Main topics of the day in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, 19-23 June, 2023
Friday, June 23, Georgia. "Zurabishvili corrected an injustice, Gvaramia's imprisonment was a mockery of the law"
● Mtavari TV channel director Nika Gvaramia, who was pardoned by the president: “I will no longer run the TV channel, but I will help them out of this crisis.”
● European Council President Charles Michel has said that he regards Nika Gvaramia’s pardon as a step towards depolarisation.
● Gia Volsky, one of the Georgian Dream leaders and Deputy Speaker in Parliament, said, “The undignified burden Zurabishvili has taken on was already risky enough, and now it has become even harder.”
● Media Advocacy Coalition on Nika Gvaramia’s pardon: “This will play a positive role on the path to European integration.”
● MEP Miriam Lexman: “Zurabishvili corrected an injustice, Gvaramia’s imprisonment was a mockery of the law.”
● The Helsinki Commission addressed President Zurabishvili saying “Thank you for another example of courage”.
● Public defender Levan Iosseliani on Gvaramia’s pardon: “Today we are closer to Europe.”
● Archimandrite Nurse, who serves at the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in the Gldanula district of Tbilisi, has been arrested for drug offences.
Friday, June 23, Armenia. The EU delegation to Armenia joined the EU observer patrol on the Hakari Bridge
● The Armenian Foreign Ministry has advised Maria Zakhrova not to “look for excuses”. A spokeswoman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry commented on statements made by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman regarding the incident at the Hakari Bridge and said. ”We would like to urge the signatories of the 9 November 2020 and other trilateral declarations adopted by the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan, instead of looking for excuses, to steadfastly implement their commitments.”
● PACE has adopted a resolution to ensure free and safe movement through Lachin corridor, according to the Deputy Speaker in the Armenian Parliament.
● The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court will be sent to the Armenian parliament for ratification in the coming weeks, Justice Minister Grigor Minasyan told reporters.
● The EU delegation to Armenia joined the EU observer patrol on the Hakari Bridge.
● The Investigative Committee has applied for the arrest of former Syunik governor Surik Khachatryan’s son. A criminal case has been launched against Khachatryan Jr. on charges of causing minor injury, hooliganism and illegal arms trafficking.
● Online taxi fees will be introduced in Armenia. For taxi aggregators, the fees will be about $2,500 a year. They will also be levied for each trip booked online.
● Armenian track and field athletes won the team relay in the third division at the European Summer Games in Krakow.
Friday, June 23, Azerbaijan. In the airports in Azerbaijan are no longer issuing visas to Iranian citizens
● The Azerbaijani authorities have retailaited against protests in the village of Soyudlu in the Gedabey region. Several protesters were arrested, as well as two activists who had reported the protests on social media.
Three journalists have also reported that they were mistreated by law enforcers at the demonstration.
Read more here
● From today, international airports in Azerbaijan are no longer issuing visas to Iranian citizens. Iranians wishing to visit Azerbaijan now need to obtain an ‘ASAN visa’ or an advance visa from the Azerbaijani Consulate General in Tabriz. The country’s land borders have been closed since March 2020.
● Sapper rats from Colombia have been delivered to Azerbaijan. They will assist in the process of demining Karabakh, as the rats are trained to sniff out mines. Delivery of such rats is also planned from Bosnia and Herzegovina and South Africa. The delivery is carried out within the framework of the UN development programme.
● The European Court of Human Rights have rejected Armenia’s request for an interim provisional measure against Azerbaijan. Armenia argued that two Armenian soldiers had been subjected to treatment contrary to the human rights convention in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani side responded by presenting evidence that their rights were adequately safeguarded and that there was no threat to their lives or health.
● The Football Federation of Turkey has decided that Azerbaijani players will no longer be considered as foreign players.
This also applies to athletes from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
● The sale and slaughter of sacrificial animals will be carried out at 138 places in Azerbaijan, ahead of Eid celebrations on 28 July.
Thursday, June 22, Georgia. Saakashvili is launching a "question and answer" feature on his page, after he had announced his return to Georgian politics
● A Tbilisi courier has been fined 2,000 GEL [about $765] by a court for posting a TikTok video of him criticising the capital’s authorities and police officers, who he alleges have been “turning a blind eye to traffic violations committed by state employees”. The Young Lawyers Association has reported the incident as “a dangerous precedent that contradicts existing standards of freedom of speech and expression”.
The young man claims that after he posted the video, in which he swears, he was beaten up by four policemen, “while the fifth one filmed it to show Kaladze [Tbilisi mayor] and Garibashvili [prime minister].”
● Incarcerated Mikheil Saakashvili, who announced his return to Georgian politics the other day, has now posted on Facebook that he is launching a “question and answer” feature on his page. “I want to understand your thoughts, your demands first and then I will introduce you to my vision of step-by-step actions to achieve those, (…) Glory to Ukraine and long live Georgia!”
● The current government has never made anti-Western statements,” said Irakli Kobakhidze, leader of Georgian Dream, the ruling party. “Of course, sometimes we have had to make assessments on biased statements, but this is not anti-Western rhetoric. Our rhetoric is pro-Georgian, pro-Western, and we always follow this line.”
● The US Embassy have responded to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Nika Gvaramia’s conviction.
“A functioning democracy is based on protecting media freedom and preventing politically motivated persecution. Even the perception of justice as selective and politicised jeopardises Georgia’s European future and undermines the rule of law, constitutionally protected human rights and democracy itself.”
● With a score of 2-0, the Georgian national team defeated Portugal in the first round of the European Under-21 Championship.
Thursday, June 22, Armenia. Azerbaijani military officer Hussein Akhundov has been sentenced to 20 years in prison
● Azerbaijani military officer Hussein Akhundov, accused of killing a guard at the Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine plant, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Read more about the case here
● European MPs have personally verified that Azerbaijan is blockading the Lachin corridor, and will send relevant data to Brussels, the head of the European Parliament’s security and defence subcommittee Natalie Loiseau said after visiting Syunik.
● Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has called on Armenia to remain in trilateral formats and has urged Baku to take steps to unblock the Lachin corridor.
● Moscow is not putting any pressure on Armenia to continue supplying sanctioned goods, the Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mnatsakan Safaryan, told Politico.
● There is an important consensus to start unblocking regional communications from the Yeraskh-Goradiz railway, according to Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan.
● Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan told reporters that he has already received a positive response from Azerbaijan regarding a future meeting to discuss the delimitation of the border between the countries.
Thursday, June 22, Azerbaijan. Villagers continue their protest against plans to build a second lake to release waste from a nearby mine
● In the village of Soyudlu, Gedabek, residents have continued to protest against plans to build a second lake to release waste from a nearby mine. Some villagers have been detained, and the police used tear gas against protesters. The authorities have promised not to build a new lake, and to look into the situation. Read more here
● Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met King Charles III in London at St James’s Palace.
● The Azerbaijani and Turkish Air Forces have launched their joint training exercise ‘Alpan-2023’ in Turkey.
● At the end of June, Azerbaijan may open its land borders. Milli Mejlis deputy Vahid Ahmedov has suggested at least opening the border with Georgia, and “establishing a special system of control and inspection here”. The current quarantine regime in Azerbaijan will last until 1 July.
● The standard 4 year university course in Azerbaijan may be reduced to 3 years for some subjects. “We have discussed with the rectors whether all the subjects taught in higher education institutions are important for the labour market. If we proceed with this, the course duration can be reduced,” said Emin Amrullayev, head of the Ministry of Education.
● 83 Azerbaijani athletes will compete in 13 sports at the third European Games, which have started in Krakow. The first European Games were held in Baku in 2015.
Wednesday, June 21, Azerbaijan. Clashes with the police of the villagers protesting against the pollution of the lake by the waste of the mine
● There was a clash between the local population and the police in the village of Soyudlu, Gedabek district, where the police used tear gas against residents. The villagers were protesting against a local mine polluting a lake with their waste.
● Another epicentre of mass protests was one of the terminals at Baku airport. A flight to the autonomous republic in Nakhchivan was cancelled due to bad weather conditions. People were told they would not take their flight until closer to evening today. But another flight was due to leave for Nakhichevan in the morning, and the passengers who had been waiting since the evening for their flight demanded to be sent first. The airport management ended up using the police to reassure passengers and control the situation.
● “Yerevan should learn from its mistakes and stop trying to hinder the completion of the peace process in the post-conflict period.” This is the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry’s response to Pashinyan’s statements that, “Azerbaijan has been escalating the situation since 2011 by building up arms and committing provocations.”
● Ankara and Baku intend to jointly control the airspace from the Aegean Sea to the Caspian Basin, according to the President of the Defence Industry Agency, Haluk Gergün. According to him, the HAKİM Air Command and Control System project will enable the two countries to carry out operational missions with the help of interceptor aircraft, UAVs, SAMs and gun weapon systems. The two countries will also share threat assessment algorithms.
● Azerbaijan will impose fines for illegal donations accepted by political parties. The fine will be set at between 60% and 100% of the donation’s value.
● China, India, Turkey, and Azerbaijan have replaced the EU for Russia’s foreign trade, according to the acting head of Russia’s Federal Customs Service, Ruslan Davydov.
Wednesday, June 21, Armenia. Pashinyan made a series of frank statements about what happened during the second Karabakh war
● In a parliamentary commission on the 44-day war in 2020, Nikol Pashinyan made a series of frank statements about what happened during the second Karabakh war in 2020. In particular, he said he first signed the 2020 ceasefire statement on the morning of 9 November and then signed it again in the evening. Read more here
● Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan has had a meeting with the foreign ministers of CSTO member states to brief them on the latest developments on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and in Nagorno-Karabakh.
● Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan and his counterpart Sébastien Lecornie discussed regional security and the implementation of (unspecified) joint agreements reached in September during a working visit to Paris.
● Representatives of the EU mission today visited the Yeraskh plant under construction, where the flags of Armenia and the US were hoisted. A couple of hours later it was shelled again by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.
● The West has no genuine desire to help the peace process between Baku and Yerevan, according to the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov.
● The first hockey championship in Armenia has come to an end. Five teams from Yerevan and a team from Georgia took part in the competition, which lasted just over 2 months.
● The CEC of Armenia has approved the Hayakwe civic initiative. This means that the petition for amending the Criminal Code to criminalise attempts to surrender Nagorno-Karabakh will now be launched. Fifty thousand certified signatures need to be collected for the initiative to proceed further.
Wednesday, June 21, Georgia. Miners, supporters of Lazare Grigoriadis protest in Tbilisi, and activists remembered "Gavrilov's night"
● Striking miners from Chiatura organised a march outside the headquarters of the Georgian Manganese Company.
For over two weeks, several thousand miners have been demanding better working conditions and higher wages. Some participants sewed up their eyes and mouths in protest, while others have gone on hunger strike. So far, negotiations between the company and the workers have not been successful. The miners have made the protest permanent and set up a tent near the parliament. Read more here
● Supporters of Lazare Grigoriadis, an activist arrested during the March protests, held a rally outside parliament yesterday. His father Beka Grigoriadis had his mouth and eyes stitched shut. He says he will stay outside parliament until his son is released.
● Also outside parliament, activists marked the fourth anniversary of the brutal crackdown on a massive anti-government protest that went down in history as ‘Gavrilov’s night’. Read more here
● The European Commission has presented a report on the progress that Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova have shown regarding the recommendations the EU made. According to Radio Liberty, Brussels believes that Tbilisi has fully implemented only three of the 12 recommendations made to help Georgian obtain EU candidacy.
● The results of a public survey by Edison Research have been published: 90% of those surveyed support Georgia’s accession to the European Union; 85% support NATO membership. If there were an election tomorrow, 37 percent would vote for the ruling Georgian Dream; 25 percent for the National Movement. 6% choose former prime minister Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party; 5% for the Labour Party; and Lelo and Girchi Zura Japaridze would both receive 4% of the vote.
● Someone threw an egg at Levan Berdzenischvili on the street, in another attack on the writer and publicist. The campaign against Berdzenishvili began months ago after Berdzenishvili criticised King Irakli II of Georgia during one of his lectures.
Photo: JAMnews / David Pipia
Tuesday, June 20, Georgia. Miners, activist Grigoriadis, Cinema Center - a series of anti-government protests in Georgia
● The Chiatura miners’ protest, which started a fortnight ago, is continuing in Tbilisi, in front of the parliament building.
Several dozen miners have set up tents in front of the parliament. They are demanding higher wages and better working conditions. Some of them have sewn their mouths and eyes shut. A march to the Georgian Manganese Company headquarters is planned for today. Read more here
● A rally of supporters of Lazare Grigoriadis, the activist who was arrested during the March protests against the Foreign Agents Bill, is planned to take place today at 20:00 outside Parliament. He is accused of assaulting a police officer and destroying other people’s property. The main slogan of the protest is “No to the Russian government”. The demonstration was originally planned a fortnight ago and was to take place in front of the parliament building. However, after the area was occupied by striking miners yesterday, the rally has been moved to a space behind parliament.
● The protest continues at the National Film Centre as the reorganisation continues. The Ministry of Culture has replaced the former heads of the cinema centre with cadres close to the government.
● “The Film Centre should not finance films with such shameful content,” said ruling party Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze about the film Taming by documentary filmmaker Salome Jashi. The film is about the dendrological garden, where oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili transplants gigantic trees, dug up and removed from different places in Georgia. Representatives of the intelligentsia called Kobakhidze’s statement a step towards censorship of cinema. The Film Center is the only state-funded institution in the field of cinema, which finances films and represents Georgia at international film festivals.
● The court hearing in the case against former president Mikheil Saakashvili in connection with the November 2007 crackdown on the Imedi TV station has been postponed indefinitely.
● A citizen of Georgia (name withheld) who attacked and injured Zurab Japaridze, leader of the Girchi party, has been charged with violence (Article 126). It happened on June 17, the same day the far-right radicals ransacked a youth summer camp in Borjomi, where Dzhaparidze was going to give lectures. Read more about it here
● At this stage the water in the Black Sea is within the normal range all around the Georgian water area, according to the National Environmental Agency on the basis of laboratory tests. Environmentalists say the entire Black Sea water area is at risk of pollution following the collapse of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam in Ukraine.
● The Georgian Ministry of Health has decided to pay all the costs for citizens to have liver transplants and related medical examinations.
● Today the parliament bureau will discuss an initiative introduced by the government to ban surrogacy for foreigners and drastically tighten the rules for Georgian citizens. Read more about the initiative here
📷 Radio Liberty photo: miner’s tent near the parliament
Tuesday, June 20, Armenia. The opposition called the meeting of the commission on the 44-day war with the participation of Nikol Pashinyan a "show"
● Traffic on the road to the Georgian border in Ijevan, Tavush province, has been restored. The town faced disruption after extreme weather; heavy rain damaged crops, while strong winds tore off roofs and fell trees.
● Defence Minister Suren Papikyan discussed regional security and Armenian-French military cooperation at a meeting in Paris with the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces Committee, Christian Cambon.
● PACE will discuss the Lachin corridor on 22 June. The topic has been included in the meeting agenda, despite attempts by the Azerbaijani delegation to prevent it, according to Ruben Rubinyan, Vice Speaker in the Armenian Parliament.
● MEPs are travelling to Armenia to assess the security situation on the border with Azerbaijan. The delegation of the security and defence committee also wants to learn more about the process of normalising relations between Yerevan and Baku during their visit on 19-22 June.
● The parliamentary opposition has said it will not participate in today’s 44-day war committee meeting with Nikol Pashinyan. They called it a “show”.
● Lawyers “gifted” the Armenian Prosecutor General with an old television set during a protest. They said it was a symbolic gift due to Anna Vardapetyan’s “indifference” to violence against lawyers.
● Yerevan and Baku have yet to agree on a number of key issues, including which year’s map the border delimitation should be based on, Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Vahan Kostanyan said at a briefing.
Tuesday, June 20, Azerbaijan. ‘Report on the involvement of Armenian children in the politics of hate against Azerbaijanis’
● A mass grave has been discovered in Aghdam. Four bodies of people believed to have been killed during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War were discovered. During an inspection of the area, parts of a military truck were also found.
● The Azerbaijani Ombudsman has submitted a ‘Report on the involvement of Armenian children in the politics of hate against Azerbaijanis’ to multiple international organisations. The purpose of the report is “to urge the world community to take urgent action in relation to the prevention of incitement to hatred”. Sabina Aliyeva’s report refers to “Armenia’s use of children in military action during the conflict, including during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War”.
● Another Azerbaijani soldier has been found dead with gunshot wounds. Farid Azizov’s death has been reported to the country’s military prosecutor’s office and the case is currently being treated as a suicide.
● The delimitation of the Azerbaijani-Georgian border was discussed in Tbilisi yesterday during political consultations between the countries’ foreign ministries. Georgia and Azerbaijan have not agreed on a third of the common border. The most controversial matter is the ancient David Gareji monastery and the village of Ersimedi. Baku has claimed that the monastery was home to Cacuasian Albanians, a group believed to be Azerbaijan’s first inhabitants. Tbilisi has disputed this.
● Hungary hopes to get access to Azeri gas in the near future. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó reminded PACE that his country has signed an agreement with Azerbaijan to buy gas, but there are currently infrastructure problems. Budapest, he said, had appealed to the EU for help in this regard, but received no support.
● Azerbaijan and Poland are discussing future energy cooperation. Azerbaijan’s energy minister held a meeting with the chairman of the board of the PKN Orlen group of companies. In particular, they talked about crude oil deliveries to Poland.
● Azerbaijan and Russia increased trade turnover in January-May by 44.4% to total $1,789,000,000. The export of Azerbaijani products to Russia amounted to $470,100,000, and the value of imported goods from Russia was $1,300,000,000. For the period from January to May, Russia was Azerbaijan’s third-biggest trade partner after Italy and Turkey, according to the State Customs Committee.
Monday, June 19, Armenia. Deputy PM has invited his Azerbaijani counterpart to a meeting to agree on the border between the countries
● Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan has invited his Azerbaijani counterpart Shahin Mustafayev to a meeting to agree on the border between the countries.
● It is difficult to negotiate amid clashes on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” according to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Alexei Overchuk, in an interview with TASS.
● Armenia has won the U-17 freestyle wrestling team event for the first time in history. The Armenian athletes won eight medals – one gold, five silver and two bronze – at the competition in Tirana.
● Gayane Hakobyan, convicted of kidnapping the prime minister’s son, has been expelled from the Call of Sons organisation, which is made up of dead military personnel. Read more about her case here
● French Resistance hero Misak Manooshian’s remains will be reburied in the Pantheon in Paris in 2024. President Emmanuel Macron will formally approve the decision today, according to Radio France Inter. The ceremony will take place on February 21, 80 years after the hero was shot.
Monday, June 19, Azerbaijan. Construction on the section of the Zangezur corridor by the Armenian border is ongoing
● Another 15 families (48 people) made up of Internally Displaced Persons have returned to the Lachin district.
● Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu stated: “Construction on the section of the Zangezur corridor by the Armenian border is ongoing – a new 166 km railway from Goradiz (Fizuli district) to the Ordubad district of Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic will be laid. “Negotiations will be held between Azerbaijan and Russia to coordinate the construction of the 43-km Armenian section of the corridor.”
● An Azerbaijani border guard Parviz Hajiyev shot and killed himself in the Gazakh district. According to the Azerbaijani border guard service, the incident was unrelated to military service.
● The lifting of the quarantine regime depends on the Cabinet’s decision, according to Vugar Gurbanov, head of the State Medical Service of TƏBİB. There are currently 14 active coronavirus patients in the country. The current quarantine measures will last until July 1, 2023. Azerbaijan’s land borders remain closed.
● The Hard Rock Cafe has left Baku. The reasons behind the closure are currently unknown.
● A balloon festival was held in Shamakhi district for the first time.
Monday, June 19, Georgia. One of the striking miners in Chiatura sewed up his eyes in protest.
● One of the striking miners in Chiatura sewed up his eyes in protest. The strike has been going on for almost two weeks, with the main demands being higher wages and better working conditions. Read more about the strike here
● Members of the conservative movement, Georgia First, tried to sabotage the annual Franklin Club conference, but were unsuccessful, due to a large police cordon. The Franklin Club support liberal values and organise lectures on politics, economics and how society is organised. Read more about the Franklin Club here
Supporters of the conservative movement accuse the Club’s lecturers of “corrupting the youth”. Members of the Georgia First movement also vandalised a youth camp in the Borjomi district over the weekend; opposition politician Zurab Japaridze was beaten up.
● “Soon society will unite around the United National Movement Party [founded by Mikheil Saakashvili],” according to Party Chairman Levan Khabeishvili.
● There were protests against animal cruelty in Tbilisi and Batumi over the weekend. Demonstrators say the issue is not being taken seriously enough, after a stray dog was recently shot in Tbilisi.
The main topics of the day in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, 12-16 June, 2023