reportedly wounded and two killed. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence has not released any information about possible injuries or fatalities among Azerbaijani military personnel.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry denounced Azerbaijan’s reported incursion as a violation of the tripartite peace declaration that brought an end to the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence has refuted the information about the advance of its troops. “Our posts are clarifying the positions and locations; no incidents have occurred,” the MoD has stated and assured that there were no reasons for concern.

  • Caucasian Knot, „Women and children, evacuated from two Karabakh villages“,
  • Caucasian Knot, „Baku denies border violation in Nagorno-Karabakh“,
  • Avetisyan Ani, OC Media, „Two killed as Azerbaijan reportedly takes Nagorno-Karabakh village“,
Two protests in front of the Russian embassy were broken by Police

On March 2, Police in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, broke up a small demonstration outside the Russian embassy against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The second rally was dispersed two days later.

A handful of activists from the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party gathered outside the embassy on March 2 before being dragged away by Police shortly after. Protesters shouted, “No to aggression!”, “Reject Putin!” and pro-Ukraine slogans, and held placards supporting Ukraine, writes OC Media.

Rufat Muradli, a board member at the Azerbaijan Democracy and Welfare Party, told the OC Media that they were protesting the “actions of the child killer, Putin”.

“The world community and humanity cannot remain silent about what a psychopath, aggressor, like Putin is doing. Putin’s threat of aggression is expanding day by day”.

“We could not remain silent about this occupation”, he added. Commenting on the Police’s response to their protest, Muradli said the Government was protecting the Russian embassy “at such a high level as if we were rioting”.

On February 27, hundreds of people held a rally in support of Ukraine in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Azerbaijan. Police allowed the demonstration to go ahead.

On March 4, another group of Azerbaijani human rights activists held a protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Baku. During the rally, participants called on Russia to end the war of occupation in Ukraine. Human rights activists chanted, “End the occupation!” Police officers did not allow the protesters to approach the embassy building due to “security measures”, local media reported.

The organisers of the protest read out a statement near the diplomatic mission of the Russian Federation. The statement contained a demand to immediately end the Russian occupation, completely withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine and resolve problems with neighbours at the negotiating table. After that, the protesters handed over the statement to the Police, who promised to forward it to the embassy.

Residents of de facto Nagorno-Karabakh are without gas for the second time in a month

The de facto authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have accused Azerbaijan of cutting natural gas supplies to the territory for the second time in as many weeks, depriving the people there of heat for their homes amid a sharp cold spell.

Supplies from the pipeline were first disrupted on March 8, as tension spiked in the region following the launch of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh said that Azerbaijani troops prevented them from repairing the pipeline.

The supply ultimately was restored on March 19 but was disrupted again on the evening of March 21. Officials in Nagorno-Karabakh blamed Azerbaijan. “We have sufficient grounds to assume that during the gas pipeline repairs, the Azerbaijani side installed a valve that stopped the gas supply a few hours ago,” the de facto Government said in a statement. “Unfavorable weather conditions serve the insidious Azerbaijani purpose of creating additional humanitarian problems for our population; it is a crime.”

There has been no comment from the Azerbaijani authorities. The Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh is discussing the issue with the Azerbaijani side, a spokesperson for Karabakh’s de facto leader said on March 22.

JAM news turned to Azerbaijani political observer Azer Karimov for comment. “It is difficult to talk about anything specific here because there has not been a single official statement regarding the provision of natural gas to the residents of Khankendi and other nearby settlements. And there are reasons for that. The main one is that the gas pipeline from Armenia, which, as I understand it, runs along the Lachin corridor and in some places passes through the territory under the control of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, is illegal in itself. In other words, according to the documents, it simply does not exist, “stressed the expert.

Meanwhile, March has been colder than usual this year, and heavy snow also has blocked roads in Karabakh and in the neighbouring parts of Armenia, compounding the logistical complications. “We use an electric heater and a wood-burning stove in the apartment because the electricity, too, is unstable to rely on the heaters only “, Zvart Shirinyan, a resident of Stepanakert (Khankandi), told the OC Media. ‘“They are cutting the power for at least thirty minutes every day in every district. Everyone is using electric heaters”.

When the pipeline supplying gas to Nagorno-Karabakh was damaged on March 8, many bakeries could not operate for up to 10 days, causing an acute shortage of bread. “There were only a few bakeries working without gas, but those were not enough to provide the whole city with bread “, Zvart told the OC Media. “It was almost impossible to find bread in Stepanakert in the second half of the day”.

Problems with gas supply have been only one of several recent security problems afflicting the disputed region. As recent weeks have seen an uptick of violence on the contact line. The violence included the shelling of several Armenian-inhabited villages by the Azerbaijani military, which led to the temporary evacuation of residents of the village of Khramort (Pirlar). One village resident also apparently sustained a shrapnel wound.

Meanwhile, the EU has called for an immediate resumption of gas supply to Nagorno-Karabakh on March 23. “The European Union is concerned about reports of a renewed disruption of the gas supply to Stepanakert/Khankend,” the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, the lead spokesperson of the EU’s diplomatic service, Peter Stano, wrote in a statement. The statement called on “authorities in control” to ensure the immediate resumption of the gas supply, stressing that the local population is in “an urgent need,” in particular because of the dire weather conditions.

Conflicting information on Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno Karabakh

While some sources report that Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh have “deployed reserves” in order to “block further advancement by the Azerbaijani army” near the village of Parukh (Aze. Farukh), Baku and Kyiv claim peacekeepers relocated from Karabakh to Ukraine.

News portal OC Media informed that Russian peacekeeping forces entered the ethnically Armenian village of Parukh on March 29. following the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces.

The latest deployment by Russia was preceded by a statement on March 26 from the Russian Ministry of Defence accusing Azerbaijan of violating the agreement. They called on the Azerbaijani army to “retreat to its previous positions” and leave the “zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent“.

Tigran Grigoryan, a Yerevan-based political analyst, reported that despite the withdrawal of the Azerbaijani military from Parukh, there had been a significant military build-up near the Karaglukh height, one of the contested hills in the recent clashes. “It’s not about dozens of soldiers but a few hundred “, Grigoryan told OC Media.

Just recently, according to Grigoryan, Azerbaijani troops were freely passing through Parukh despite the presence of Russian peacekeepers, which makes the return of the village’s residents — who were forced to evacuate on February 22 — impossible.

On the other hand, according to data from Baku, confirmed by the Ukrainian side, Russian service members from Nagorno-Karabakh have been transferred to Ukraine. The Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan denied this information, but Azerbaijani sources prove that it is, indeed, true, and provide video materials as evidence, writes Jam News.

On March 9, 2022, the Azerbaijani portal, known for its closeness to the country’s authorities, released a video about the withdrawal of “almost half” of the military equipment and personnel of the Russian peacekeeping contingent stationed in Karabakh since the signing of a tripartite statement dated November 10, 2020.

The source indicated that the footage was captured by the surveillance cameras installed by the Azerbaijani side in the area of the Lachin corridor. Some time later, sources in Ukraine spread the news about the arrival of parts of Russian troops withdrawn from the territory of Armenia.

Russian Ambassador to Baku, Mikhail Bocharnikov, denied such claims saying “No, this is not true. Peacekeepers from Karabakh did not go to Ukraine”, in his commentary on the issue of the transfer of Russian military personnel from Karabakh to Ukraine.

Azerbaijani political scientist Zardusht Alizade partly confirmed the words of the ambassador. According to him, the peacekeepers left Karabakh, however, not for Ukraine but for Armenia. In turn, Russian servicemen stationed in Armenia went to Ukraine.

The Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh, according to the terms of the tripartite statement of November 10, 2020, should consist of 1960 military personnel. In fact, they say there are more of them. Be that as it may, at present, there is an order of magnitude fewer peacekeepers in Karabakh”, Alizade said.



Mtskheta, Old City and Cathedral, Georgia. Photo: Alex Winger/

Georgia to apply for EU membership

On March 4, the Georgian Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, has signed an application for the country’s accession to the European Union. „Today is a historic day for Georgia – I am signing an application for EU membership on behalf of the country. Today Georgia is closer to the EU than ever before,” Garibashvili said in his statement.

“We call on the EU bodies to review our application in an emergency manner and to make the decision to grant Georgia the status of an EU membership candidate,” added Irakli Kobakhdize, the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Shortly before the Premier’s speech, Mamuka Khazaradze, the chairman of the “Lelo” Party, spoke on “Formula” TV and said that his party had called on the Georgian President to personally lead the process of Georgia’s accession to the EU. All the political forces of Georgia should mobilise around the President, he has noted.

As Eurasianet reminds us, Georgia’s announcement follows a similar move by Ukraine, which has been in roughly the same stage of EU integration as has Georgia. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a formal application on February 28 and the next day addressed the European parliament from Kyiv via video conference. “We are fighting to be equal members of Europe,” Zelensky said. “Prove that you are with us.”

Analysts interviewed by the Caucasian Knot have noted in their comments that although Georgia fails to meet the requirements for obtaining the status of a candidate member of the European Union (EU) due to a number of unresolved problems existent in the country, the new geopolitical realities may contribute to the positive decision.

Due to Kakha Gogolashvili, an analyst at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, Georgia fails to meet the conditions for obtaining the status of a candidate. In particular, judicial reform has not been carried out in the country; the reform of the electoral legislation has not been completed; the country is politically polarised, and there is discrimination against sexual minorities, the analyst has noted.

Valery Chechelashvili, another analyst at the above Foundation, believes that the consideration of the issue of granting Georgia the status of a candidate member of the EU will also depend on the development of the situation in Ukraine.

“I don’t consider this issue from the viewpoint of procedural perspectives; this is a political decision that can be made and will be dictated by the new geopolitical realities,” the analyst has stated.

  • Caucasian Knot, „Georgia applies for EU membership“,
  • Caucasian knot, „Analysts assess chances of Georgia’s joining EU“,
  • KUCERA Joshua,, „Georgia formally applies for EU membership“,
Moscow partially lifted sanctions on Georgia, while Georgian airlines announced to accept Russian Mir Payment system

Russia, as a result of the negotiations, allowed Georgian enterprises to export dairy products provoking outrage from the opposition and the public in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia reports Jam News.

The Russian Veterinary and Phytosanitary Supervision Service (“Rosselkhoznadzor”) has allowed 15 Georgian enterprises to import dairy products to Russia. This information was spread in the Russian state media on March 6. According to Rosselkhoznadzor, the decision was made as a result of negotiations held on March 5 between the head of the agency Sergey Dankvert and the head of the National Food Agency of the Ministry of Agriculture Zurab Chekurishvili.

Opposition party Droa has expressed outrage over the Georgian Government’s “secret” talks with Russia. “Instead of leading Georgia to support Ukraine in a war of attrition, the Georgian Dream is not only making damaging statements, attacking the Government of Volodymyr Zelensky, but also secretly negotiating with the Putin government, which has committed a number of crimes against humanity. We believe that such negotiations with Russia, which is in economic isolation, is another treacherous step by the government”, the party said in a statement.

Droa calls on private businesses to show civil liability and refuse to “participate in the treacherous policies of the government”. “Ukrainians are sacrificing their lives to protect our state, our freedom, our security as well as theirs. And the people sitting in this Government illegitimately, including Bidzina Ivanishvili, are negotiating with Russia to turn Georgia into a loophole for sanctions.

The news about the Russian-Georgian talks on the export of dairy products was followed by a reaction in Ukraine. “Russia is lifting sanctions on Georgia on the grounds that Tbilisi does not want to support Ukraine”, Ukrainskaya Pravda said.

Davit Arakhamia, the leader of the People’s Servant faction of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, has made an extraordinary statement.

“I want to address the Georgian people and, first of all, the Georgian Government. It became known today that Russia has lifted economic sanctions and barriers on Georgian milk, wine, etc., in order to secure Georgia’s loyalty in the Ukraine-Russia war”, Arakhamia said. He also recalled the assistance provided by Ukraine during the Russian aggression against Georgia.

At the same time, Deputy of the State Duma of Russia Sergei Gavrilov, whose visit to Georgia would cause unrest during the so-called “Gavrilov nights” in Tbilisi on June 20, 2019, said that Russia, from which flights are blocked by Western countries, is ready to resume flights to Georgia.

“We think that if the Georgian authorities continue to adhere to the chosen course and do not support the spread of anti-Russian sanctions, then the restoration of direct flights with Russia will become possible in the near future”, Gavrilov said. Flights to Georgia were suspended by the decision of the President of Russia precisely because of the unrest in Tbilisi in the summer of 2019.

At the same time, the Georgian airline “Georgian Airways” announced that the Russian “Mir” payment system will now be accepted as a payment method on its website. Director of the company Tamaz Gaiashvili says that the main priority for him is to sell tickets: “If something can be done to sell a ticket, all systems will work. I do not join the sanctions, and I am not obliged [to join them], I am not a state, I am a private company. I am interested in selling the ticket, how it will be sold, people absolutely do not care,” Tamaz Gaiashvili told Radio Liberty, adding that if demanded, he would not refuse direct flights to Russia.

However, Gaiashvili also says that it was not the company itself that added the Russian company Mir to the site’s payment systems, he suggests that this is the decision of the banks with which the airline cooperates.

Key rivals of South Ossetia’s Bibilov were barred from running for President

The Central Election Commission (CEC) of de facto South Ossetia refused registration to 12 candidates, including primary opponents of incumbent de facto President Anatoly Bibilov.

On March 16, CEC registered five presidential contenders: Bibilov, Vice-Speaker of parliament Aleksandr Pliyev, chair of the opposition Nykhas party Alan Gagloyev, MP Garri Muldarov, and former MP Dmitriy Tasoyev. Following the news, Bibilov appealed to all participants urging them to stick to „an honest, open struggle “by signing a joint declaration „for clean elections“.

Hopes for fair elections, however, had already dissipated for many with CEC’s Wednesday announcement, as they had refused registration to 12 other candidates, including two candidates seen as potentially strong rivals of Bibilov — the former Defence Minister Ibragim Gassyeyev and MP David Sanakoyev, writes OC Media. Both Gassyeyev and Sanakoyev collected the required 3,500 signatures to run.

Bibilov fired Gassyeyev on February 25, citing his failure to execute his duties as Bibilov deemed him too focused on his presidential bid. Meanwhile, Bibilov is facing growing criticism, mostly on social media (Facebook and Instagram remain accessible in the region), over increased prices of basic products, as well as over the alleged deployment of local contractors serving in Russia’s Fourth Military Base in South Ossetia to fight in Ukraine.

On March 19, six applicants who were refused registration as a candidate for the presidential elections by the Central Election Commission appealed this decision to the de facto Supreme Court of South Ossetia.

The CEC explained the reasons for the refusal to register candidates. Thus, in the signature lists in support of Rustam Dzagoev, David Sanakoev and Zelim Kaziev, violations were found, and incomplete information on income was submitted by the candidates to the CEC. The basis for the denial of registration of the former Minister of Defense Ibragim Gassyeyev was the violations revealed in the signature lists in his support.

Three candidates did not receive a credit on the results of exams for the level of proficiency in the state languages ​​of the republic, and two others did not submit documents for registration, according to the resolutions on the website of the CEC.

On Mart 22. The Supreme Court of de facto South Ossetia considered it justified the decision of the CEC to refuse registration of presidential candidates Ibragim Gasseev, Geno Kadzhaev and Taimuraz Tadtaev.

The presidential elections in de facto South Ossetia are scheduled for April 10, and the campaign began on March 16.

  • OC Media, „Key rivals of South Ossetia’s Bibilov barred from running for president“,
  • Caucasian Knot, „Суд отказался удовлетворить иски трех претендентов на пост президента Южной Осетии (The court refused to satisfy the claims of three contenders for the presidency of South Ossetia)“,
  • Caucasian Knot, „Шесть претендентов на пост президента Южной Осетии обжаловали отказ в регистрации (Six contenders for the presidency of South Ossetia appealed against the refusal to register)“,
De facto South Ossetia to hold a referendum on annexation by Russia

The de facto president of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, announced on March 30 that the separatist region will soon hold a referendum to vote on whether to join Russia, informed

“Unification with Russia is our strategic goal, our path, the hope of our people, and we will move on this path,” the territory’s de facto president Anatoliy Bibilov said in a March 30 televised address. “We will take the corresponding legal steps in the near future. The Republic of South Ossetia will be part of its historical homeland – Russia.”

Bibilov later clarified, to prominent Russian journalist Vladimir Solovyev, that the “legal steps” would amount to a referendum. As OC Media stressed, Bibilov is currently running for reelection in a vote slated for April 10. He has faced allegations of failing a written test in the Ossetian language, a prerequisite for heading South Ossetia, as well as being behind a ruling by electoral authorities to block a number of his rivals from registering as presidential contenders.

The announcement also came amidst worries among some local residents over the participation of South Ossetian soldiers in Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine. Objections have concerned both “unnecessary” casualties as well as exposing South Ossetia to a possible attack by Georgia.

Unlike in the past, Kremlin seems to be less rejective of the idea this time. “The people of Russia will support the decision of South Ossetia to join the Russian Federation. For us, this is a critical moment because, in 2008, Russia openly began to resist the pressure of the united West. Of course, this is a historic event”, said Artem Turov, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). “I cannot express any opinion on integration and the referendum,” said Dmitriy Peskov, spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, on March 31. “We have not taken any legal or other actions in this area, but at the same time, the issue here is the expression of the opinion of the people of South Ossetia, and we will treat it with respect.”

In response to Anatoly Bibilov’s statement, the Georgian Foreign Ministry stated that “Georgia will not succumb to provocations: Under the conditions of occupation, no referendum will have legal force. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of our citizens have been expelled from their homes and, due to ethnic cleansing, do not have the opportunity to return. We also have solid support from the international community and our friends… We are committed to this path and declare that we will not use force to restore territorial integrity. This is our legal obligation, which is very clearly supported by the international community”, Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said.

Bibilov’s statement is also regarded as a provocation by the ruling Georgian Dream party. Beka Davituliani, a member of the parliamentary majority, says Russia’s reaction to Bibilov’s statement will be a signal to Georgia.

“We have to wait and see how Russia reacts to this. Russia’s position will be an additional message for Georgia. We must act in the national interest with all the resources at our disposal. At the same time, we must take into account the high-security risks and act as carefully as possible to get the country out of this difficult situation in the region and not cause even more damage”, Davituliani told reporters.

Imprisoned Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says the borderization, to which the Georgian government did not respond, was a pretext for the annexation of de facto South Ossetia.

Ukraine accuses Tbilisi of aiding Russian smuggling

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry Intelligence alleged on April 4 that Moscow is establishing a channel for smuggling through the Georgian territory. “With the imposition of international sanctions, the Russian Federation has lost the ability to supply a large range of military, dual and civilian goods,” it said, adding: “to circumvent the sanctions, Russian agents set up smuggling channels, which pass, in particular, through Georgian territory.”

“At the same time, representatives of the Georgian security services were instructed by the political leadership not to interfere with the activities of the smugglers,” alleged the Ukrainian military intelligence.

As per the same statement, the possibility of resumption of air traffic between Georgia and Russia, halted by Vladimir Putin in June 2019 over the anti-occupation protests in Tbilisi, is also being considered. No other concrete details were provided in a brief statement by the Ukrainian intelligence.

Shalva Papuashvili, the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, called the statement of the Main Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine on Russia creating smuggling channels for sanctioned products using Georgian territory a “lie” and “unacceptable”.

Papuashvili responded to the statement of the Ukrainian agency on Twitter, saying, “this type of misinformation from the partner country, especially in these conditions, is completely unacceptable.”

The Ministry of Finance of Georgia said on Monday that the information was “a completely baseless and absurd accusation.” The Ministry declared “with full responsibility” that “any type of goods, both military and of dual-use, as well as all the products that are included in the list of sanctions, are subject to strict customs control by the Georgian Government.”

  •, “Georgia Aids Russian Smuggling, Ukraine Claims“,
  •, „Parliament Speaker: allegations of Russia creating smuggling channels for sanctioned products through Georgia a lie and “unacceptable“,
Ukraine recalls ambassador to Georgia over „immoral position“ of Georgian Government

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has announced Ukraine has recalled its Ambassador to Georgia over the “immoral position” of Irakli Garibashvili’s cabinet on Russia sanctions and for barring Georgian volunteers from flying to Ukraine.

“Our diplomats are implementing just and necessary decisions against the states that have betrayed their word and international law,” President Zelensky said in the video address. He also recalled Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan for “justifying” the aggression against Ukraine.

According to Georgian volunteers, on Monday evening, a flight chartered by the Ukrainian Government to transport them to Ukraine was blocked from landing in Tbilisi.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal tried to pressure the Georgian Government to allow the flight to land. Shmyhal published messages in Ukrainian, English, Russian, and Georgian on Twitter, expressing hope that his Georgian counterpart, PM Irakli Gharibashvili, would “show courage and give permission to fly”.

“Freedom-loving Georgian people, help your Prime Minister make the right decision!”, Shmyhal wrote in a follow-up tweet. Shmyhal’s appeal confirmed a claim, which the Georgian Government has not denied, made an hour earlier by Davit Katsarava, leader of the Georgian Anti-Occupation movement, and others hoping to depart for Ukraine.

On his Facebook page on Thursday evening, Katsarava condemned the Georgian Government as “Russia’s ally” for cancelling the charter flight for him and other volunteers that would take them to Poland, from where they planned to travel to Ukraine. Katsarava indicated that the flight was organised by the Ukrainian Government.

Meanwhile, Georgian Dream chair Irakli Kobakhidze was quoted by the media as saying today that the Government’s green light would have amounted to the country “getting involved in the conflict.” “There is sort of a coordinated attempt to drag Georgia directly into the armed conflict. This very unfortunate decision by the Ukrainian authorities, to put it mildly, is an expression of this coordination action,” MP Kobakhidze said.

The ruling party chairperson claimed that the United National Movement, Georgia’s largest opposition party, was involved in the alleged plot from the Georgian side, but he did not point accusatory fingers at any specific party or official on the Ukrainian side.

“I do not want this to get interpreted as if the UNM and [President Volodymyr] Zelensky are coordinating together,” Kobakhidze said, without elaborating further.

To back his claim, the ruling party chair pointed out that Kyiv has not recalled its ambassadors from Moldova, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Israel, countries that also refused to hit Russia with sanctions. “There is only one reason, this is because there is no interest for [these countries] to get involved in the conflict,” he argued.

MP Kobakhidze added that Kyiv’s decision was “absolutely unacceptable and unjustifiable,” considering Georgia’s support for Ukraine in international organisations amid the war.

Tbilisi and Kyiv had begun to thaw their strained relationship throughout 2021, as Georgia’s Ambassador returned to Ukraine in April 2021 following a year-long hiatus over Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decision in 2020 to appoint former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as the Chair of Ukraine’s Executive Reform Committee.

Georgian President claims she was refused several state visits by the government

President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili spoke about the “imposition of restrictions on the President’s international activities” by the country’s authorities and called it “incomprehensible” in her speech delivered in the Parliament.

“The restrictions imposed on the President’s international activities are incomprehensible when the need is greatest and time is running out. On February 26, 2022, I was refused in writing to pay working visits to Paris, Brussels, Berlin and Warsaw. Given the existing situation, I cancelled all official formats. I found it necessary to use my personal contacts and turn working visits into personal meetings. I think that this approach and such restrictions are harmful to our country, which is in such a difficult region. There is no time for restrictions; on the contrary, we should be involved at the international level as much as possible! I think that my forty years of experience in diplomacy and strategic affairs, and the personal contacts acquired during this period, should be used and not lost for this country,” said the President, as cited by

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili claimed on March 15; the government had refused President Salome Zurabishvili to make official visits to Europe because amid Russia’s war against Ukraine. “the President, the Commander-in-Chief, should have been and should be in the country. This was our main argument and motivation for the refusal,” the PM told reporters, stressing that this opinion was shared by “every member of the Government.”

He also argued that the Georgian Constitution obliges the President to receive consent for any official visits from the government, which implements the country’s foreign policy. “I should reiterate that, as it seems, unfortunately, the Georgian President has been misled,” the Prime Minister said, without elaborating further.

“I would like to assume that she fell into this uncertainty,” he added. “I hope that very soon, everything will be cleared up, and there will no longer be these questions.”

PM Garibashvili made the remarks after the ruling Georgian Dream party announced earlier that day that the government would sue the President in the Constitutional Court over competencies. The Georgian Dream claimed that the President had overstepped her competencies and pursued foreign policy by side-stepping the Georgian government. In the statement, the GD argued that the President’s role as the Commander-in-Chief of Georgia was merely “ceremonial.”

Georgian Dream Wins Batumi By-election

The ruling Georgian Dream party candidate Ramaz Jincharadze has obtained victory in by-elections for a majoritarian in hung Batumi City Council on April 2. Multiple electoral violations were reported, informs

According to the vote tallies from all 14 polling stations, Jincharadze garnered 69.013% (7,225 votes), while the opposition United National Movement party’s Mate Putkaradze received 30.987% (3,244 votes).

The UNM candidate is the son of Nugzar Putkaradze, elected Batumi councillor, whose unexpected passing in November left the seat up for grabs in the by-elections. The UNM accused the authorities of coercing Putkaradze before his death to switch sides and offering a bribe of USD 100,000.

Georgian Dream will have 17 members, while on the opposition side, UNM has 14. For Georgia – two, Lelo has one. One member Irakli Tavdgiridze, having quit the For Georgia over “unacceptable” possible cooperation with UNM and Lelo, is independent. Tavdgiridze is now expected to help the Georgian Dream, his erstwhile party, elect the chairperson.

ISFED, a key election watchdog in Georgia, reported shortcomings regarding voter mobilisation, registration mainly by the GD coordinators, and verbal confrontation outside the polling stations.

Seven people were sentenced to a year in prison for attacking reporters at the Tbilisi Pride counter-rally

Tbilisi City Court has sentenced seven individuals to a year in prison for attacking TV Pirveli cameraman Levan Bregvadze, Interpressnews agency photo reporter Giorgi Nikolishvili and one more individual at the right-wing counter-rally organised against the Tbilisi Pride march on July 5, 2021, writes

Irakli Tsignadze, Bakar Maisuradze, Nikoloz Dadvani, Mukhran Dadvani, Tornike Gabeliani and Davit Kochiashvili were sentenced to one year in prison, while Vano Burduli will be imprisoned for one year and six months.

Nikolishvili was assaulted by Bakar Maisuradze, Nikoloz Dadvani and Tornike Gabeliani during the attack, judge Valerian Bugianishvili said. He and Bregvadze were “severely beaten” by the protesters while working in the capital to cover the march and the protest. Nikolishvili lost consciousness due to the attack and had to undergo a lengthy rehabilitation course after leaving the hospital.

The sentencing is the latest round of court decisions against participants of the attacks on media during the day last year. A total of 27 individuals were arrested following the events in which they targeted reporters and crews who had gathered to cover the planned LGBTQ march in the city, which was later cancelled due to the violent scenes.

Tbilisi City Court has found all 27 offenders guilty, with 26 sentenced to various terms of imprisonment and one fined 5,000 GEL (about USD 1,623), reminds the press agency.

  •, „Court sentences 7 to a year in prison for attacking reporters at Tbilisi Pride counter-rally“,
De facto Abkhazi held the second round of parliamentary elections

On March 26. the second round of parliamentary elections was held in the de facto Abkhazia, resulting in a sound victory for pro-government forces. In the second round of elections to the People’s Assembly of Abkhazia, deputies were elected in 16 districts, and in Sukhum district No. 8, candidates scored an equal number of votes, and repeat elections will be held there, the Central Election Commission announced the preliminary results of the vote.

The total turnout in all 17 constituencies was 54.52%, but in the second round, the turnout did not matter, unlike the first round, when a 25% turnout threshold had to be overcome to recognise the elections as valid. In total, 67,659 people were included in the voting lists in 17 constituencies, 36,885 of them took part in the voting, and 905 ballots were declared invalid.

The editor of “Nuzhnaya Gazeta” Izida Chania noted for Caucasian Knot that out of 16 elected deputies, only six are non-pro-government, and only the executive secretary of the World Abaza Congress Inar Gitsba, belongs to the opposition. As a result, according to the journalist, out of 33 current deputies, nine are non-pro-government, and only two of them are oppositionists. Thus, the authorities receive a constitutional majority in parliament. “This is the most pro-government parliament of all,” she said.

According to the journalist, the virtual absence of oppositionists in the new parliament is due to the opposition’s refusal to participate in the elections. “The opposition demanded a transition from a single-mandate to a mixed election system, when some deputies would be elected according to party lists. When they failed to achieve this, the opposition announced their non-participation in the elections. So those opposition candidates who went to the polls went on their own “, without the support of the opposition and agreements not to compete in the same districts. But at the same time, the opposition did not call on the population to boycott them, choosing the worst tactics of passive non-participation,” the expert said.

  • Caucasian Knot, „Избирком анонсировал повторные выборы в Сухуме (Electoral Commission announces repeat elections in Sukhumi)“,
  • Caucasian Knot, „Аналитики прокомментировали итоги парламентских выборов в Абхазии    (Analysts commented on the results of the parliamentary elections in Abkhazia)“,

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!