Top stories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia from 5-9 February, 2024
Friday, February 9, Armenia. Russia urged Armenia "to engage in constructive dialogue on CSTO affairs instead of resorting to public criticism"
● Yerevan will host the Sports and Cultural Games of Francophonie-2027 following a unanimous decision by the Permanent Council of Francophonie. Over 50 delegations and around 4,000 participants are expected to attend in Armenia.
● Foreign minister Ararat Mirzoyan ceremoniously planted the Armenian flag at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, marking Armenia’s full membership in the ICC as of February 1 (pictured). Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Armenia’s representative for international legal affairs, emphasized the historic significance of this moment for the country, noting ongoing legislative efforts to facilitate the application of the Rome Statute.
● Armenia dispatched its third batch of humanitarian aid to a military hospital in Ukraine, comprising 10 tons of medicines and medical supplies.
● Deputy foreign minister Alexander Pankin urged Armenia to engage in constructive dialogue on CSTO affairs instead of resorting to public criticism. He highlighted Armenia’s distance from CSTO discussions thus far.
● The International Committee of the Red Cross reported 660 messages and calls exchanged between Armenians detained in Azerbaijan and their relatives in 2023.
● The ministry of internal affairs of Armenia will receive five shepherd dogs from Belarus to bolster its canine units involved in combating drug trafficking.
Friday, February 9, Azerbaijan. A mass grave was discovered in the Khojaly region, presumably related to the Khojaly massacre
● Charles Michel, the head of the Council of Europe, congratulated Ilham Aliyev on his election victory and discussed cooperation in energy, transport, and peace negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
● Ilham Aliyev remarked on the significance of voting in the presidential elections in Khankendi.
● A mass grave was discovered near the Askeran fortress in the Khojaly region, with preliminary findings suggesting the remains of eight individuals, potentially victims of the Khojaly massacre during the first Karabakh war. Information provided by detainee Rashid Beglaryan led to the discovery.
● Azerbaijan aims to increase egg exports to 100 million units in 2024, with a daily production of 4-4.5 million eggs. Current exports include Russia and the UAE.
● A six-year-old first-grader, Yusif Aliyev, died of measles in Astara despite being vaccinated against the disease.
● On February 29, the first ultramarathon from Khankendi to Baku will commence, covering a distance of 360 km over five stages and concluding on March 4. The event, themed “Forward with Pride,” is open to participants over 18 years old.
Friday, February 9, Georgia. The new PM prioritizes combating inflated food prices and poverty
● Parliament has endorsed the new government, appointing Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the Georgian Dream party, as prime minister. The only change in the cabinet is the appointment of Irakli Chikovani, former vice-speaker of parliament, as the new defense minister.
● Salome Zurabishvili’s administration announced that “the president have signed a decree appointing Irakli Kobakhidze as prime minister only to ensure efficient responses to natural disasters and urgent issues.”
● The new prime minister emphasized the importance of tackling inflated food prices. “Why do we have a situation where a product costs 2 euros in Germany, but in Georgia, it’s 19 lari (about 7 euros)?” Irakli Kobakhidze pledged to prioritize economic development and poverty alleviation.
● The former chairman of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, stated that he would never again align himself with Saakashvili’s party due to various reasons. He also expressed confidence that Georgia’s era of political prisoners would come to an end “through the collective efforts of individuals with impeccable character, many of whom have no association with the party or will never be associated with it again.”
● Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili congratulated Ilham Aliyev on his victory, stating, “No one has done as much for Azerbaijan as president Ilham Aliyev has done for this country. He will go down in history as Ilham the victor, and the years of his presidency will remain in history as the golden age of Azerbaijan.”
● Russian FM spokesperson Maria Zakharova suggested that Georgia has been historically exploited to destabilize the post-Soviet region, responding to Georgian authorities’ interception of explosives being transported from Ukraine to Russia.
● Petre Kalashnikov, a Georgian citizen detained by Russian forces in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone, has been released and is now safe in territory controlled by the central government, the National Security Service reported.
● A landslide in Kvishkheti village, Khashuri region, led to evacuations, with ongoing landslide threats. In Chiatura, four manganese ore mines were suspended due to landslide risks.
● The image depicts Mikheil Saakashvili and Ilham Aliyev, captured during Saakashvili’s presidency, in an AFP photo
Thursday, February 8, Georgia. Three fatalities in a hot air balloon crash; eight victims in a landslide
● The Civil Aviation Agency confirmed a balloon crash near the village of Asureti in the Kvemo Kartli region, resulting in the deaths of all three individuals on board. This included two well-known aeronauts, Revaz Uturgauri and Krishtof Zapard, along with journalist-cameraman Misha Bidzinashvili from the Imedi TV channel. The balloon was conducting a test flight for a world record, and an investigation into the cause of the crash is underway.
● The ministry of infrastructure and the National Environmental Protection Agency stated that it was impossible to predict the landslide that struck the village of Nergeti in the Bagdati region of western Georgia on February 7. The landslide, which claimed the lives of 8 people with one person still missing, was triggered by heavy rains and ongoing climate change.
● More than 200 houses were flooded in the Khashuri district due to the overflow of the Shola River, leading to the evacuation of 40 families. Some villages have been without electricity for three days. Locals report an increase in the river’s water levels each year, causing regular flooding.
● Train services to Western Georgia are expected to resume today after being halted due to a landslide near the village of Moliti on February 6.
● President Salome Zurabishvili announced active negotiations with all political parties and movements in the country to create a national “Unity Platform for Europe.” She emphasized the need to move away from divisive politics and work towards a common goal of a European future.
● A member of the ruling party criticized president Zurabishvili for opposing Bidzina Ivanishvili (considered the influential figure behind the scenes), suggesting that “without his support, she wouldn’t have become president.”
● Employees of the Republican Hospital appealed to the US Embassy for support in their protest against the authorities’ decision to disband and demolish the old clinic building. The collective has been protesting for over a month, refusing monetary compensation and job offers at other hospitals.
● Director of the Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Center announced that 40 participants from Georgia will attend the World Youth Festival in Russia under his leadership.
Thursday, February 8, Armenia. Nikol Pashinyan described the South Caucasus as essentially a region of the European Union
● “The draft peace treaty has agreed on a point where parties cannot cite their legislation as a reason for failing to fulfill any obligation stated in this document,” stated Nikol Pashinyan.
● Nikol Pashinyan described the South Caucasus as essentially a region of the European Union. “Significant changes have occurred; Georgia has attained official candidate status for EU membership. Two of our neighbors also share this status, including Turkey. The EU is now essentially part of our region, and we must acknowledge this,” said the Armenian Prime Minister.
● “Every country has the sovereign right to determine its course based on the aspirations of its people,” commented Maria Zakharova, a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, regarding Pashinyan’s statement about the South Caucasus becoming a region of the European Union.
● The “Mother Armenia” faction intends to challenge in court the decision to strip three representatives of the Council of Elders of their mandates. The opposition faction has denounced the ruling party’s actions as arbitrary and politically motivated persecution, describing the meeting to revoke the mandates of opposition members as a result of a clandestine conspiracy. Read more here
● Parking on “red lines” in the center of Yerevan will be free on Sundays.
Photo from Arsen Khechoyan’s Facebook
Thursday, February 8, Azerbaijan. Ilham Aliyev won the presidential elections by a significant margin
● Early presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan, with current President Ilham Aliyev securing a substantial victory. According to the latest data, he garnered 92.05% of the votes. This marks Ilham Aliyev’s fifth presidential term, with each term lasting for seven years. For further details and background, visit here
● The leaders of Uzbekistan, Belarus, Hungary, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and China have extended their congratulations to Ilham Aliyev on his re-election as President of Azerbaijan.
● “For Baku, any military impact is now in the past. Azerbaijan has restored its territorial integrity,” stated Hikmet Hajiyev, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, in an interview with German ZDF.
● Norwegian Equinor is planning to finalize the sale of its assets in Azerbaijan to SOCAR within this year. In 2023, Equinor sold 7.27% in the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli block development project, 8.71% in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, and 50% in the Karabakh field development project to the Azerbaijani state oil company. In the fourth quarter of 2023, Equinor reported losses amounting to $310 million associated with its planned exit from projects in Azerbaijan, as cited by Interfax-Azerbaijan from the company’s report.
📸 In the photo: 102-year-old World War II veteran Fatima Sattarova participated in the presidential election by casting her vote.
Wednesday, February 7, Azerbaijan. Voting for the early presidential elections began at 8 a.m. today across Azerbaijan
● Voting for the early presidential elections began at 8 a.m. today across Azerbaijan and will continue until 7 p.m. local time (pictured). The Central Election Commission, led by Mazahir Panakhov, plans to release the initial election results at 9 p.m.
● Medical professionals provided updates on the health status of two shepherds injured by separate mine explosions in the Terter region. Azer Mamedov and Hasanali Aliyev are both in stable condition, though they each underwent leg amputation surgery.
● In 2023, the Czech Republic recorded its highest oil purchase volume from Azerbaijan in four years, totaling around 2 million tons. This marks a 13.9% increase compared to 2022, with estimated deliveries valued at approximately 1.2 billion euros.
● The “Karabakh University” is set to have an authorized fund of 10 million manats (about $6 million) and will be based in Khankendi.
Wednesday, February 7, Armenia. Armenian and Azerbaijani parliament speakers may meet in Switzerland from March 23 to 27.
● Yerevan confirms that from March 23 to 27, parliament speakers from Armenia and Azerbaijan will convene in Switzerland for talks. While there’s no specific agenda yet, discussions in a similar format are on the table, as per the Armenian parliament speaker’s office.
● Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Sobhani addressed concerns regarding the transit of Indian weaponry for Armenia through Iranian territory. He stated in a press conference that Tehran is prepared to support Armenia in ways that foster regional peace, emphasizing that maintaining a balance of power in the region is conducive to stability.
● Investigators have determined that a gas leak and a lit lighter caused the explosion in a residential building on Nor Aresha Street in Yerevan on February 5. The blast tragically claimed the lives of two individuals and left two others hospitalized. Read more here
● During President Vahagn Khachaturian’s visit to Hungary, a memorandum of cooperation in culture, education, and science was signed between Yerevan and Budapest, marking a thaw in bilateral relations that were previously stagnant.
● Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan embarks on a working visit to the Netherlands from February 6 to 9.
Wednesday, February 7, Georgia. The зresident establishes a national "Platform for Unity in Europe"
● Overnight, an avalanche struck the village of Nergeti in the Bagdat region of western Georgia. Initial reports indicate three fatalities, with six others still missing. Multiple homes are buried under debris, and rescue teams are actively working to locate survivors. Additionally, two individuals lost their lives in separate avalanche incidents in the mountains of the Achara region.
● “One of the key prerequisites for initiating negotiations with the European Union is conducting free, fair, and competitive elections,” stated German Ambassador to Georgia Peter Fischer.
● All proposed candidates for ministerial positions in the economic team, as well as for the ministries of culture, health, education, defense, justice, internal affairs, and civil reconciliation, have received support at the parliamentary committee meetings. Hearings commenced on February 5 and are ongoing.
● President Salome Zurabishvili announced the establishment of a national charter called the Platform for Unity in Europe during her annual address to parliament, stirring significant public reaction. Notably, she referred to oligarch Ivanishvili as “the primary recipient of all problems” and accused Russia of waging a hybrid war against Georgia, leveraging the substantial Russian immigrant population in the country. Read more here
● Member of the Lelo party Salome Samadashvili expressed readiness to collaborate with any platforms addressing the European agenda. Samadashvili stated, “If the president proposes a suitable framework, Lelo will engage with its new platform.”
● Nika Gvaramia, founder of the prominent television company Mtavari Arkhi, praised the president’s initiative to establish the “Platform of Unity in Europe” as a crucial step. Gvaramia emphasized the need for unity amid widespread disillusionment, suggesting that pardoning Mikheil Saakashvili could bolster public morale.
● Acting Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze characterized the president’s parliamentary address as a manifestation of the radical opposition. Kobakhidze speculated that she intends to resign in September to form a purportedly centrist political force for the upcoming elections.
● Incarcerated former president Mikheil Saakashvili concurred with the president’s stance, asserting that the focus should be on building a coalition of pro-European forces to combat election fraud rather than forming artificial alliances.
● Train services in Western Georgia have been suspended due to heavy rainfall, snowfall, and avalanche risks. The railway administration has assured passengers of full ticket refunds.
Photo: JAMnews/David Pipia
Tuesday, February 6, Georgia. Parliament is discussing a new cabinet, mainly reappointing previous ministers
● The “Victory Coalition” political association has offered imprisoned ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili the position of prime minister if they secure a parliamentary majority in the October elections. The coalition includes the “United National Movement” (founded by Saakashvili) and “Agmashenebeli Strategy” parties.
● Mikheil Saakashvili published a post in which he says that as long as he is alive, he will not stop fighting “for historical justice and a better future for Georgians and Ukrainians.” “I left my very comfortable life, my personal affairs, for this, because I could not look from the outside at the difficult situation of the Georgian people and how Georgia was being destroyed. I went through all kinds of bullying, poisoning, spinal injuries, but I still didn’t give up,” writes Saakashvili.
● Georgian intelligence intercepted a shipment of explosives traveling from Ukraine to Russia. Read more here
● Parliament continues discussions on expressing confidence in the new government, led by the new prime minister Irakli Kobakhidze. Most positions are retained by officials from the previous government.
● Vakhtang Gomelauri, whose re-approval as the minister of internal affairs was requested by the parliament, stated that he “considers the widespread societal assertions of Moscow using Russian residents in Georgia as a pretext for military intervention to be a myth.” He mentioned that over 40 percent of those who arrived are individuals born in Georgia, with their families currently residing in the country, based on his data.
● Tea Tsulukiani, whose re-approval as the minister of culture was requested by the parliament, described the political opposition in the country as weak. She expressed uncertainty about their expectations in the upcoming parliamentary elections in October. A campaign opposing the minister has been initiated, with cultural figures urging parliament not to confirm her in the post due to actions they believe “lead to the irreversible destruction of the country’s cultural identity.” Read more here
● The head of the Copyright Association, Giga Kobaladze, was interrogated by the investigative service of the ministry of finance as part of a probe into the potential misappropriation of funds belonging to authors/performers. Kobaladze dismisses the charges as “absurd and fabricated.”
● The Competition and Consumer Protection Agency is developing regulations for influencers, requiring them to disclose if their posts are sponsored advertisements.
● Severe weather conditions are anticipated across the country, leading to road closures in avalanche-prone areas.
Tuesday, February 6, Azerbaijan. The Serbian PACE delegation protested a resolution about Azerbaijan
● An explosion occurred last night in a boiler room in the Yasamal district of Baku, as depicted in the picture. The blast wave shattered the windows of nearby buildings. One person was injured, and over 10 cars were damaged. The reasons for the incident are currently under investigation.
● Azerbaijan has declared a “day of silence” preceding the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for February 7.
● The Serbian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) protested against a resolution concerning Azerbaijan, denouncing it as regressive and contributing to further polarization. They called for the annulment of the resolution and refused to ratify the powers of the Azerbaijani delegation.
● President Ilham Aliyev sent a letter to president Erdogan on the anniversary of the tragic earthquake in Turkey, highlighting Azerbaijan’s direct involvement in reconstruction efforts.
● All types of pensions in Azerbaijan have been indexed, resulting in an 11.2% increase starting from January 2024.
● Another shepherd was injured by a mine explosion in the Terter region. Azer Mamedov, aged 58, sustained injuries to his left leg. This marks the second explosion in the region within two days.
● Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross visited Armenians detained by Azerbaijan in Karabakh and along the border with Armenia, ensuring they can establish contact with their families.
● The Czech foreign ministry confirmed the detention of a Czech citizen by Azerbaijani authorities while attempting to cross into Azerbaijan from Armenia.
● An Iranian citizen who carried out a terrorist attack at the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran in January 2023 has been sentenced to death, according to reports from the Iranian ministry of justice.
● In the Tovuz region, a 10-year-old child with cerebral palsy succumbed to measles.
● Azerbaijan is participating in the “World Defense Show-2024” in Riyadh, showcasing 107 domestically produced military products.
● A strong wind in Baku toppled a tree onto a busy road, fortunately causing no injuries.
Tuesday, February 6, Armenia. The director of Public Radio of Armenia apologized for the interview with Nikol Pashinyan
● Two individuals were found dead, a man and a woman, under the rubble of a house following an explosion in Yerevan. Two others were hospitalized, with one in serious condition in intensive care and the other in moderate condition.
● The director of Public Radio of Armenia issued an apology and took responsibility for an interview with prime minister Nikol Pashinyan. The interview stirred controversy due to the prime minister’s provocative statements comparing the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to a “red fabric” irritating Turkey and Azerbaijan. The radio host faced criticism for his perceived lenient approach, with the director explaining that the host, not a journalist, was initially reluctant to conduct the interview.
● In connection with a case involving abuse and misuse of power in Armenia’s ministry of economy, Taron Martirosyan, the head of the department for agricultural program implementation, was arrested. Martirosyan denies the allegations, and his defense plans to appeal the arrest as an unjustified measure.
● Prime minister Nikol Pashinyan called a meeting of the Armenian Security Council to address strategic issues.
● President Vahagn Khachaturian embarked on an official visit to Hungary, where he is scheduled to meet with president Katalin Nowak, other government officials, and the local Armenian community.
Monday, February 5, Azerbaijan. Swiss MP Nick Gugger was expelled from Azerbaijan
● Swiss MP Nick Gugger was expelled from Azerbaijan. He arrived in Baku as part of the OSCE observation mission for the early presidential elections. At the Baku airport, he was denied entry into the country and put on a return flight to Istanbul. Guger had spoken against Azerbaijan at the last PACE meeting, where the country was deprived of the right to vote in the assembly, as reported by Caliber.
● International observers from the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly have commenced short-term monitoring of the elections in Azerbaijan. Deputies and senators from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are accredited as members of the group.
● A Czech citizen attempted to cross from Armenia to Azerbaijan but was detained at the border, according to APA. An investigation is underway.Г
● Employees of the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society visited Armenian families in Karabakh (pictured). The purpose of the meeting was to assess the needs of residents in the Karabakh economic zone.
● In the Terter region, a 23-year-old shepherd, Hasanali Alizade, was injured by a mine explosion, leading to the amputation of his left leg. The Foreign Ministry emphasized the urgent threat of landmines planted by Armenia, with the number of mine victims reaching 343 people since November 2020.
● The name Ugur (“Luck”) has become the most popular in Azerbaijan over the past four years, with 7,296 newborn boys given this name. Among girls, the name Zahra retained the top position, with 7,095 children named accordingly.
Monday, February 5, Armenia. Armenia has no territorial claims to any state” - minister of defense
● “Armenia has no territorial claims to any state” – Minister of Defense Suren Papikyan
● In Armenia, the mortality rate from oncology has decreased by 3-4% – Minister of Health
● Manuel Petrosyan won the Armenian rapid chess tournament, gaining the right to participate in the World Championship.
● A citizen of the Czech Republic tried to cross from Armenia to Azerbaijan, but was detained, Azerbaijani media write. No other details are provided.
Monday, February 5, Georgia. The issue of confidence in the government will be discussed throughout the week in parliament
● An important week in parliament begins. Committees, factions, and the plenary session will discuss the issue of trust in the government from February 5 to 8. On February 6, the president’s annual report will be presented, aiming to ensure a safe and calm working environment in parliament.
● The Interparliamentary Conference of Georgia and the Western Balkans on European Integration is scheduled today at the initiative of the Chairman of the European Integration Committee.
● Zurab Japaridze, leader of the Girchi-More Freedom party, acknowledges that the opposition in Georgia is “not in the best shape” but considers it an exaggeration to say that it has been “destroyed.” Japaridze adds, “In general, the opposition does not have an incurable disease.”
● Arrest decisions were made against all seven individuals arrested in the call center case. The detainees pleaded not guilty. On February 3, the Georgian prosecutor’s office arrested seven members of an organized crime group on charges of fraud related to transnational call centers, which defrauded European citizens, earning over a billion dollars, according to an investigation. Read more here
● Paata Mandzhgaladze, a representative of the opposition party “Agmashenebeli Strategy,” stated that the new Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze “will become the last prime minister from the Georgian Dream, as they will hand over the government to the opposition following the results of the parliamentary elections in October.”
● A forecast predicts worsening weather throughout the country from February 5 to 8. Heavy snow and fog are expected in the western part, snowstorms and icy roads in mountainous areas. There is a risk of avalanches, hurricane winds, and sea storms up to force 6.
Top stories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia from January 29-February 2, 2024