The main topics of the day: what is happening in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, 27-31 March, 2023
What is discussed in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia – кey headlines from local media 27-31 March, 2023
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Friday, March 31, Georgia. “If we wanted to kill him, we could have managed somehow in 11 months” - director of the clinic about Saakashvili
● “As a people’s advocate, I cannot talk about political imprisonment,” is how the new Georgian Ombudsman Levan Iosseliani responded to a journalist’s question about the head of Georgia’s main opposition TV channel Nika Gvaramia, who is in jail on charges that many in the country and beyond consider politically motivated.
● “If we wanted to kill someone for 11 months, we would have managed it somehow”: the director of Vivamedi Clinic, where prisoner Mikheil Saakashvili is being treated, responded to claims by his supporters that the ex-president is being mistreated in the clinic.
● Non-governmental organisation Transparency International Georgia has published a new report, claiming that every second official has declarations were incomplete in 2022 and more than 80% of MPs filled in the declaration with irregularities.
● Tom Odell, Kaleo, Moderat, Ben Klock and dozens of other artists and bands – Georgia’s biggest open-air music festival Tbilisi Open Air has published this year’s lineup (pictured). The concerts are held from June 23 to 25 in the usual Lisi Wonderland venue, near the capital city’s Lake Lisi.
Friday, March 31, Azerbaijan. Borders with Georgia and Turkey to open from May 1
●”Unwarranted and totally unacceptable”: Baku’s response to Iranian Ground Forces Commander Kiomars Heidari’s claim that “Azerbaijan used ISIL terrorists in the second Karabakh war”.
●”Such provocative statements show Yerevan’s intention to disrupt the peace process and these steps must be firmly stopped,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry accused Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan of “trying to manipulate the situation in the region.”
● Azerbaijan will build a school in the Palestinian region of Nablus. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki announced this during a joint press conference with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov.
● Azerbaijan will open its borders with Georgia and Turkey from May 1,” Globalinfo writes, quoting its sources. The information has not yet been officially confirmed. Azerbaijan’s land borders have been closed “due to the coronavirus pandemic” since 2020.
●Ilham Aliyev attended the opening ceremony of the new administrative building of the State Property Service. The 125-meter building has a complex design, with 33 stories.
Friday, March 31, Armenia. "Yerevan's decision on Rimsky is being discussed between countries at the highest level" - Russian Foreign Ministry
●The Armenian Ministry for National Security claims, “The Azerbaijani side started setting up and carrying out engineering work, without waiting for the previously arranged adjustments.”
The Ministry claims that “according to agreements reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan at the end of Marcborder guards of the two countries were to be deployed on both sides of the Kornidzor bridge,” but “during the deployment, differences in maps became apparent” and there are now at least “five points where the Azerbaijani side has positioned itself 100-300 metres ahead of the border”. When exactly and in what circumstances these agreements were reached is not specified.
●Parents of the servicemen, who died during a fire at a military unit in January, were left dissatisfied after a meeting with the military prosecutor. One of them said that the evening lasted three hours, however, the relatives still did not get answers to the questions. The parents suspect their children died before the fire.
● Armenian citizens, who fled from the unrecognised NKR region after the 44-day war in 2020, gathered to protest outside the Armenian government buildings again. Armenian authorities have issued them vouchers for housing, but they claim these are expiring, and the amount is not enough.
●A Russian government spokesperson claims there have been no discussions between Moscow, Yerevan and Baku concerning a checkpoint in Lachin.
●The museum of the ancient capital of Artashat will be turned into a historical and cultural reserve (pictured). According to the government, this will protect monuments, allow necessary research and boost tourism.
Thursday, March 30, Georgia. “When you have a lot of money, you can manage any number of women”
● A new protest by parents of children with achondroplasia was held in front of the Ministry of Health in Tbilisi. For more than a year they have been demanding that the authorities adopt a state programme and bring medicine into the country that could alleviate their children’s pain and possibly improve their condition.
● The drug in question is vosoritide, the only medicine for achondroplasia that was approved by the FDA a few years ago. It costs so much that it is unlikely to be available without help from the state: a yearly course of treatment costs around 200,000 euros.
Achondroplasia is a rare genetic disorder, a kind of dwarfism in which limbs do not grow and the skeleton deforms.
● Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition Irakli Kobakhidze stood up for the founder and presenter of the pro-government TV station POS TV Shalva Ramishvili, who was accused of sexual harassment by several women at once.
He claimed that the women who have told stories of sexual harassment are being led by former Defence Minister and owner of the opposition TV channel Formula David Kezerashvili. “When you have so much money, you can control any number of women,” he said.
● A company owned by relatives of Georgian Dream MP Viktor Japaridze wins a government contract, reports NGO Transparency International-Georgia.
● The mother of jailed former-President Saakashvili has stated: “He’s in a very bad condition, he can’t move”:
● A 63-year-old man has been detained in Shida Kartli on charges of sexual acts against a teenager.
●”The Road Department has announced a total ban on vehicles on the approach to the Rikoti Tunnel, which connects the eastern and western parts of Georgia. One kilometre from the tunnel, a landslide occurred on the road leading up to the tunnel.”
Photo: Spring Tbilisi
Thursday, March 30, Armenia. “Moscow expects that harmful discussions about who comes from where will stop”
● Armenia has refrained from supporting a point of the final declaration of the “Summit for Democracy” organised by the White House, which condemns the humanitarian consequences of the invasion of Ukraine and demands Russia withdraw its forces.
Yerevan said this part of the declaration “does not reflect all the conflicts and crises, does not mention Azerbaijan’s aggression towards Armenia’s sovereign territory and its occupation of territory.”
● According to the Iranian Foreign Minister, foreign intervention in the South Caucasus region would further complicate the situation. “Regulation can be facilitated by the platform “3 + 3 “, said Hossein Amir Abdollahian at a joint press conference with Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. “Through that group, as well as other mechanisms, it is possible to solve issues without force.”
● “Peace in the region is under threat. Today Armenia faces an acute security issue,” Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan said at a meeting in the Bundestag, Berlin. He added that Yerevan expects international partners to “targeted assessment of Baku’s illegal activities.”
● “Moscow expects that these harmful discussions about “who comes from where” will stop. All issues of interaction with Yerevan within the framework of the OCDC, including the placement of the observation mission of the organisation in Armenia, will be resolved in a constructive and mutually beneficial way”: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mikhail Galuzin.
● According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mikhail Galuzin: “Moscow expects that harmful discussions on ‘who’s from where’ will stop. All issues of cooperation with Yerevan within the JCPOA, including the deployment of the organisation’s observer mission to Armenia, will be resolved in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner”.
Thursday, March 30, Azerbaijan. "I was summoned for interrogation for an ironic post on social networks"
● Azerbaijan’s embassy in Israel opened in Tel Aviv. The opening ceremony was attended by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. During his visit, he met with the Prime Minister of Israel (pictured).
● Young activist Sahila Jabbar was summoned to the state security service. After a preventive conversation, she was released. According to the girl, the call was related to an ironic post on social networks about the attempt on the life of MP Fazil Mustafa (two days ago he was shot by unknown people).
● Cars older than 10 years cannot be imported into Azerbaijan. The decision will take effect after 30 days. According to experts, this will hit prices in the secondary car market hard.
● Drivers of foreign-registered vehicles transiting through Azerbaijan will pay road tax. The tax amount will range from 15 to more than 120 dollars, depending on the length of stay of the vehicle in the country and the engine size.
Wednesday, March 29, Georgia. “Women in Georgia are protected by traditions and cultural heritage”: a representative of the ruling party speaks about the harassment scandal
● Georgia’s Democratic Initiative has condemned the head of the provincial TV channel Shalva Ramishvili’s alleged sexual harassment of women and the “inappropriate reaction” to the allegations by authorities.
For example, one of the leaders of the ruling party, Gia Volsky, commented on the harassment scandal: “Women in Georgia are protected by traditions and cultural heritage.”
● Former People’s Defender of Georgia Nino Lomjaria was awarded the National Order of Honor of the French Republic.
●Imprisoned ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili has once again asked the new public defender Levan Ioseliani to allow him a medical consultation. “In the last few days my health condition has deteriorated again. I have been asking for several days that [the Ombudsman’s office] allow the consultation to pass – as far as I know, they are ready. I am asking the Public Defender to help in this process. Given that the government stubbornly refuses to allow EU doctors into the country, this consultation is of particular importance,” Saakashvili wrote, from the Vivamedi clinic where he is undergoing treatment.
●A terrible hurricane hit the Black Sea coast of Georgia on Sunday. In Kobuleti, a man, who was in a car when a tree fell on it, died
● According to the National Environmental Agency, from March 29 to April 2, “a drastic deterioration in weather conditions is expected in Georgia.”
Wednesday, March 29, Azerbaijan. Member of Parliament shot in Baku
● In Baku, Fazil Mustafa, a deputy in the Azerbaijani Parliament (photographed), was shot twice: one in the shoulder, and one in the hip. The security services have called the incident a terrorist attack. The perpetrators have not yet been caught.
●The official spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Ayhan Gadzhizade, condemned the statement of the head of the EU civil mission in Armenia, Marcus Ritter, that “Azerbaijan is preparing for an attack in the spring.”
“We strongly condemn the fact that the head of the EU mission, based on the false and slanderous claims of Armenia, expressed his opinion that Azerbaijan is allegedly preparing for an attack and presented the main task of the EU mission is to “protect Armenia from Azerbaijan,” he said.
● Jaehun Bayramov went on an official visit to Israel. The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan will attend the opening ceremony of the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv.
● There has been anger on Azerbaijani social media, after 3 men, accused of raping a 14 year-old-girl in the Bardinsky district, received only a 5-month prison sentence.
● A virus has been found in Bulgarian peppers imported from Iran. Nearly 6,000 tons of the product have been sent to landfill to be destroyed.
● Azerbaijan is the leader in car imports from Georgia. In January-February 2023, the Georgian side exported 4,820 vehicles worth $62.1 million to Azerbaijan. Their average price is $12,900.
Wednesday, March 29, Armenia. "Customs clearance" of cars imported from Georgia will be facilitated
● The Armenian State Revenue Committee temporarily facilitated the customs check for cars from Georgia. From April to the end of May, the customs clearance procedure for cars, which declare imports, at the Gogavan checkpoint will be able to go through the Eastern Customs Office in Vanadzor. The agency said this will help avoid customs queues caused by a large influx of vehicles at the Armenian border.
● Parliamentary factions have nominated their candidates for the post of Ombudsman of Armenia. The ruling “Civil Contract” party’s nominee is Anait Manasyan while the opposition parties ‘I Have the Honour’ and ‘Ayastan’ has nominated Edgar Kazaryan.
● Nikol Pashinyan will participate in the second Summit for Democracy, organised by US President Biden.
● A photo exhibition dedicated to the victories of the legendary ‘Aratat-73’ football team, opened in Yerevan.
● The friendly match between Armenia and Cyprus ended with a draw of 2:2.
Tuesday, March 28, Georgia. "I condemn any oppression of women" - President Zurabishvili
● “I strongly condemn all oppression, verbal or physical assault. First of all, I condemn as a woman, and I condemn as a president. I condemn anything that has nothing to do with our culture, our traditions, and our upbringing. I condemn anything that may damage Georgia’s reputation, which has always been known and remains known as a country of strong women, a country where women have always been treated with respect and reverence”.
President Salome Zurabishvili commented on the campaign launched by the pro-government POS TV channel to discredit Tatia Samkharadze, a former TV presenter who accused a presenter of sexual harassment.
● The Prime Minister of Georgia compared Mikheil Saakashvili to the terrorist Brevik. Commenting on the Norwegian Conservative Party’s decision to award the ex-president the prize for promoting human rights and democratic institutions, Irakli Garibashvili said: “This is a mockery of our people and means nothing.” Do you remember in Norway Brevik shot people? Imagine if he was given the same award in another country. For me it’s the same – Saakashvili killed hundreds of young people.”
The Norwegian Ambassador to Georgia Helena Sand Andersen has responded to the Georgian Prime Minister. “Such a comparison is outrageous and inappropriate,” she said.
●The Lithuanian Parliament has adopted a resolution calling on the Georgian government not to deviate from the path of Euro-Atlantic integration and to refrain from “any controversial initiatives” that could harm this goal.
Photo: David Pipia/JAMnews
Tuesday, March 28, Armenia. Moscow warns Yerevan of consequences if country accedes to Rome Statute
● An Armenian athlete won the World Youth Championships in Albania. Seryozha Barseghyan (67kg) won the gold medal in the biathlon.
● Iran is prepared to take part in the next meeting of ‘3+3’. Kazem Jalali told TASS that Tehran supports the regional group and is ready to participate in the organisation’s next meeting, which Russia will organise.
●Moscow considers Yerevan’s plans to join the Rome Statute of the ICC unacceptable amid “warrants” against the Russian leadership, TASS reports, quoting a Foreign Ministry source. There are also reports of “extremely negative” consequences for Armenia’s relations with Russia if they go ahead with these plans, of which Yerevan has been warned.
●The Iranian Ambassador has claimed that bringing trade revenue between Armenia and Iran to $3 billion is realistic.
● Four Armenian wrestlers are in the top 10 of the Greco-Roman wrestling rankings.
Tuesday, March 28, Azerbaijan. Construction of the country's second radio-television station begins in Shusha
●Another protest was held by residents of Cholpu village in Saatli district. The villagers are protesting the lack of water to irrigate their land. According to them, all water is supplied to the plots of oligarch farmers.
● A 32-year-old resident of the Zardab region, Akper Akhmedov, set himself on fire in front of the local administration building. This was a protest against the lack of water for irrigation. The man was taken to hospital in a serious condition.
●Today foreigners, travelling by plane, can enter Azerbaijan without a COVID passport. The country’s land borders are still closed.
● As a result of a special operation by the state security service, “persons cooperating with a foreign intelligence agency” were arrested. The state with which the arrested persons cooperated has not been named.
● Ceyhun Bayramov and Karen Donfried discussed the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The Azerbaijani foreign minister and US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs also touched on bilateral cooperation and the current situation in the region in a phone conversation.
● The EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, will visit Baku on 3 April. He will take part in the Euro Club’s opening ceremony in cooperation with the EU delegation in the country.
● In the coming months, the construction of a radio and TV station will start in Shusha. The station will be the second in Azerbaijan after the Baku TV tower with a metal-concrete structure and will be of a new design.
● Over 13 tons of ‘dangerous’ ice cream have been destroyed in Azerbaijan. The expired product was from local company Milla Dairy.
● Azerbaijani cavalrymen on Karabakh horses will perform in the Royal Windsor Horse Show, which traditionally takes place at Windsor Castle in England in May.
● WHO has certified Azerbaijan as a ‘malaria-free’ country.
● A businessman’s son was kidnapped in Baku and demanded a ransom of 200,000 manats (about $120,000) for him. They kept the boy tied to a chair in the basement and threatened to stab him to death, demanding a large sum of money from his father. Eventually, they agreed to release him in exchange for 20,000 manats ($12,000).
Monday, March 27, Georgia. "Dozens of tons of sanctioned Russian oil are secretly imported into Georgia every day"
●Tens of tons of sanctioned Russian oil are smuggled daily into Georgia. According to the TV channel Formula, one of those organizing imports is the brother of Georgia’s former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Many see Ivanishvili, founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, as still in power, claiming that no political decisions can be made without his consent. The party ruling has called Formula’s claims “concrete lies”
● Archbishop Shalva Kekeliya said that a young man died but there will be no singing in the Georgian church to commemorate him because he was a member of ‘Bible Freedom’.
●The religious organization ‘Bible Freedom’ was founded in 2017 by the opposition libertarian party, known for its abnormal initiatives. The organization ‘inducted tens of thousands of young men into the priesthood, thus giving them the opportunity to avoid army service.”
●Mikheil Saakashvili has received the Sjur Lindebrekke prize, named after the co-founder of the Norwegian Conservative Party. The award is for “the promotion of human rights, political and economic freedom, and democratic institutions”. The former president’s mother and son attended the ceremony in Oslo.
●In Surami, locals are protesting against the lack of drinking war, roads and the old sewage system.
In the photo: at a rally in Tbilisi in support of Georgia’s European future. Photo: David Pipia/JAMnews
Monday, March 27, Azerbaijan. The army took control of the roads north of the Lachin corridor
● A friendly football match took place in Baku between the territories of Karabakh and Galatasaray. All profits from ticket sales will go to earthquake victims in Turkey. The stadium was full, with about 60,000 tickets sold. The match ended with Galatasaray winning 2:1.
● An official from the Azerbaijani Minister for Foreign Affairs has commented on the protests in France, condemning “the use of un-needed force against protesters by law enforcement agencies.” Users of Azerbaijani social media states have ridiculed the statement. “It’s strange to hear such condemnation from a country, where authorities are traditionally intolerant towards protesters.”
● The Azerbaijani army has taken the road north of the Lachin corridor under their control. Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry has stated that such measures were necessary “to stop the road being used for illegal activities.”
● The Azerbaijan army prevented Armenian forces equipping trenches facing towards Yuhara Veiselli in Karabakh. “Members of the illegal Armenian armed forces tried to open trenches facing towards Fizulin under the guise of agricultural work,” the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense reported.
● European Council President Charles Michel has called the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev. In the conversation, the head of the European Council touched on the situation around the Lachin corridor and expressed concerns about incidents on the Amernian-Azerbaijani border. The Azerbaijan leader claims that all of these incidents were “the result of a dangerous policy, created by Armenia”.
● Vidadi Gakhramanov, a Georgian citizen of Azerbaijani origin, tried to infiltrate Azerbaijan illegally. He was detained at the border. Azerbaijan’s land borders have been closed since March 2020, with the pandemic being the official cause.
Monday, March 27, Armenia. "Azerbaijani president will face consequences" - former NATO Secretary General
● Authorities of the unrecognized NKR region reported “some advancement” and “violation of the line of contact by the Azerbaijani military forces at the Shushi-Lisagor checkpoint.”
● “We must make it clear that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will face consequences if he continues to ignore the International Court’s decision,” said former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
● The Armenian Prime Minister and the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, had a phone call to discuss the Lachin Corridor, the process of normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, the prospects of a peace treaty and the establishment of regional communications.
● Extraordinary elections to the Council of Elders were held in the communities of Sisian (Syunik) and Ani (Shirak). Nikol Pashinyan’s ruling party “Civil Treaty” won. Representatives of the Armenian opposition, however, reported fraud at the polling stations.
● Armenia’s national football team lost to Turkey. The match, which was declared “historic”, turned out to be spectacular. “Sport should unite peoples, reconcile nations and serve the cause of peace,” the Armenian President said after the game. We talked about it here: https://rb.gy/ctkkqs
● Pashinyan took part in a garbage clean-up campaign in Dilizhan.
The main topics of the day: what is happening in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, 20-24 March, 2023