Strategic Analysis Caucasus Brief
Bi-weekly review (26.4. – 22. 5. 2022)
Khor Virap, Armenia. Photo: Mehmeto/ Shutterstock.com
Armenia hit by another wave of anti-government protests
Police in Armenia has detained hundreds of people as protests mount against the Government’s ongoing negotiations with Azerbaijan, informs the OC Media.
Over 10.000 people gathered at the capital’s France Square on May 2 to demand the resignation of Armenian PM Nikol Pshinyan. The opposition “Armenia Alliance” and “I Have Honour” blocs have announced they will renew their demonstrations on May 2 evening after the clashes earlier in the day.
The opposition has said they intend to oust Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan through protests and civil disobedience, including calls for a general strike, echoing the methods in which Pashinyan himself came to power. Anger has grown following statements by Pashinyan in mid-April suggesting Armenia may “lower the bar” on its position regarding the status of Nagorno-Karabakh during negotiations with Azerbaijan.
As Eurasianet.org reports, the police have been treating both protesters and the media, covering the events with a force that activists have described as “brutal”. “Today’s violence is just as unacceptable as it was in 2016, 2008, 2004, and so on until 1991,” analyst Tatul Hakobyan wrote on Facebook, referring to the violent break-ups of protests during former governments when many of those protesting today were in charge. Many of those in Government now were among the protesters.
On May 1, protesters chanted slogans including “Armenia without Turks,” a reference to Pashinyan and his Government, whom the opposition has been branding a “Turk” since last year’s election campaign.
Protests continued in the following days, with protesters blocking the streets yet not being able to accumulate a critical number of protesters on the streets. Another factor that, according to experts, does not allow the opposition to gather more supporters is the unwillingness of the inhabitants of Armenia to return to the past, that is, to allow the return of the “former” authorities. The fact is that behind both parliamentary factions, which call on the people to take to the streets, are politicians from the former governments. These are the ex-presidents of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan.
Due to the Caucasian Knot, Yerevan protests are also supported by activists from de facto Nagorno-Karabakh.
- MEJLUMYAN Ani, Eurasianet.org, „Armenian police arrest hundreds as protests grow“, https://eurasianet.org/armenian-police-arrest-hundreds-as-protests-grow
- AVETISYAN Ani, OC Media, „Police confront protesters as thousands take to the streets in Yerevan“, https://oc-media.org/police-confront-protesters-as-thousands-take-to-the-streets-in-yerevan/
- JAM News, “Protesters in Armenia up pressure for PM Pashinyan’s resignation. Video“, https://jam-news.net/protesters-in-armenia-up-pressure-for-pm-pashinyans-resignation-video/
- Caucasian Knot, “Nagorno-Karabakh opposition and activists, support Yerevan protesters”, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/59038/
Bolstered by an influx of Russians Armenian currency sharply rises
After hovering at its usual rate of just under 500 to the dollar, the Armenian dram dropped to about 518 to the dollar in mid-March before rising to 450 on May 4, a 15 per cent gain in about six weeks, writes Eurasianet.org.
The Central Bank of Armenia connected the rise to the influx of Russians who have come to the country to escape repression and sanctions at home. “We have international visitors in Armenia. […] When these people spend money in our resorts or restaurants, it is considered an export growth from the perspective of the balance of payments in Armenia,” the bank’s head, Martin Galstyan, said at a May 3 press conference. “This situation led to the point that we have progressive growth of foreign currency in terms of supply to demand, which resulted in some strengthening of the dram.”
Galstyan added that the future course of the dram would depend on how long the visitors stay in Armenia and how they spend.
Another factor: Armenia recently began paying for natural gas from Russia in rubles rather than in dollars, which was the previous practice. “Armenia used to transfer $35-40 million a month to Russia for natural gas alone. Now that amount is not transferred in dollars,” economist Suren Parsyan told local news site lragir.am. With excess dollars now available on the local market, there is less demand for the greenback, supporting the value of the dram.
“Besides, economic activity in Armenia has slowed down, and people’s purchasing power has decreased,” Parsyan added.
- MEJLUMYAN Ani, Eurasianet.org, „In regional economic turmoil, Armenian currency sharply rises“, https://eurasianet.org/in-regional-economic-turmoil-armenian-currency-sharply-rises
Germany hints willingness to boost the Southern Gas Corridor’s capacity
According to German Ambassador to Azerbaijan Wolfgang Manig, German firms can help extend the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) capacity, informs the Caucasus Watch.
“Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy is now seeking alternate energy import sources. Germany is interested in establishing gas supply via SGC,” added the diplomat. He stated that the German Uniper energy supply and solutions firm has secured assurances from the Azerbaijani Government and is working closely with the Azerbaijan Republic’s State Oil Company (SOCAR).
The Southern Gas Corridor project aims to increase and diversify the European energy supply by bringing gas resources from the Caspian Sea to markets in Europe. The Southern Gas Corridor comprises the following four projects: (A.) the operation of Shah Deniz natural gas-condensate field (“SD1” project) and its full-field development (“SD2’” project), (B.) the operation of the South Caucasus Pipeline (“SCP” project) and its expansion (“SCPX” project), (C.) the construction and operation of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (“TANAP” project) and (D) the construction and operation of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (“TAP” project) (SD2, SCPX, TANAP and TAP collectively, the “Projects”).
The Projects have an estimated investment cost of approximately 40 billion USD. Upon completion, the SD2 project will add a further 16 bcm of natural gas per annum to 10.9 bcm (maximum production capacity) already produced under SD1 project. The total length of the newly constructed SCPX, TANAP and TAP pipelines will be more than 3,200 kilometres.
- The Caucasus Watch, „German Ambassador to Azerbaijan: ‘German businesses can help boost the Southern Gas Corridor’s capacity‘“, https://caucasuswatch.de/news/5333.html
- Southern Gas Corridor, “Homepage”, https://www.sgc.az/en
Several activists were arrested in Azerbaijan over the last month
Azerbaijani blogger Eivaz Yahyaoglu, blogger Rashad Ramazanov and an activist of the “Muslim Unity” movement Agali Yakhyaev were all recently arrested in Azerbaijan.
The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that on May 10, Eivaz Yahyaoglu, an Azerbaijani Nationalist-Democratic Party (ANDP) member, was arrested in the city of Shirvan and accused of disobeying the police. His fellow party members have suggested that the persecution of the blogger has to do with his criticism of local authorities. Human rights defenders have demanded to stop persecuting Yahyaoglu.
On his YouTube channel entitled “Şirvan Tv Eivaz Eloğlu”, Eivaz Yahyaoglu publicised facts of people’s rights violations in Shirvan, showed “plots about the squandering of state property, and officials’ indifference to citizens’ complaints,” Galandar Mukhtarly, the ANDP chairman, has stated.
An advocate said, referring to his client’s words, that during detention, the force was used against Yahyaoglu, and he was insulted, although he violated no law. Later, the court declined Yahyaoglu’s complaint about his arrest. On May 21, the police in Baku detained blogger Rashad Ramazanov, who criticised the Azerbaijani authorities on social media.
Kenul Ramazanova suggested that her husband was detained because of his critical posts on Facebook*. “My husband is not involved in anything related to drugs. He is a believer. Earlier, he was slandered in a similar way and put in jail because of criticism of the authorities,” the blogger’s wife explained.
The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that blogger Rashad Ramazanov (also known as Rashad Agaaddin) was detained in Baku in May 2013. According to the investigators’ information, the police confiscated heroin from the blogger. Rashad Ramazanov denied the charge of drug trafficking and stated that he was being persecuted for his posts on Facebook. On November 13, 2013, a court sentenced Rashad Ramazanov to nine years of imprisonment. In March 2019, the blogger was pardoned by the President of Azerbaijan and released early.
On May 21, the court in Azerbaijan placed Agali Yakhyaev in custody for 30 days, finding him guilty of hooliganism and disobedience to the police at an action held in support of Razi Gumbatov, an activist of the “Muslim Unity” movement, in Baku. Two other activists detained there were released from the police custody; the whereabouts of two others is unknown, Arzu Abdulla, the head of the Committee for the Protection of Islamists’ Rights, has stated.
The “Caucasian Knot” has reported that on May 20, a court in Baku found Gumbatov guilty of illegal drug dealing and sentenced him to six years of freedom deprivation. Police officers dispersed the crowd of believers who came to the court building to support the activist. Several persons were detained.
Five religious activists were detained near the building of the Baku Court for Grave Crimes, Ms Abdulla has informed. She believes that policemen themselves had violated the law by not allowing people to enter the courthouse and then dispersed the believers, who were calmly waiting for the end of the trial.
According to her story, two detainees – Suleiman Alekperov and Mail Kerimli – were released by the evening. By Friday (May 20) midnight, the fate of two other detainees, Imran Mamedli and Elgiz Mamedov, remained unknown.
- Caucasian Knot, “Azerbaijani court leaves blogger Yahyaoglu in custody”, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/59167/
- Caucasian Knot, „Police detain critic of Azerbaijani authorities“, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/59183/
- Caucasian Knot, :‘Muslim Unity‘“ activist arrested in Baku, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/59188/
Georgia submits part of the EU questionnaire
On May 2, the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili handed over to the EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell the Georgian Government’s response to the first part of the EU membership questionnaire.
“Let me underscore the great moment for me to be a part of another historic step on this journey about civilisational choice,” Ambassador Hartzell told PM Garibashvili at the Government Chancellery as cited by Civil.ge.
Georgia has until May 13 to submit the second, sectoral and legislative part of the self-assessment questionnaire.
On April 29, the Georgian Government released the second part of its EU membership questionnaire to help the European Commission prepare the opinion on the country’s application.
The 239-page-long document, published on April 29, is divided into 33 chapters with about 2,300 questions inquiring about the compatibility of Georgia’s specific legislative frameworks for each sector of the national economy with that of the EU.
With a focus on the freedom of movement and goods, along with the rights of companies and persons, the topics covered by the questionnaire range from existing legislation on work permits and the freedom of movement of workers to anti-discriminatory laws.
Georgia and Moldova submitted formal applications to join the 27-member-bloc on March 3, following the suit of Ukraine, which has been fighting Russia’s invasion since February 24. The Georgian authorities originally planned to submit the membership bid in 2024.
Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are EU-associated countries that make part of the bloc’s Eastern Partnership initiative. The three countries established the Associated Trio format in May 2021, seeking closer relations with Brussels.
Following the receipt of the filled-out questionnaire, the European Commission should deliver opinions on the membership applications by the three countries to EU leaders at the June 24-25 summit.
- Civil.ge, „Georgia Submits Part of EU Questionnaire“, https://civil.ge/archives/488420
- Civil.ge, „Second Part of Georgia’s EU Questionnaire Released“, https://civil.ge/archives/488453
Iconic Georgian mineral water Borjomi halts production
Production of Georgia’s iconic Borjomi mineral water will be suspended due to financial difficulties caused by the war in Ukraine, the water’s manufacturer has announced.
“The company’ IDS Borjomi Georgia’ has been in a difficult situation since the beginning of hostilities in Ukraine,” the company said in an April 29 statement released to Georgian media. “The difficult situation created in the main markets for the sale of the company’s products was compounded by the limited access to bank accounts, which did not give the company the possibility of receiving foreign exchange earnings and settling with creditors.”
The statement continued: “The company has continued to operate to this day in the hope of the situation improving substantially, which unfortunately has not been possible so far.” The statement said that production would cease that day. “We hope that the situation will improve in the near future, and we will have the opportunity to resume functioning,” the company said.
Borjomi is one of Georgia’s most recognisable brands across the former Soviet Union. However, despite its iconic place in the national imagination, the company has been majority-owned by Russia’s Alfa Group since 2013.
On May 5, mineral water giant IDS Borjomi sacked 49 workers over failed remuneration negotiation. In a statement delivered to Civil.ge, IDS Borjomi said it was “forced” to resort to a reorganisation after “a minor part of the employees” refused to settle on receiving 50% of their monthly wages while the factory doors remain shut.
One day earlier, Borjomi employees demanded a meeting with the General Director of the company, former official Ivane Machavariani and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili. The PM said on April 30 that the Government would provide “good news” about Borjomi to the public “very soon.” Machavariani became the director of Borjomi in June 2021, after leaving the post of Minister of Finance of Georgia he had held since 2018, reminds Frontnews.ge.
In reaction to the situation, Russian-owned IDS Borjomi has offered the Georgian Government to transfer part of its shares free of charge.
- Eurasianet.org, “Citing war, Georgia’s Borjomi suspends production“, https://eurasianet.org/citing-war-georgias-borjomi-suspends-production
- Civil.ge, “Russian-Owned Borjomi Sacks 49 Workers Amid Sanctions Fallout“, https://civil.ge/archives/489043
- Front News Georgia, “Borjomi employees, demanding meeting with PM as plants stopped due to Russian stakeholder“, https://frontnews.ge/en/news/details/24046
- Civil.ge, „Borjomi Owners Offer Free Shares to Georgian Govt“, https://civil.ge/archives/491529
Director of pro-opposition T.V. channel Nika Ghvaramia sentenced to 3.5 years
On May 16, Nika Gvaramia, director of the most popular opposition Mtavari TV channel, was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for allegedly using a company car for family needs.
Gvaramia was on trial for crimes allegedly committed while the director of another T.V. company, Rustavi 2. The prosecution alleges that Gvaramia embezzled property rights, falsified documents, laundered money and engaged in commercial bribery during his tenure as the CEO of Rustavi-2.
In particular, according to the prosecutor’s office, Gvaramia unfairly disposed of the right to place commercial advertising on the channel. It is alleged that he sold the rights at a reduced price to Inter Media Plus LLC, in exchange for which he received two apartments from them. Then, according to the indictment, he sold these apartments and thus laundered the money.
According to the prosecutor’s office, Gvaramia used forged documents, stamps, seals, and forms to carry out this scheme. According to the first charge, in 2015, Gvaramia unfairly disposed of the right to advertise on the channel and, together with the company’s financial director, Kakha Damenia, squandered 6,763,509 Georgian lari. For this episode, Gvaramia and Damenia were fined 50,000 lari.
The second charge on which Gvaramia was arrested, the so-called ‘car episode’, involved the placing of T.V. commercials on Rustavi-2 in exchange for Proesco Media LLC retaining formal ownership of a luxury vehicle (Porsche Macan S worth 76,000 EUR) used by Gvaramia and his family, reports JAM News.
As the OC Media stressed, while not a member of the formerly ruling United National Movement (UNM) Party, Gvaramia held a number of senior positions during their rule and has remained one of the party’s most outspoken supporters. He also legally represented former president Mikheil Saakashvili in court.
In its turn, the Georgian opposition decried Ghvaramia’s Imprisonment. Nika Melia, Chair of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, argued that Gvaramia had fallen victim to “oligarch” Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of the Georgian Dream.
He claimed that in the fight “to justly take back a captured state, our distinguished fighters” are periodically unlawfully imprisoned. “But the aim to become a full-fledged member of the free world is so large that for the goal, it is worth it to sacrifice the most precious thing a person has,” the UNM chair argued.
Opposition Lelo party meanwhile stated that Gvaramia’s sentencing was a “message of [Georgian Dream Government’s] establishment of total control over free media.”
It argued that the GD Government is “intolerant” of critical media outlets and “afraid” of media pluralism in the country.
The U.S. Embassy said the ruling “calls into question Georgia’s commitment to the rule of law and further demonstrates the fundamental importance of having an independent, impartial judiciary in Georgia.” “From its inception, this case has raised questions, including about the timing and the charges,” the U.S. Embassy stated. “Particularly at this time, when Georgia has an unprecedented opportunity to advance its Euro-Atlantic integration, even the perception of politicised prosecution is detrimental,” the Embassy added.
Acting British Ambassador to Georgia Claire Albles as well said she was disappointed with the arrest of Nika Gvaramia. “The UK is the watchdog of the free media. Without free media, citizens will not be able to exercise their democratic rights”, Olbles said in a statement.
- Kincha Shota, OC Media, “Director of pro-opposition TV channel jailed for 3.5 years in Georgia“, https://oc-media.org/director-of-pro-opposition-tv-channel-jailed-for-3-5-years-in-georgia/
- JAM News, „Why the head of opposition Georgian TV channel was convicted and what we know about his case“, https://jam-news.net/why-head-of-opposition-georgian-tv-channel-was-convicted-and-what-we-know-about-his-case/
- Civil.ge, „Opposition Decries ‘Political Sentence’ Against Gvaramia, GD Denies“, https://civil.ge/archives/490357
- Civil.ge, „U.S. Questions Georgia’s Commitment to Rule of Law“, https://civil.ge/archives/490460
Georgia’s wheat stocks have run out, and mills will stop operating soon
Wheat stocks in Georgia are exhausted, and in the coming days, all mills in the country will stop operating. This was stated by the Executive Director of the Georgian Association of Wheat and Flour Producers, Levan Silagava, as reported by JAM News.
The Ministry of Environment and Agriculture confirms that wheat stocks have been reduced but does not specify how it intends to address this problem.
At the same time, the ministry hopes that wheat will become cheaper and the Government will act accordingly in July-August. According to them, “imports of wheat have been largely replaced by imports of flour. We have more than enough stocks today, but we have them in the form of flour, not wheat”.
According to Levan Silagava, the UN recommends that the country have a two-month wheat supply, not flour. “Unfortunately, the current situation in our country does not comply with the UN recommendations, there are no wheat reserves in the country at all, and how much flour there is remains up to bread producers and the government”: “Although wheat has been replaced by flour, the price of bread has risen by at least 24% last year, despite flour imports starting in July last year. Bread prices have gone up this year as well”.
“When wheat is imported, Georgia produces not only flour but also bran. In Georgia, prices for bran have also increased significantly, which negatively impacts flour imports. We want to avoid this and save jobs. As a result of the work of the mills, all taxes – from electricity, water, and income – would go to the budget of Georgia, and today, when we are dependent on imports, they go to the budget of the country from which we bring flour.
Another issue is that there will be carryover stocks of wheat in the country, which will give us more security. There is also a topic that will arise in a few months – shortly, there will be a local harvest of wheat, and the mills will not work”, Silagava said.
Malkhaz Dolidze, the Head of the Georgian Bread Manufacturers Union, on Monday, said the price of the product in Georgia is not expected to increase until the end of May, following a recent particle increase.
Dolidze said the Union had announced an increase of 0.2 Georgian lari in the month, with a 0.1 lari increase already observed. Further increases are not expected to take place this month, he noted, adding a two-month supply of flour was ensured for the local market. He also said the flour stock would be filled with Georgian wheat after that.
The Head of the Union also said the country was in a pre-harvest period and pointed out “wheat-related problems” had arisen across the world, pointing at the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine as a factor and noting the floating customs tax imposed on wheat and not on flour had created “some problems” with the former.
Georgian Agriculture Minister Otar Shamugia said in March Georgia had the resources to increase its wheat self-sufficiency to 50 per cent.
In 2021, Georgia purchased 367,000 tonnes of wheat worth $93.5 million, including 338,000 tonnes worth $87.4 million from Russia and 24,400 tonnes worth $4.6 million from the United States.
Last year, Georgian wheat production increased by 32.9 per cent, amounting to 136,100 tonnes.
- JAM News, „Georgia’s wheat stocks run out, mills to stop operating soon“, https://jam-news.net/georgias-wheat-stocks-run-out-mills-to-stop-operating-soon/
- Agenda.ge, “Georgian Bread Manufacturers Union Head: increase in prices not expected until end of the month“, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2022/1748
Georgian students protest the lack of housing
Almost two dozen students from various regions demonstrated at Tbilisi State University on May 2, demanding the reinstatement of a hybrid education system in lieu of in-person classes. Many cannot afford to live in cities due to economic problems caused by the pandemic and stiff rise in rents, especially in Tbilisi.
As OC Media informs, rent prices in the capital have surged following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as tens of thousands of Russian émigrés moved to the country, leaving students living in the farther regions of the country unable to afford rent.
Even though most Universities did not change their decision to open their doors, some chose to implement the hybrid method, which would allow students to attend lectures at the campuses or online. However, it was not a solution for some – Tbilisi State University (TSU) among them.
On February 18, TSU announced their decision that students must return to On-Campus studying. It was before the war. When the war began, many students thought that the university would keep it in mind and change their decision or at least offer the hybrid method again. No changes made students come out to protest with two main demands – To start studying with the hybrid method and to improve the living environment in dormitories, reports Georgia Today.
Barbare Sauri, a fourth-year Georgian philology student who joined the demonstration in the courtyard of TSU, told OC Media that a meeting with the university rector and administration did not yield concrete results. “Up to 2,400 TSU students have fallen into such a difficult situation. The administration told us that each student’s problem and demand would be approached individually”, she said. “But when students call and report their problems, representatives of the administration tell them that they cannot help”.
Protesters said the university was playing down the problem, claiming that only around 200 students could not secure accommodation. The demonstrators have demanded the university build an additional fully-furnished dormitory that tailors to the needs of students. TSU already has two dormitories; however, one of them is in a dilapidated state, while the other is at full capacity.
On April 27, the university issued a statement claiming that restoring in-person education was a necessary decision to “improve the quality of education in classrooms “because no other format — neither fully remote nor hybrid — can provide the required quality of teaching”. “Students were given more than two months to prepare for the learning process”, the statement read.
- SHOSHIASHVILI Tata, OC Media, „Students protest lack of housing in Tbilisi as universities return to in-person learning“, https://oc-media.org/students-protest-lack-of-housing-in-tbilisi-as-universities-return-to-in-person-learning/
- POLADISHVILI Erakle, „Students Protest Tbilisi State Uni’s Decision“, https://georgiatoday.ge/students-protest-tbilisi-state-unis-decision/
Alan Gagloyev was elected de facto president of South Ossetia
The incumbent de facto president of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, congratulated Alan Gagloyev on his victory in the second round of the presidential election after the Central Election Commission (CEC) announced the preliminary results of the vote on May 9, reported the Caucasian Knot.
Anatoly Bibilov has announced that he admits his defeat in the election. “I believe that the election has taken place. I congratulate Alan Gagloyev and wish him good luck,” he said. According to preliminary results, the leader of the opposition party, “Nikhas” Alan Gagloev, won with 53.67% of the vote.
As Eurasianet.org reminds us, Bibilov was the surprise victor in 2017 when he defeated an incumbent who was widely considered the favourite of Russia, which is the only major country to formally recognise South Ossetia (most of the rest of the world considers it a breakaway region of Georgia) and which provides heavy financial and military backing to the territory.
However, Bibilov lost favour with many South Ossetians for his authoritarian tendencies. Facing a difficult reelection battle, he sought to ingratiate himself with Moscow, enthusiastically backing an unpopular deployment of South Ossetian soldiers to fight for Russia in Ukraine and proposing a referendum on joining Russia.
There was little evidence of Russia picking favourites, however. A delegation of Russian lawmakers who acted as election observers said they saw no significant violations.
Gagloev’s upset represented a victory for “local critical elites,” tweeted Olesya Vartanyan, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group. “Locals can celebrate their own choice no matter whether people outside the region like it or not.”
Despite the defeat in the election, Anatoly Bibilov has stated today that the referendum on joining Russia will take place, the RIA “Novosti” reports. According to Bibilov, all the documents necessary for holding the referendum have already been collected and submitted to the CEC, which should consider them, and then submit them to the Supreme Court and set the date thereof, the RBC (RosBusinessConsulting) reports.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia and other state departments condemned the so-called second round of the presidential election. According to the statement, such illegal actions violate the fundamental principles and norms of international law and grossly violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders.
- KUCERA Joshua, Eurasianet.org, „South Ossetia’s incumbent leader loses reelection“, https://eurasianet.org/south-ossetias-incumbent-leader-loses-reelection
- Caucasian Knot, „Bibilov admits his defeat at the presidential election in South Ossetia“, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/59054/
- Caucasian Knot, Bibilov confirms referendum on South Ossetia’s joining Russia https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/59059/
- The Caucasus Watch, „Elections results in Tskhinvali region and possible implications“, https://caucasuswatch.de/news/5336.html
Former Georgia President Saakashvili was hospitalised again
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, serving his sentence in Rustavi prison, has been transferred today to medical centre Vivamedi, a civilian clinic in Tbilisi, on May 12.
The authorities offered on May 10 Saakashvili the transfer to the civilian clinic for examination to prevent any “possible complications” as concerns mounted about his deteriorating health. Saakashvili accepted the offer, provided some of his conditions would be met, reports civil.ge.
It was not immediately apparent whether authorities had met Saakashvili’s conditions. But the Justice Ministry yesterday slammed Saakashvili over “ultimatums” and called for accepting the examination in the civilian clinic without conditions.
The group of doctors convened by the Public Defender said at the end of April that Mikheil Saakashvili’s health “further deteriorated” since their previous visit to the Rustavi Prison in January. They described the patient’s condition as protein starvation, noting he was losing weight at the expense of muscle mass. The former president has previously held a weeks-long hunger strike.
Meanwhile, on May 14, the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili dismissed calls by a part of political opposition for allowing the imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili medical treatment abroad as “complete speculation,” adding the politician should “obey the law” and serve his time in prison.
The PM noted, “I really don’t care about bankrupt politicians” in comments on Saakashvili, adding the talk of relocation of Saakashvili abroad was “complete speculation” and “inappropriate”.
Garibashvili called on the public to “keep the peace” and “take care of achievements and development” under the current Government and rejected UNM calls for an early election in the country by pointing out that the next planned parliamentary elections be held in 2024.
Justice Minister Rati Bregadze added that Georgia has no precedent for transferring a convicted prisoner abroad for medical treatment.
- Civil.ge, “Saakashvili Transferred to Civilian Clinic“, https://civil.ge/archives/489996
- Agenda.ge, „PM: calls for allowing treatment abroad for imprisoned former President Saakashvili ’complete speculation’“, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2022/1718
- Agenda.ge, „Justice Minister highlights ’no precedent’ for allowing imprisoned former President Saakashvili medical treatment abroad“, https://agenda.ge/en/news/2022/1711
South Ossetia to hold a referendum on unification with Russia on July 17
On May 13, the de facto Central Election Commission (CEC) of South Ossetia approved a package of documents on holding a referendum on joining Russia; and incumbent president Anatoly Bibilov signed a decree on holding the referendum on July 17.
According to local media, it will be held on July 17. Bibilov said that the “big dream” will soon come true because South Ossetia and Russia are “connected by one story” and the time has come to unite “once and for all.” The electoral commission recognised the signatures of 4,105 people requesting the referendum, according to the RES agency. The voting question would be, “Do you favour the union of Rusia and the Republic of South Ossetia?”
“Relevant documents were submitted to the court. We are waiting for the court’s decision, and in the near future, our big dream will come true soon. A single history links Russia and South Ossetia. It is not just about partnership and friendship. It is more of a two-brother relationship when the older brother always understands and supports you, while the younger one respects and helps the older one. The time has come to unite once and for all. This means the beginning of a new history,” said the de-facto South Ossetian leader.
However, the winner of recent de facto presidential elections Alan Gagloev remains sceptical in this regard. “This is not a one-way process. Today we see that our strategic partner, the Russian Federation, is dealing with geopolitical issues, conducting a special operation in Ukraine to destroy ‘neo-Nazi’ formations. We must understand our strategic partner. As soon as there is a signal, as soon as there is an understanding that the time has come, we will definitely hold this referendum,” Gagloev said.
Alan Gagloev, in turn, said that there would be a referendum, taking into account the interests of South Ossetia’s ally. “Each president of the Republic of South Ossetia has always understood and said that our vector is maximum integration with the Russian Federation. However, we understand that this is not a one-way process. You and I remember that recently Anatoly Ilyich Bibilov announced a referendum on joining the Russian Federation. For our part, we have made our position clear. South Ossetia has already held several referendums, the people have expressed their opinion, but if another referendum is needed, we will definitely hold it,” Gagloev said.
- Caucasian Knot, „Bibilov appoints referendum on joining Russia on July 17“, https://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/59115/
- The Caucasian Watch, „Bibilov announces referendum to join Russia”, https://caucasuswatch.de/news/5369.html
- The Caucasian Watch, „New de-facto President of separatist Tskhinvali region on a referendum to join Russia and future relations with Georgia“, https://caucasuswatch.de/news/5362.html