The main topics of the day: what is happening in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, 3-7 April, 2023
Events in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia – кey headlines from local media 3-7 April, 2023
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Friday, April 7, Georgia. “I don’t care about the USA, where gender reassignment in children is a democratic achievement”
● Supreme Court Judge, Levan Murusidze, who has come under American sanctions (pictured): “I have not clung to this post, I have one dream, when I will leave the court and relax. Georgia is the land of the Virgin Mary, I want to travel here [instead of in the USA]”
● Supreme Court Judge, Irakli Shengelia, who also is now under sanctions: “I don’t care about the USA, a country where gender reassignment for children is a democratic achievement.”
● Supreme Court Judge Levan Tevzadze, who did not fall under US sanctions, said: “If you think that sanctions will scare us, then you would be mistaken.”
● US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan: “We have never put pressure on judges in Georgia.
● MEP Rasa Juknevičienė on sanctions: “This is an important step forward, this is the beginning of the process.”
● Parliament suspended the clearance for four journalists and cameramen from the opposition TV channels Mtavari and Pirveli for persistently asking MP Eliso Bolkvadze questions. However, she told them she was not giving interviews. Bolkvadze is a renowned pianist and peace ambassador for UNESCO, but a group of NGOs asked the organisation to strip her of her status after she voted in the first reading on the Foreign Agents Act.
● US Ambassador Kelly Degnan: “The government must take additional measures to ensure that Saakashvili’s condition does not deteriorate.”
Friday, April 7, Azerbaijan. Four Iranian embassy employees declared persona non grata
●4 staff members of the Iranian embassy in Azerbaijan have been declared ‘persona non grata’ and are to be expelled. They now have to leave the country within 48 hours.
●In Agdam bones, that could be human, have been found. They were found by Azerbaijani soldiers while digging in the Ergi Plain.
● The State Language Commission has collated a list of songs promoting bad habits, immoral lifestyles, aggressive behavior, and suicide.
● In Azerbaijan, the construction of the country’s largest bridge has begun. The bridge will be on the road connecting the towns of Ismayilli and Gabala. It will be 1180 meters long and 83 meters high.
● Children have been positioned at school number 20 in Baku. After eating chicken in the cafeteria, the children became ill and the students were hospitalised. Currently, their condition is stable
● The Azerbaijan Football Team has gone down 3 places in the FIFA rankings. The team is now ranked 124th.
● Azerbaijan has extradited a Turkish citizen from Moldova. Kivci Abdulkadir is charged under the articles “trafficking in medicines” and “smuggling” and has been placed on the international wanted list. Abdulkadir was detained in Moldova and taken to Azerbaijan.
●Nepalese and Sri Lankan nationals tried to cross from Azerbaijan into Georgia. Azerbaijani border guards prevented them from doing so. The three men and one woman were detained in the service area of the Shamkir border guard unit. Azerbaijan’s land borders have been closed since March 2020.
Friday, April 7, Armenia. Armenian police prevented oppositionists from entering Nagorno-Karabakh
● On the Pentagon’s official website, Armenia was initially listed as a participant in Defender 23 military exercises. However, a few hours after the list was published, the country’s name disappeared.
● Armenian police prevented representatives of the opposition movement ‘Together’ from traveling to Nagorno-Karabakh and turned them back close to the village of Tegh, claiming “security concerns”. Armenian Democratic Party leader Aram Sargsyan said they decided to check whether the new road to Nagorno-Karabakh, which passes through the village and opened on 1 April, is still open.
● The Cypriot parliament passed a resolution “condemning the blockade of the Lachin corridor and Azerbaijan’s provocations against Armenia”.
● More than 10 doctors at Yerevan’s Medline clinic have been detained in the notorious “coronavirus case”. Investigations into the revealed irregularities are underway.
● National Assembly Speaker Alain Simonyan asked for forgiveness for spitting in the face of a citizen. He called what happened a “lesson to himself”.
● The situation at the Teh Kornidzor section, where the Azerbaijani military was advancing, has improved after checking the posts. Construction of 7km of the 12km new road to link Armenia and Karabakh has been completed, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said.
Thursday, April 6, Georgia. State Department Sanctions Senior Georgian Judges for Corruption
● The US State Department has imposed sanctions on several Georgian judges for “their involvement in serious corruption” and “abuse of power”. Along with their families, they are banned from entering the US. This was announced by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
How has Georgia reacted?
– Deputy Speaker of Parliament Archil Talakvadze: “It is very sad that our friendship [with the USA] has come to this, that we have started speaking to one another in the language of sanctions.”
– Dmitry Samkharadze, a member of the ruling Georgian Dream Party: “It is cynical and a gross insult to Georgia.”
– Former prime minister of the Georgian Dream government, Giorgi Gakharia: “Now Ivanishvili must take responsibility and leave.”
– Opposition Party, Lelo: “This step is the final verdict for the Georgian authorities.”
– Levan Murusidze, a sanctioned judge, said, “So what if they do not let us go to the US or the EU. My grandfather didn’t go there either and he survived.”
● The sanctions were also commented on in Ukraine. “This is the last warning for Ivanishvili,” said David Arahamia, chairman of the Servant of the People faction in the Verkhovna Rada.
● “Western countries are trying to persuade Georgia to open a second front,” According to TASS, Russian Foreign Intelligence Service director Sergey Naryshkin said this at a meeting with Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko.
Thursday, April 6, Azerbaijan. Azerbaijanis in Russia are offered to join the Russian army
● As part of the Azerbaijani President’s official visit to Таjikstan, Aliyev signed 14 documents agreeing on bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
● Rumours have appeared on social media that in Baku booklets saying, “Let’s stand shoulder to shoulder with Russia, like our forefathers”, are being distributed, offering contracts with the Russian Armed Forces. Those who sign were apparently offered Russian citizenship, accommodation, high wages, and other perks. However, it has now emerged that these booklets were given to Azerbaijanis who lived in Russia.
● Azerbaijani Premier League matches will be halted to allow players to fast. Referees have received a directive from AFFA in connection with the month of Ramadan. According to the directive, the referees are to stop the match for a minute to allow those who adhere to open iftar.
● An Azerbaijani chess player has been invited to play for the world team. Kazakhstan will host a friendly match next week between the local national team and the world team, featuring Gunay Mammadzade.
Thursday, April 6, Armenia. "Hang upside down from a tree" or "Cut off tongues"
● The ruling party will appeal to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Armenia to investigate the statements made by the opposition regarding calls for violence. In particular, the rally suggested that “all of Nikol’s supporters should be hung upside down on trees”.
● The opposition will also appeal to the Prosecutor General to give a legal assessment of the actions of the Secretary of the Citizens’ Agreement faction, Artur Hovhannisyan. He said he would “cut off the tongues” of opposition representatives that made statements that displeased him.
● The ball is in Yerevan’s court: Zakharova on the possibility of sending a CSTO mission to Armenia. “Russia and allies are ready to send observers to Armenia,” she once again said.
● Residents of Meghri protested against the exploitation of the Lichke copper mine. If this production restarts, no people will be left in Meghri, they are sure. The mine operators and their supporters are accused of being willing to poison the residents of the already troubled border town for money.
● Samvel Poghosyan, a coach for the Yerevan Olympic Reserve Sports School , went on hunger strike. He is demanding a retest for his student, who cannot compete because he tested positive for doping.
Wednesday, April 5, Georgia. The opposition is preparing for a big action on April 9
● The appointment of his fellow MP Aleko Elisashvili’s niece as Deputy Public Defender is provoking heated discussions. Ombudsman Levan Ioseliani is especially criticized for his statement: “What does this have to do with me? It is his relative, not mine.”
● The movement defending Lazare Grigoriadis, the activist who was arrested on charges of violence against police officers during the protests in early March, continues. The public movement ‘Shame’ has announced that it is preparing a lawsuit, which it will file in court on 1 May.
● The opposition is preparing for a major rally on 9 April. On this day in 1989 the Soviet army carried out a massacre at a peaceful demonstration for Georgian independence in Tbilisi. 21 people were killed, and hundreds were poisoned, injured and wounded on Rustaveli Avenue. National Movement Chairman Levan Khabeishvili said the main demand of the rally this time will be the release of Lazare Grigoriadis. This was also stated by Giorgi Vashadze, leader of the Agmashenebeli Strategy party.
● Elene Khoshtariya MP: “The protection of Georgia’s place in Europe is closely linked to the protection of Lazare Grigoriadis.”
Wednesday, April 5, Armenia. "You are a clown, and you will regret it if you say [that the authorities are criminal] again"
● Armenia’s first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan stated that the parliament speaker who spat in the face of a member of the public should resign.
In response, Alain Simonyan invited Levon Ter-Petrosyan to parliament to discuss which one of them has done more damage to the state.
● A rally was held yesterday demanding that parliamentarians recognize Nagorno-Karabakh’s independence and the resignation of Nikol Pashinyan’s regime to ensure the security of the Armenian state.
● In a tense environment, deputies discussed ombudsmen candidates. Opposition candidate Edgar Ghazaryan called the authorities a “criminal regime” and was told in response by the MP that he was a “clown” and that if he “said that again, he would be sorry”.
● A new zoo with a green area will be built in Yerevan. It will be 150 hectares and have a forest, Deputy Mayor Tigran Avinyan said.
The zoo will have a new design, providing the animals with more comfortable conditions. It will be located at a new site, as it would not be possible to do this at the old site.
● 27 civilians, separated from their families for several months, went to Karabakh from Goris. Azerbaijani ‘eco-activists’, blocked the passage of vehicles of the Russian peacekeeping forces transporting these civilians. As a consequence, the civilians remained in the area for approximately five hours. After fruitless negotiations between the Russian side and the Azerbaijanis, the vehicles drove back.
Wednesday, April 5, Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani ambulance delivers patients to hospital in Khankendi (Stepanakert) for the first time
● The former Minister of Agriculture Inam Kerimov has been appointed chairman of the Supreme Court, although he has no experience in courts. By law, a lawyer must have worked at least 5 years in a court of first instance to be appointed a Supreme Court judge.
● Azerbaijani ambulances delivered patients to the hospital in Hankandy (Stepanakert) in Artsakh for the first time. Three Armenians were in pain close to Azerbaijani activists on the Lachin Road. Azerbaijani doctors provided first aid and then took them to the hospital (on video). At the same time, a minibus of Russian peacekeepers carrying a group of people from Armenia to Khankendi (Stepanakert) was not allowed through. Representatives of the Azerbaijani side said that their passage had not been agreed, so all passengers had to return to Armenia.
● Ilham Aliyev has been given the ‘Togg’ Turkish electric car he ordered. Erdogan and his spouse received the first copies the day before. Erdogan presented the third copy of the car to the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoev.
● The Milli Majlis accepted a statement about France’s prejudice towards Azerbaijan. Baku believes that Paris opposes the normalisation of Azerbaijani-Armenian relations and the signing a peace treaty. “France’s approach to the South Caucasus clearly demonstrates that it is based on double standards,” the statement said.
● Azerbaijan has destroyed about 24 tons of potatoes from Iran. The Food Safety Agency has found quarantined phytopathogenic bacteria in it: brown potato rot.
Tuesday, April 4, Georgia. “The country will probably still receive the status of a candidate for EU accession, but many tasks will have to be completed”
● Former US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly: “The government’s most disturbing action was adopting the bill on foreign agents. It is totally incompatible with democratic standards, and many Western leaders have pointed this out.”
● By detaining 21-year-old Lazare Grigoriadis (pictured), his lawyer Lika Bitadze said his rights were violated. She said that Grigoriadis was allowed to use his phone to contact his lawyer, but the phone was immediately taken away as soon as he locked his phone. Grigoriadis is accused of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police officers. Read more about Grigoriadis’ case below.
● “Georgia is likely to get candidate status for EU membership after all, but the country will have to meet many requirements”: Radio Liberty editor, Rikard Jozwiak.
Tuesday, April 4, Armenia. "Don't rush to ratify the Rome Statute"
● Former MP and businessman Samvel Aleksanyan’s company has been accused of evading almost $3m in taxes.
● The Armenian Ministry of Justice proposes to increase the salaries of judges in the first court by 60%. They are planned to be brought up to the level of the salaries of the judges of the Anti-Corruption Court.
● “Armenia does not need to ratify the Rome Statute as soon as possible, it would not be positive for our relationship with Russia.”: Parliament Speaker Alain Simonyan.
● The Armenian authorities have decided to close two state newspapers at once – Hayastani Hanrapetutyun and Respublika Armenia. The latter is the only Russian-language newspaper.
● Russian Interior Minister: All attempts to provoke arguments between Russia and Armenia are fruitless.
● Mikhail Galustyan received Armenian citizenship.
Tuesday, April 4, Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani army took control of two more villages in Karabakh
● The Azerbaijani army has taken control of two villages in the Shusha region of Karabakh, Allahgulular and Zamanpayasi, APA reports. They are the villages of Allahgulular and Zamanpayasi. No details are given. The said villages, practically destroyed in the 1990s, are located near dirt roads, control of which the Azerbaijani Armed Forces took over in March 2023.
● The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry has responded to Iran’s allegations about Azerbaijani media being “offensive”. Baku stressed that the Iranian allegations about the Azerbaijani media do not reflect objectivity. Tehran was also presented with a list of anti-Azerbaijani articles published in the Iranian media.
● In Baku the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources has revealed that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air is twice the established norm. The Ministry cited the intensity of traffic and other anthropogenic impacts as the reason.
● In Azerbaijan funding has been provided for camel breeding. The Entrepreneurship Development Fund of the Ministry of Economy provided 500,000 manats (about $300,000) for the project in the Hajigabul district.
● An accountant in the European Union representation office in Azerbaijan is accused of embezzling 980 thousand manats (about $575,000). The criminal case was initiated by the General Prosecutor’s Office based on an appeal from the Europeans. It turned out that Zarifa Abbasova embezzled this money while working in this position from 2017 to 2022.
Monday, April 3, Georgia. "The ruling party demonizes protesters"
● According to former Public Defender Nino Lomdjaria, “The ruling party is demonizing those who protest [against the bill on foreign agents]” with their arrest of activist Lazare Grigoriadis. She also said that there was no evidence that he threw Molotov cocktails as the police claimed.
● Member of the European Parliament, Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, also called on the Georgian government to release Lazare Grigoriadis.
● Von Cramon-Taubadel also responded to the accusations the Georgian Dream Party has made against her. “ I am a politician, I am used to this. It often happens, especially from Georgia’s ruling party. The Georgian people know that I am your friend, I support you, and we are really trying to bring Georgia closer to the European Union.”
Monday, April 3, Azerbaijan. 400 Shiite believers detained on suspicion of links with Iran
● Last night, four people suspected of an armed attack on deputy Fazil Mustafa on March 28 were detained. Police posts have been established in several directions of Baku and control measures are being carried out. There were reports of police gunshots in the Garadag district of Baku.
● Over the past 4 days about 400 Shia Muslims have been detained, reported opposition sources on social media. Some detained are suspected of cooperating with the Iranian regime, and others are charged with drug possession.
● Tehran handed a note of protest to Baku about the “offensive actions” of some in the Azerbaijani media. Iran warned that this sort of behaviour from journalists could harm the relationships between the countries.
●A nineteen-year-old soldier, Nurlan Novruzaliyev, has died after a mine exploded near the village of Talysh in the Terter district, which returned to Azerbaijani control after the 2nd Karabakh War. Since the end of the 2020 war, 238 Azerbaijanis have been injured by mines, and 50 have died. A Baku official called on the international community to express concern about the threat of landmines laid by Armenia.
● The Assistant to the US Trade Minister Arun Venkataraman has arrived in Baku. He will take part in an Azerbaijani-American energy forum and is expected to meet with Ilham Aliyev. During his trip, he will also visit Turkey, Armenia, and Georgia.
In Azerbaijan, an off-road race (pictured), organised by the Automobile Federation took place on the Baku-Khyzy-Shamakha highway.
Monday, April 3, Armenia. The speaker of parliament spat in the face of a man who called him a traitor
● Speaker of Parliament Alain Simonyan has spat in the face of a man who called him a traitor. A Canadian citizen Karen Mkrtchyan, a member of the opposition Dashnaktsutyun, said that he saw Simonyan in the town centre and after he accused him of being a “traitor”, two or three members of the security service approached and detained him until Simonyan came and spat in his face.
●Armenia commemorated those killed during the four-day April war of 2016. Wreaths were laid to the memorial in the military pantheon “Erablur” (pictured).
● The first Armenian hockey championship has been launched. Official matches have not been played since 2010. Now, the focus must be on reinvigorating club hockey and creating a national team.
● In Armenia, on Sunday it was Tsakhkazard: which means ‘decorated with flowers’ in Armenian. Tsakhkazard is celebrated on the last Sunday of Lent, and like Palm Sunday celebrates the return of Jesus to Jerusalem before Easter.
The main topics of the day: what is happening in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, 27-31 March, 2023