Latest news in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, 26-30 June, 2023
Friday, June 30, Armenia. "The most difficult issues in the negotiations remain" - Blinken on the Washington meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan
● The talks between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan have concluded in Washington. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said that there has been progress with the peace agreement and a consensus has been reached on several articles.
● The President of Armenia has refused to pardon Karen Hounanian, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for participating in the armed attack on Parliament on 29 October 1999.
● Pine trees are dying out near Sevan. More than 8,000 trees in Sevan National Park are already withered and about 10,000 more are infected with nematodeosis and under threat.
● James O’Brien, head of the US State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, has visited Nikol Pashinyan.
● The Armenian Ombudsman claims that she has offered her Azerbaijani counterpart “cooperation”, but has not yet received a response. Anahit Manasyan told reporters that in an official letter she pointed out the importance of communication and joint solutions to humanitarian problems.
Friday, June 30, Georgia. "Georgia's compliance with EU recommendations is pivotal" - Charles Michel
● Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili expressed his gratitude to Ambassador Kelly Degnan for her proactive and tireless efforts in supporting Georgia during the Independence Day reception at the US Embassy.
● During the same reception, President Salome Zurabishvili emphasized the importance of countering Russian propaganda and expressed her confidence in the United States’ support.
● Ambassador Kelly Degnan underscored the need for holding accountable those responsible for any acts of violence, stating that it is crucial to ensure that people understand that violence is unacceptable.
● President of the European Council, Charles Michel, emphasized that Georgia’s compliance with EU recommendations is pivotal for achieving the status of a candidate for EU accession.
● Prior to the Council of Europe meeting in Brussels, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda asserted that Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia all deserve a positive decision regarding their accession to the EU.
● Misha Mshvildadze, co-founder and presenter of the Formula TV channel, alleged that the state security service organized the attack and beating he experienced in the street. Mshvildadze claimed to have seen a photographer from the State Security Service in the pharmacy before the incident occurred.
● The state security service announced that occupying Russian forces in the Tskhinvali region had permitted the use of weapons against drones along the separation line in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone.
● Mamuka Mamulashvili, commander of the Georgian Legion in Ukraine, stated that Russian and Georgian special services are engaging in close cooperation.
● The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported the detention of 52 individuals on drug-related charges, including 37 drug dealers.
● Train services from Zugdidi and Batumi to Tbilisi were temporarily halted due to heavy rain in the western part of the country. Flooding of railway tracks and soil collapse occurred in one section.
● Two buses collided on central Chavchavadze Avenue in Tbilisi.
● In Kutaisi, a man accused of engaging in sexual contact with a 12-year-old child received a four-year prison sentence.
📷 Pictured from left to right: Salome Zurabishvili, Kelly Degnan, and Irakli Garibashvili at a reception commemorating US Independence Day.
Friday, June 30, Azerbaijan. "Further progress has been achieved in the negotiations for the draft bilateral Peace Agreement with Armenia" - Foreign Ministry
● The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has made a statement on the talks between the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Washington. “Further progress has been made between the ministers and their delegations in the negotiations on the draft Bilateral Agreement on Peace and the Establishment of Inter-State Relations. “Agreement has been reached on additional articles of the draft agreement and a step towards mutual understanding on the draft agreement has been reached. At the same time, the need to continue additional work on some key issues was noted.”
● The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has also commented on Nikol Pashinyan’s statement describing the “blockade” of the Lachin road: “The Armenian side must refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Azerbaijan, respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the AR not only in words, but also in deeds, and immediately withdraw armed forces from the Azerbaijani territories, [where they are] threatening peace and security in the region.”
● The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry called the anti-Azerbaijani statements made by the French President at a meeting with the Armenian community of Marseille unacceptable. “The statements about pressure on the President of Azerbaijan are a figment of Macron’s imagination. Attempts to put pressure on Aliyev have never yielded results,” the Ministry stressed.
● Employees of Azerbaijan’s state TV channel AzTV were attacked while filming in France. The reporter and cameraman were slightly injured, and their camera was damaged. The journalists were filming protests in the Paris suburbs after the police killed a 17-year-old boy. Azerbaijani state television is being criticised on social media for not covering of events in Soyudlu, Gedabey. Security forces have been blockading the village for nine days. Read more here
Thursday, June 29, Azerbaijan. "Policeman gave orders to beat women on their genitals," say residents of the protesting village
● Tensions remain high in the village of Soyudlu, Gedabek district, where the population is alleging harmful environmental and health impacts of emissions from a nearby gold mine. Additional police units in four buses have been deployed to the village.
According to local residents, police officers have threatened to forcefully suppress any new protests. A video has circulated on social media in which an elderly resident claims that a certain member of law enforcement has publicly ordered the police to “beat women on their genitals” so that they are then embarrassed to present evidence of signs of violence on their bodies.
● Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and US Presidential Adviser Jake Sullivan exchanged views on the main areas of the normalisation process between Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as regional security issues. Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan also attended the meeting.
● The Karabakh tanker has been commissioned in Singapore. The vessel will sail under the Azerbaijani flag outside the Caspian Sea and will carry oil from SOCAR and other customers.
Thursday, June 29, Armenia. 'There is a high risk of destabilisation in the South Caucasus - Nikol Pashinyan
● The Armenian Prime Minister congratulated the Turkish President on Eid al-Adha. The two leaders discussed the normalisation of bilateral relations and also touched upon the progress regarding opening the land border to persons with diplomatic passports and third-country nationals.
● There is a high risk of destabilisation in the South Caucasus, tweeted Nikol Pashinyan.
● Ararat Mirzoyan raised the issue of Azerbaijan’s aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh at the Washington talks. Such actions from Baku are aimed at hindering the negotiation efforts, the Armenian Foreign Minister said.
● Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that Moscow is concerned about the increasingly frequent armed incidents and ceasefire violations in Nagorno-Karabakh and is calling for restraint and the settlement of disputed issues peacefully with Russian peacekeepers.
● The Communists are unhappy about the renaming of a street named after Sarkis Kasyan in Yerevan. The Communist Party claims that it was because of Kasyan that it was possible to preserve the homeland for all Armenians.
Thursday, June 29, Georgia. "The EU expresses its disappointment with Georgia's decision not to join the Western-imposed sanctions against Russia," - David O'Sullivan
● “The European Union expresses its disappointment with Georgia’s decision not to join the Western-imposed sanctions against Russia,” stated David O’Sullivan, the EU Special Representative for Sanctions, who is currently in Tbilisi.
● In an interview with CNN, the President of Georgia emphasized the need for controlling the entry of Russians into the country, citing the risk of Russia exerting “soft power” through its large presence of Russian citizens. The President described Georgia’s current state as a “hidden confrontation” with Russia, and expressed hope for support from the European Union, according to Salome Zurabishvili.
● A man has been arrested for posting on Facebook that he physically assaulted Misha Mshvildadze, the founder and host of the independent Formula TV channel, on June 27. The post’s author, Nikoloz Gugeshashvili, claimed to have attacked the journalist as a response to his criticism of the patriarch.
● Zurab Japaridze and Nika Mosiashvili, leaders of the Girchi opposition party, have been fined 2,500 lari (approximately $900) following legal proceedings related to their involvement in the March protests against the bill on foreign agents in Tbilisi. The court found them guilty of disorderly conduct and disobedience to the police. The politicians themselves maintain that the police employed unwarranted violence against them on that day.
● The fine for being in a public place with a dog without a leash and muzzle has been raised from 20 to 150 GEL (approximately $7 to $60). Repeat offenders will face double the penalty, amounting to 300 GEL.
Wednesday, June 28, Georgia. Hungary's support for Ukraine's EU accession talks conditional on granting candidate status to Georgia
● Misha Mshvildadze, one of the founders of the independent TV company Formula, has been attacked in the street. An investigation has been launched. Recently, there has been a small wave of attacks against the authorities’ opponents. Zura Japaridze, leader of the Girchi – More Freedom party; publicist and writer Levan Berdzenishvili; and member of the National Movement party Davit Osikmashvili have all been attacked in the street in the last few weeks.
● The Georgian U21s football team reached the quarter-finals of the European Championship, coming top of their group. This result is historic for the national team. On June 27, the match between the national teams of Georgia and the Netherlands ended with a score of 1:1. Georgia and Romania are hosting the European Youth Championship in 2023, involving 16 national teams. The final will be held on July 8 in Batumi.
● Beka Grigoriadis, father of the activist arrested in the March rallies case, was fined for a video published on Facebook. The court claimed that he insulted police officers in the social media post. A few days ago, a Tbilisi resident was also fined for criticizing the authorities’ transport policy in a TikTok video. Human rights activists believe that these cases indicate a new and dangerous trend against freedom of expression.
● Hungary will support negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the European Union – but only if EU member states agree to grant Georgia candidate status, Radio Liberty reports, citing anonymous diplomatic sources. Otherwise, Budapest may block Ukraine’s negotiations with the EU. “The Garibashvili government has warm relations with the Orban government,” the article says.
● “I know Putin very well, and I am sure that in a few weeks, he will leave the presidency of Russia,” Mikhail Saakashvili wrote on Facebook. The day before, the jailed former president called on the peoples of the Caucasus to unite to prepare for Russia’s collapse.
● The Peace Bridge in Tbilisi will be closed for repairs until August.
Wednesday, June 28, Armenia. Azerbaijani Armed Forces have shelled the steel plant under construction, MO says
● Yesterday, the Washington talks began. There were meetings between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as between the Armenian foreign minister and the U.S. Secretary of State.
● Nikol Pashinyan admits that the inaction of high-ranking military officials during the invasion of Azerbaijani Armed Forces on the territory of Armenia was aimed at overthrowing the authorities. Read more here
● Azerbaijani Armed Forces have shelled the steel plant under construction in Yeraskh again, MO says.
● Pashinyan’s ruling party will run individually in the upcoming elections for the Yerevan Council of Elders.
● There was a 24-hour protest calling on the international community to help lift the Azerbaijani blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh. Dashnaktsutyun rallies were held in front of the embassies of intermediary countries (Russia, USA, France) and the EU.
Wednesday, June 28, Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan celebrates Kurban Bayram
● Today, Eid al-Adha is celebrated in Azerbaijan. The next working day is July 3.
● Talks between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia have kicked off in Washington.
● Shelling in the part of Nagorno-Karabakh, where Russian peacekeepers have been temporarily deployed, wounded Ali Bakirov, an Azerbaijani serviceman. The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry announced that countermeasures were being carried out.
According to reports from Khankendi (Stepanakert), four from the Armenian side diedю
● The U.S. Embassy in Baku has responded to journalists’ inquiries regarding the feminist activist and cameraman, who were surrendered to the police, during the Embassy’s Independence Day celebration. “The U.S. supports fundamental freedoms,” the Embassy said, without going into further detail.
Tuesday, June 27, Azerbaijan. The security forces’ blockade continues in the village of Soyudlu, but environmentalists also began to work there
● The security forces’ blockade continues in Soyudlu, Gedabek, where the local population held protests against pollution of the lake by waste from a gold mine. About 10 people were detained. Law enforcement has also detained the owner of the printing house which printed the protesters’ slogans on drug possession charges. Human rights activists have reported that locals refuse to talk to them as they fear that the phones are bugged.
● Government sources report that comprehensive monitoring of the polluted lake in Gedabey district is ongoing. Experts from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources have taken water and soil samples from different parts of Soyudlu village.
● Activist Giyas Ibragimov interrupted his dry hunger strike, in which he has been refusing both food and water, and was allowed to meet his mother. Ibragimov was administratively arrested for 32 days due to a post on his Facebook page where he swore when discussing the authorities and expressed his support for protesters in Soyudlu.
● Another set of talks between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia will start today in Washington.
● “We do not highly assess the capabilities of the illegal Armenian formations that remain in the Karabakh economic zone of Azerbaijan. We know their numbers, their armament, their moral-psychological state, we know what they are capable of. I assure you that, as the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev mentioned, they have absolutely no chance of conducting any kind of action against the Azerbaijani army. There could be some small provocations, which end very badly for them,” Azerbaijani Defence Minister Zakir Hasanov said.
● There was an explosion in a bakery in Baku. Four people were injured as a result of the incident in Zabrat settlement. Their condition is currently assessed as being serious.
Tuesday, June 27, Armenia. "Azerbaijan cannot do whatever it wants to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh" - President of Pace
● Talks between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Washington start today and will last until 29 June, according to US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.
● The Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations will be abolished on June 30 and the Ministry’s responsibilities will be given to the Interior Ministry, according to the Ministry of Emergency Situations press service.
● Tiny Cox, President of Pace: Azerbaijan cannot do whatever it wants to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. The blockade of the Lachin corridor could lead to a huge disaster for the thousands and thousands of people who depend on this road to Armenia.
● The opposition activist organisation Dashnaktsutyun has announced 4 24-hour sit-ins in support of Nagorno-Karabakh today: outside the embassies of Russia, the US, France, and the EU mission.
● Armenian lawyers went on strike yesterday due to recorded cases of violence against lawyers in the country’s police stations.
The protesters brought a pair of boxing gloves as a ‘gift’ to the Central Police Station head, Arman Papyan.
Monday, June 26, Georgia. "The opposition again tried to drag the country into the war, using the events in Russia" - the head of the ruling party
● A former investigator in the death of Tamar Bachaliashvili (pictured) has been detained for giving false testimony. The young programmer was found dead in her car in July 2020 and her family continues to claim she was murdered.
The Prosecutor’s Office accused former investigator Sergo Shubitidze of deliberately spreading false statements to mislead the family and justice. Here is the story of the girl’s death and the versions put forward
● “The (Prigozhin) mutiny in Russia has greatly weakened Putin, bringing Ukraine even closer to victory,” Mikhail Saakashvili wrote in Georgian and Ukrainian in a post on his Facebook.
● “This is Russia’s internal affairs, there was and is no need to convene a Security Council in Georgia or make any statements. Those who called for this by the Georgian authorities are pouring water on the mill of the enemy. Every politician, political party and all our citizens should care first and foremost about their country’s interests,” Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said, regarding the attempted military uprising in Russia.
● The head of the ruling party Irakli Kobakhidze again accused the opposition and the president that “the aim of these people is to drag the country into war, to open a ‘second front’ in Georgia, which was once again confirmed when they demanded the intervention of the Georgian authorities in the events in Russia. “If these people had been in charge of the government yesterday, they would have thrown the country into trouble. We can directly remove the Facebook posts that explicitly said that the Georgian authorities should move into Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region,” Kobakhidze said.
● Two other Georgian soldiers, Malkhaz Kvizhinadze and Johnny Odishvili, were killed in fighting near Bakhmut in Ukraine. Odishvili was carried out wounded, but doctors could not save him, Radio Liberty’s Georgian editorial office said.
Monday, June 26, Azerbaijan. 32 days of arrest for activist Giyas Ibragimov for the FB post, he went on a dry hunger strike
● Today marks the 105th anniversary of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. Azerbaijan will also celebrate Eid-al-Adha on the 26th and 27th – hence, the country is on holiday until the end of the week. The next working day is July 3.
● The court has increased the jail sentence of activist Giyas Ibragimov – who went on a ‘dry’ hunger strike, refusing both food and water – to 32 days. He is accused of “spreading prohibited information on the Internet”. Giyas Ibragimov, in his last Facebook post, swore when discussing the Azerbaijani authorities and demanded justice for the residents of the village of Soyudlu in the Gedabey region. After he made the post, Azerbaijani law enforcement detained him. Read here about the protest
● Azerbaijan temporarily opened the crossing of the Lachin road for humanitarian purposes. This was announced by the country’s presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev.
● Another round of peace talks between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia starts today in Washington.
● A statement from the Azerbaijani foreign ministry said that: “[Armenia’s] rejection of Azerbaijan’s offers to help the residents of [the unrecognised territory of Nagorno-Karabakh] by those who call themselves their representatives shows that the Armenian side is exploiting this issue for its own gain.”
● Azerbaijani citizen Farid Safarli, detained in Iran on espionage charges, spoke to his family members over the phone. He said he had been tried three times and would be sentenced shortly. “However, neither the trial nor the investigation revealed any facts related to his espionage,” according to Dilyara Askerova, Safarli’s mother.
● Another 15 families, 53 Internally Displaced Persons who fled their homes during the first Karabakh war, have returned to Lachin city.
● In 2022, 528 men and 274 women over 60 were divorced, according to official statistics.
● “The rejection of Azerbaijan’s proposals to help the residents of [the unrecognized NKR] indicates that the Armenian side is using this issue for its own purposes,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
● Azerbaijani citizen Farid Safarli, detained in Iran on charges of espionage, spoke with his family members by phone. He said that he had been tried three times and that he would be sentenced in the near future. “However, not a single fact related to his espionage was revealed either in court or during the investigation,” said Dilyara Askerova, Safarli’s mother.
● Another 15 families – 53 internally displaced persons who left their homes during the first Karabakh war returned to the city of Lachin.
● According to official statistics, in 2022, 528 men and 274 women over 60 divorced in Azerbaijan.
Monday, June 26, Armenia. Yerevan doubts the sincerity of the Azerbaijani authorities to establish peace in the South Caucasus
● Tickets for flights from Russia to Armenia went up about 10 times on Saturday and dropped after the convoys returned to field camps.
● Armenian foreign minister Ararat Mirzoyan has flown to Washington, where another round of Armenian-Azerbaijani talks will begin.
● In a statement, Yerevan doubted the sincerity and political will of the Azerbaijani authorities to establish peace in the South Caucasus. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said that “the world community cannot be blind and have illusions that the rights and security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh can be resolved without their involvement”.
● Representatives of the American Kansas National Guard were in Armenia. As part of their visit, the delegation led by General Michael Wenerdy also visited the Central Clinical Military Hospital of the Ministry of Defense.
● Artak Zeynalyan, the former Minister of Justice, is the ninth candidate for the position of Mayor of Yerevan. He will run as a candidate for the Respublika party.
The main topics of the day in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, 19-23 June, 2023