Top stories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia from 12-16 February, 2024
Friday, February 16, Armenia. Armenia proposes to Azerbaijan to expedite the delimitation process
● Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that there are two options for delimiting the border with Azerbaijan: either along the entire length or in parts. Armenia is open to both options.
● The Ministry of Foreign Affairs invites Azerbaijan to expedite the border delimitation process based on the Prague agreements, affirming Armenia’s readiness for this step.
● Former Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan faces charges, with the prosecution requesting his arrest.
● Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan announced that the construction of the Iran-Armenia high-voltage power line might conclude this year during a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
● Greco-Roman wrestlers Artur Aleksanyan, a seven-time European champion, and Malkhas Amoyan, a three-time champion, received a warm welcome at Yerevan Zvartnots airport. The team secured third place in the team competition.
● Armenia performed its first allogeneic bone marrow transplant operation on a child with a malignant blood disease. After 100 critical days, doctors declared the operation a success, saving the child’s life.
● The exhibition “Erebuni Corner in the Hermitage” debuted at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.
● Armenian deputies express concern over early marriages among Yazidis, submitting a bill to parliament to raise the marriage age. Co-author Rustam Bakoyan highlights the prevalent practice of early marriages among national minorities, with many marrying as young as 15. More insights from the community here
Friday, February 16, Azerbaijan. The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia will meet again in March
● At an extraordinary session of the Azerbaijani parliament today, deputies are expected to approve the country’s prime minister, whose candidacy was put forward by President Ilham Aliyev. The candidate’s name has not yet been disclosed.
● President Ilham Aliyev and German Chancellor Scholz are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. The upcoming meeting was mentioned by Chancellor Scholz in his letter to President Aliyev, congratulating him on his election victory. The Munich Security Conference will take place from February 16 to 18.
● The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry stated that Armenia has obligations to return eight Azerbaijani villages. This statement comes after Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan claimed that Azerbaijan had occupied 31 Armenian villages.
● The foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia are set to convene for their next meeting in March. This decision was reached by the foreign ministers of Turkey and Georgia.
● The first-ever Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Afghanistan has arrived in Kabul. The decision to establish the Azerbaijani embassy in Kabul was made in 2021, 27 years after the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1994.
● Azerbaijan has abolished the age limit for female military personnel to be in reserve, aligning it with the age limit for male military personnel.
● The imprisonment term of Gubad Ibadoglu, chairman of the Democracy and Welfare Party, has been extended for another three months. Ibadoglu was detained last July and is charged with the production, acquisition, or sale of counterfeit money or securities. Human rights activists view his arrest as politically motivated. Read more here
● Parents and relatives of soldiers will not be permitted to attend the oath ceremony in the Azerbaijani army due to concerns about measles and seasonal respiratory viral infections.
● A 14-year-old girl, Nuray Ibragimova, passed away in Baku from complications caused by measles. The clinic doctor reported that the girl was not vaccinated as her mother declined vaccination in writing.
● Shoes under the Zerti brand will be manufactured in Lachin, with plans to export the products to Europe.
● Aghdam’s “Qarabag” team defeated Portuguese “Braga” with a score of 4:2 in the UEFA Europa League playoff match.
Friday, February 16, Georgia. The ruling party leader insults the opposition and the president
● President Salome Zurabishvili embarked on a visit to Germany to participate in the Munich Security Conference. Despite the government’s lack of support, an official delegation led by the Foreign Minister will represent Georgia at the conference.
● According to President Zurabishvili’s financial declaration for the previous year, she spent 48,217 lari (approximately $17,000) from personal funds on visits to European countries to advocate for Georgia’s EU candidate status. No expenses were incurred from the state budget for these trips. Additionally, the declaration reveals that the president contributed 55,275 lari (approximately $19,000) to charity.
● Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Garibashvili, accused President Zurabishvili of “committing treason to the state,” expressing disappointment in her European upbringing. He also disparaged the opposition, labeling them as “losers” and “nobodies,” asserting Georgian Dream’s dominance in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
● The leader of the opposition party “Girchi-More Freedom,” Zurab Japaridze, hinted at the possibility of forming a coalition with the United National Movement in the future, provided the latter doesn’t play a central role.
● A new center will be constructed on the premises of the municipal shelter to modernize its facilities, with Buildking company securing the construction tender with a budget of GEL 727,698 (approximately $245,000).
● The prosecutor’s office pressed charges against three individuals for group violence and incitement to suicide. They were arrested in connection with the death of soldier Irakli Apriamashvili, who was found hanged near the village of Akhalsheni on January 11.
● A man has been placed on the wanted list for sexually assaulting his niece, who was under 14 years old, over several years. In absentia, the Tbilisi City Court sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
Thursday, February 15, Azerbaijan. Russian automaker AvtoVAZ is in talks with Azerbaijan to establish the assembly of Lada cars in the country
● The inauguration ceremony for the re-elected President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, was held in parliament.
● During his inauguration speech, President Ilham Aliyev stated that unless territorial claims against Azerbaijan are withdrawn and Armenia’s legislation is normalized, there will be no peace treaty.
● In accordance with the Constitution, the government of Azerbaijan has resigned. Current government members will continue to carry out their duties until a new government is formed.
● Akhmed Akhmedov, who murdered five members of his family, has been remanded in custody for four months by the court. Read more here
● Russian automaker AvtoVAZ is in talks with Azerbaijan to establish the assembly of Lada cars in the country.
● Renowned performers including Gipsy Kings, Thomas Anders, Rafet El Roman, Imanbek, and Craig David are confirmed to participate in the International Music Festival Dream Fest 2024 in Baku. Negotiations are ongoing with other artists such as Loreen, Jack Savoretti, Bosson, and Seal. The festival is scheduled to take place from July 24 to 28.
● A parrot at the zoo in Baku received a gift for Valentine’s Day, as shown in a video.
Thursday, February 15, Armenia. The economy minister resigned after three years citing "disagreements"
● Nazeli Baghdasaryan, the press secretary of Armenian prime minister, asserted that Armenia’s legislation is an internal matter of the republic, and external forces have no right to interfere with it. This statement was made in response to Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev’s remarks, who warned that unless territorial claims against Azerbaijan are withdrawn and Armenia’s legislation is normalized, there will be no peace treaty.
● Continuing personnel changes in the Armenian army include the appointment of two additional deputy chiefs of the General Staff and heads of various units. Temur Shahnazaryan, one of the new deputies, will also serve as the chief of the main operational department of the General Staff. Additionally, David Aleksanyan has been appointed to head the General Staff’s department for combat training. Hamlet Levonyan is the new commander of the peacekeeping brigade, succeeding Arsen Mangasaryan, who now heads the Military Academy. Armen Seyranyan has been appointed as the head of the General Staff department for strategic planning.
● Economy minister Vahan Kerobyan has resigned after three years of service. He stated on social media that he had considered resigning multiple times due to disagreements but ultimately prioritized state and official interests over personal ones.
● The Russian foreign ministry announced plans to discuss with Azerbaijan the issue of desecration of World War II monuments in Karabakh.
● The Armenian government intends to acquire a building in Paris worth €23 million for the embassy. This project is on the agenda for the upcoming cabinet meeting.
● Greco-Roman wrestler Artur Aleksanyan secured his seventh European championship title by defeating Magomed Murtazaliev with a score of 6:3 at the championship held in Bucharest.
● An Armenian representative office has been inaugurated in Luxembourg. The ceremony was attended by officials from the foreign ministries of Armenia and Luxembourg.
● President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is scheduled to visit Armenia in the near future.
Thursday, February 15, Georgia. Priest Giorgi Mamaladze, who had been accused of plotting the murder of the secretary-assistant of Catholicos-Patriarch, has been released on parole
● Priest Giorgi Mamaladze, who had been accused of plotting the murder of the secretary-assistant of Catholicos-Patriarch Shorena Tetruashvili and illegally obtaining and storing weapons, has been released from custody on parole. He was arrested on February 10, 2017, at Tbilisi airport and sentenced to nine years in prison, despite vehemently denying the allegations. The case garnered widespread attention and came to be known as the “cyanide case.” According to Tornike Mamaladze, the brother of the accused priest, Giorgi Mamaladze has been in poor health for the past five years and is paralyzed. The family intends to persist in their efforts to prove his complete innocence. More details can be found here
● No explosive device or substance was discovered aboard the Wizz Air Kutaisi-Barcelona flight. The aircraft was returned to Kutaisi airport shortly after takeoff following suspicions raised by the airline company about the possible presence of explosives on board.
● The leaders of the “Victory Coalition,” comprising the “National Movement” and “Agmashenebeli Strategy” parties, unveiled their employment plan titled “Highly paid, decent work for all.” Giorgi Vashadze, one of the coalition’s leaders, asserted that Georgia is ensnared in oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili’s grip, characterized by poverty and hunger, and the coalition aims to liberate the populace from these challenges.
● The Russian foreign ministry expressed dissatisfaction with the terms of an agreement concerning the transfer of a significant territory in Pitsunda, Abkhazia, to Russian ownership. A note of protest was dispatched to the Abkhaz foreign ministry. Both the Abkhaz opposition and media outlets demand the publication of this note and seek clarifications. The specific grievances of individuals in Moscow remain unclear. Notably, when the agreement was ratified in Abkhazia, a clause was appended, prohibiting the transfer of objects, land plots, water areas, buildings, and structures to third parties.
● A project to widen roads commencing from Heroes Square in central Tbilisi is underway, necessitating the removal of gas stations situated along the roadside. The municipal authorities announced that gas station proprietors have consented to relocate to alternative locations within the city.
● In Tbilisi, a man who brutally murdered his ex-wife in June of the previous year has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. He strangled her with a rope, transported her body in the trunk of his car to another part of the city, and disposed of it in a ravine.
● Four Georgian citizens have been apprehended on charges of fraud perpetrated by an organized group. According to the ministry of internal affairs, they targeted foreign men visiting Georgia by arranging meetings with promotional girls, who then accompanied them to restaurants where they executed a preconceived fraudulent scheme. These men were presented with exorbitantly inflated bills for the food they ordered.
Wednesday, February 14, Georgia. President is engaging in meetings with the opposition as part of her new initiative, the "Unity Platform for Europe"
● President Salome Zurabishvili is engaging in meetings with the opposition as part of her new initiative, the “Unity Platform for Europe.” While most participants view this process as significant, they emphasize that it does not entail creating a political union. The ruling party has declined to participate in discussions, with its representatives accusing the president of favoring the opposition United National Movement. They speculate that these meetings aim to establish a “single election headquarters” before the parliamentary elections in October. Read more here
● Due to disagreement between the president and the government, Georgia will be represented by two separate delegations at the Munich Security Conference on February 16-18: an official one led by the minister of foreign affairs, and separately, president Salome Zurabishvili, in defiance of the government’s ban. Salome Zurabishvili has been invited to the Munich International Conference. Last year, the issue of impeaching her arose due to unauthorized foreign visits. The government has not responded to her attendance at the Munich Conference.
● A working meeting of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism was conducted in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone (photo by the Georgian editorial office of Radio Liberty), lasting over six hours. Key discussions revolved around the detention of local residents by Russian military forces and the ongoing process of “borderization,” referring to the unauthorized construction of barriers along the dividing line, known as the border in South Ossetia. Presently, five Georgian citizens are imprisoned in Tskhinvali, with two new instances of “borderization” documented this year.
● New prime minister Irakli Kobakhidze pledges transparency in his government’s operations. Criticism has been leveled at the government in recent years for obstructing access to information, notably the failure to publish official decisions on its website.
● A group of cancer patients is urging the state to fulfill its promise, made in October last year, to provide free cancer treatment nationwide. Approximately 10,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Georgia annually.
● The Russian ministry of internal affairs has placed around 100 Georgians on its wanted list for their involvement in hostilities on the side of Ukraine, according to an investigation by the Russian publication Mediazona.
● Greco-Roman wrestler and member of the Georgian wrestling team, Leri Abuladze, was named the best wrestler in the world in 2023.
● Regulations governing the keeping of dogs and cats at home are becoming stricter. Pet owners are now legally obliged to ensure their pet’s well-being, register them, obtain necessary vaccinations, and either sterilize them or be held accountable for the proliferation of street puppies or kittens. Additionally:
• Keeping more than three animals in an apartment is prohibited.
• The practice of ear cropping and tail docking in animals is banned.
• Certain breeds, including the American pit bull, cane corso, doberman, and 27 others, are classified as dangerous for home ownership.
Wednesday, February 14, Azerbaijan. MFA: "Mercenaries in Armenian border areas under EU mission pose threat"
● Today, the re-elected president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, is set to be inaugurated after winning 92.12% of the votes in the early presidential elections on February 7. An analysis of “Ilham Aliyev’s Victory Formula” can be found here
● Baku’s foreign ministry expressed regret over Borrell’s proposal to withdraw armed forces from the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. The ministry stated that mercenaries stationed in border areas on the Armenian side under the “auspices of the European Union mission” pose a threat to Azerbaijani military personnel and civilians.
● The foreign ministry issued a statement emphasizing the necessity to discuss the activities and needs of Russian peacekeepers following anti-terrorist measures in Karabakh. The statement also highlighted the need for joint efforts to eliminate threats posed by landmines laid by the Armenian armed forces in Azerbaijani territories where peacekeepers are stationed.
● In Baku, 25-year-old Akhmed Akhmedov allegedly killed five close relatives, including his sister, her 5-year-old daughter, and his father, mother, and 9-year-old brother. Akhmedov was detained, and preliminary reports suggest he was under psychiatric treatment.
● The UAE, Azerbaijan, and Brazil have agreed to collaborate on a roadmap to combat global warming. Announced in Dubai by the hosts of the UN climate conferences for 2023-2025, this partnership aims to form a functional “troika” to address climate issues.
Wednesday, February 14, Armenia. The ministry of defense has instructed troops to avoid escalating tensions on the border with Azerbaijan and to resist provocations
● The Armenian ministry of defense has instructed troops to avoid escalating tensions on the border with Azerbaijan and to resist provocations. This directive follows the incident on February 12 at the Kapan-Zangelan border section, resulting in the deaths of four Armenian servicemen. Prime minister Nikol Pashinyan attributed the incident to the use of drones by Azerbaijani armed forces. Read more here
● Josep Borrell denounced the shelling of Armenian positions in Syunik by the Azerbaijani armed forces as a “disproportionate response,” resulting in the deaths of four soldiers. During a joint briefing with the Armenian foreign ministry head in Brussels, the European diplomat recalled Yerevan’s pledge to investigate the preceding incident that led to the shelling. However, Baku disregarded this and employed disproportionate force.
● “Russia urges Armenia and Azerbaijan to exercise restraint, as concerning reports emerge from the contact line.” – Dmitry Peskov
● “The focus should not be on creating new borders with Azerbaijan, but rather on utilizing the latest maps from the Soviet period for delimitation.” – head of the Armenian foreign ministry
● Trndez was celebrated in Armenia, with tradition involving the lighting of a festive fire, over which newlyweds jump, followed by their relatives (pictured). This ritual is believed to ward off illnesses and misfortunes.
● Malkhas Amoyan clinched his third European championship title in Greco-Roman wrestling. In the final of the European Championship in Greco-Roman wrestling in Bucharest, he defeated Turkish representative Yunus Bashar with a score of 7-0.
Tuesday, February 13, Armenia. Armenia reported two fatalities and injuries from Azerbaijani shelling
● Armenia reported two fatalities and injuries from Azerbaijani shelling near the village of Nerkin Hand.
● The Armenian Foreign Ministry clarified that minefield information forms were handed over to Azerbaijan on January 26, with copies sent to international partners to confirm accuracy and avoid speculation.
● Three Yerevan residents were arrested for selling counterfeit dollars after using fake currency to buy food multiple times in Vayots Dzor.
● EU Ambassador to Baku Peter Mihalko was summoned to Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry over concerns that the EU monitoring mission in Armenia contradicts previous agreements.
● Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Russia seeks assurances from Armenia regarding its accession to the International Criminal Court before considering President Putin’s visit to Yerevan.
● The head of the Armenian Foreign Ministry will attend the fifth meeting of the Armenia-EU Partnership Council in Brussels on February 12-13.
Tuesday, February 13, Azerbaijan. Shelling of Azerbaijani positions by Armenia - ministry of defense
● An Azerbaijani border guard was wounded on the border with Armenia in the Zangilan direction due to shelling from the Armenian Armed Forces. Parviz Khalilzadeh was injured, and a criminal case was opened by the military prosecutor’s office.
● Azerbaijani positions in the Tovuz direction were fired upon by the Armenian Armed Forces from 20:50 to 23:40 on February 12, as reported by the Ministry of Defense.
● The Foreign Ministry expressed serious concerns about the Armenian side’s provocation, stating that it undermines the peace process between Baku and Yerevan. The incident occurring in territory controlled by the EU mission in Armenia raised additional concerns about the mission’s objectives.
● “The Prime Minister of Armenia made baseless and slanderous allegations against Azerbaijan in an interview with The Telegraph,” stated the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry. “We are deeply concerned that Yerevan is attempting to disregard its existing legislative acts that contradict the recognition of Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. Rather than engaging in provocations and political maneuvers against Azerbaijan, the Armenian side should fulfill its international obligations and actively support the peace process,” the statement added. Read more here
● The Azerbaijan Mine Action Agency reported that Armenia handed over 8 new minefield forms, but they were found to be inaccurate and unusable upon analysis.
● EU Ambassador to Baku Peter Michalko was summoned to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry due to concerns about the activities of the EU monitoring mission in Armenia conflicting with preliminary agreements.
● The Azerbaijani government invested over 6 billion manats in the development of Karabakh and Eastern Zangezur in 2023, a significant increase from the previous year.
● Colonel Zaur Nasirov was appointed as the police chief in Khankendi.
● An individual in Azerbaijan was arrested for financing international terrorism by creating closed groups on WhatsApp and Telegram to collect and transfer money overseas.
● More than 14 kg of marijuana was found in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea attached to the anchor of a vessel.
● Azerbaijan held an open training session for its first hockey team.
● A new bike path is being laid and green markings applied on Azadlig Avenue in Baku.
Monday, February 12, Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan, Russia to schedule next Karabakh peacekeeper talks
● According to the final results declared by the central electoral commission, Ilham Aliyev secured an overwhelming 92.12% of the votes cast. The election witnessed a turnout of 76.43%.
● President Aliyev extended congratulations to Irakli Kobakhidze, Georgia’s newly appointed Prime Minister, expressing confidence “in the continued growth and reinforcement of Azerbaijani-Georgian cooperation and strategic partnership for the mutual benefit of both nations and the prosperity of the region”.
● Azerbaijan and Russia are in the process of finalizing the schedule for the next round of negotiations regarding the Russian peacekeeping presence in Karabakh, as announced by Russian ambassador to Baku, Mikhail Yevdokimov.
● The State Committee for Refugees and IDPs of Azerbaijan reported plans to relocate 50 internally displaced families to Khankendi and another 50 families to Khojaly within the first half of the year.
● Eyub Çelebi, a member of the youth committee of the Democracy and Welfare Movement, was forcibly detained while on his way from home to a store by people in civilian clothes on Saturday, February 10. His apprehension follows the arrest of the movement’s leader, Professor Gubad Ibadoglu, on July 23, 2023.
● An itinerant polling station will be established in Khankendi for the upcoming Russian presidential election, allowing Russian citizens residing in Azerbaijan to cast their votes. Additionally, a mobile polling station will be set up in Ganja, along with voting facilities at the Russian Embassy in Baku, as confirmed by Russian Ambassador Mikhail Yevdokimov.
● The Jalilabad district has witnessed a surge in measles cases, with 493 residents contracting the disease since November 2023. Among them, 318 are minors and 175 are adults above 18 years of age.
● The Caucasus Muslim Board has announced the price for Azerbaijani pilgrims intending to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage this year, setting it at $5,850, a slight increase from the previous year’s cost of $5,750.
● Oleg Kononenko, commander of the cosmonaut squad of Roscosmos, shared captivating images of Baku captured from space.
Monday, February 12, Armenia. “Armenia is not Russia's ally in the war against Ukraine" - Pashinyan
● “Armenia is not Russia’s ally in the war against Ukraine. I told Czech TV about as far back as when the hostilities had just begun” – Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said in an interview with The Telegraph.
● Yesterday, the Armenian Apostolic Church commemorated Bun Barekendan (True Shrovetide), marked by liturgies in churches and festive masquerades and feasts organized by parishioners. This observance precedes the commencement of the 48-day Lenten period leading up to Easter.
● The Armenian Defense Ministry released footage showcasing the training of female soldiers from special forces units.
● Armenian athlete Levon Aghasyan secured the title of vice-champion at the Balkan Athletics Games held in Istanbul. Aghasyan excelled in the triple jump event, achieving a remarkable distance of 16.28 meters.
Monday, February 12, Georgia. "Families in landslide areas await geologists' report; relocation likely."Monday, February 12, Georgia.
● Despite the absence of diplomatic relations, Russia aims to enhance ties with Georgia, according to Mikhail Galuzin, deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“Thanks to the pragmatic stance of the Georgian authorities, the difficult period in relations between our countries, caused by the well-known provocation of Georgian radicals in 2019, has been overcome,” he said.
● The Rustavi shooter, Giorgi Orvelashvili (featured on the photo), who opened fire at the “Istanbul market” on February 9, killing four people, including his uncle, has been put in custody. His brother, reportedly the owner of the firearm used, has also been apprehended.
● Dozens of families from landslide zones in Georgia are waiting for geologists’ conclusions, after which many of them may have to relocate.
Geologists are working in disaster zones in three regions: Achara, in Imereti and Shida Kartli. 11 people died in landslides in Georgia last week.
Top stories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia from February 5-9, 2024