The main topics of the day: what is happening in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, 20-24 March, 2023
What is happening in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia – кey headlines from local media 20-24 March, 2023
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Friday, March 24, Georgia. The country entered the top ten countries in the world in terms of the number of initial applications for asylum in the EU
● The NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, Javier Colomina, said that the alliance is concerned about the pace of reforms in Georgia – judicial, in particular.
● “Disconnected from reality” – This is how Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze described German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Before the German Minister’s visit to Georgia, she said that “the country faces internal and external pressure” and “there are attempts to alter its pro-European course.”
“I don’t know what she’s talking about. How she describes Georgia’s political direction is an absolute lie,” he said.
● Saakashvili’s lawyer Shalva Khachapuridze has appealed to the new Ombudsman of Georgia to convene a consilium to reassess the former president’s condition.
● In 2022, nearly 26 thousand Georgian citizens applied for temporary asylum in the EU, reports Eurostat. That’s more than double the amount in 2021. As a result, Georgia is among the top ten countries in the world regarding initial EU asylum applications.
● The Mayor of Tbilisi, Kakha Kaladze, also confirmed that he welcomes Russia’s possible cancellation of visas for Georgian citizens and the resumption of direct air traffic.
The Russian State Duma Deputy Leonid Kalashnikov has previously said that the two countries “are on the threshold of these decisions”.
● Today, the Prime Minister of Georgia goes to Parliament to answer the questions of deputies.We know that the opposition claim to ask questions concerning the violation of the deadline for updating national security documents.
● Оne of the leading members of “National Movement” has said she is quitting Georgia’s main opposition party. Khatia Dekanoidze has previously expressed how she disagrees with National Movement’s decision to boycott parliamentary activities.
Photo JAMnews / Maka Tsnobiladze – a street in Tbilisi:
Friday, March 24, Armenia. "There will be no new escalation!" - Prime Minister Pashinyan
● The Armenian president tweeted that a “peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be based on joint official statements adopted at the highest level”. He also claimed: “There will not be another escalation! The international community must strongly support this message,”
● A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said: “As soon as they appeared, there were problems on a massive scale” about Western involvement in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
● According to Tigran Abrahamyan, an MP from the “I Have Honour” opposition party, a change of government in Armenia would allow debate to return to the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination
● Due to a decision taken by the Yerevan authorities, the Elm trees in the city centre were cut down. Some citizens were outraged and tried to stop the felling of the trees. The mayor’s office said: “The trees will be replaced with more beautiful plants, that will be better suited to the capital.”
● Workers at the Surmalu market in Yerevan have staged a protest demanding that the market is reopened. Surmalu has been closed since last summer when a fire in the market killed 16 people. Authorities say they will only reopen the site after rectifying the numerous fire safety violations.
Photo JAMnews/David Pipia – morning in Yerevan
Friday, March 24, Azerbaijan. The export of Azerbaijani alcohol to Russia has sharply increased
● Azerbaijani customs have prevented a citizen arriving on an Istanbul flight from smuggling branded clothing and jewellery in to the country. The announcement sparked uproar on Azerbaijani social media, with many expressing outrage en masse at the ban on transporting clothes and personal items without a declaration above a set amount.
●”The aggressive rhetoric of the Armenian side shows that Yerevan is not interested in peace in the region,” said Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry official Aikhan Hajizade.
According to Hajizadeh:
▪️ “Yerevan should stop obstructing Baku’s attempts to establish contacts with Armenian residents to reintegrate them.”
▪️ “It is unacceptable that the return of former IDPs should be seen by Armenia as a violation of the trilateral statement by Azerbaijan”.
▪️ “Yerevan’s statements against Azerbaijan’s implementation of resettlement in its sovereign territories, contradicts the Prague and Sochi agreements”.
● Alcohol exports from Azerbaijan to Russia have increased sharply. According to Azerbaijan’s State Statistics Committee, 3.3 times more alcoholic beverages were exported from the country to Russia in 2022 than in 2021.
Thursday, March 23, Georgia. "Discharge Saakashvili from the clinic, as he refuses treatment"
● The VivaMedi clinic states that it is forced to apply to the medical service of the penitentiary institution to evaluate whether former president Mikheil Saakashvili should stay in the clinic.
“Since October last year, the patient has been refusing treatment, especially if that drug or procedure would positively impact his recovery. Accordingly, during the last month the patient has accepted only symptomatic treatment, expressed distrust of the medical staff and refused the suggested treatment scheme. Consequently, ‘VivaMedi’ is undeservedly receiving a massive blow to its reputation, which we deem categorically unacceptable,” the clinic said in a statement.
Former President Shalva Khachapuridze’s lawyer believes that the clinic’s actions are aimed at taking Saakashvili to prison or sending him to the 18th Gldan medical facility. “It would be a death sentence in his condition,” he said.
● President Salome Zourabichvili will represent Georgia at the international “Summit for Democracy”, which will be held at the White House at the end of March.
● The Football Federation of Georgia and Coca-Cola Bottlers Georgia have signed a long-term partnership agreement.
Thursday, March 23, Armenia. Protest demanding the authorities to "ensure the unblocking of the Lachin corridor"
● The French Foreign Minister will visit Baku and Yerevan to discuss the situation around Lachin. “From the first day, France has condemned the blocking of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan, which escalates the situation. I intend to visit Baku and Yerevan at the end of April in order to convey this idea,” Catherine Colonna said.
● A protest rally was held in Yerevan demanding that the authorities “not be inactive and ensure the unblocking of the Lachin corridor” (pictured).
● A team of judges from Spain will work at the match between the national teams of Armenia and Turkey scheduled for March 25 within the framework of the EURO 2024 tournament.
● The Deputy Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Iran discussed issues of regional security, Armenian-Iranian cooperation in multilateral formats.
Thursday, March 23, Azerbaijan. Construction of a new residential complex has begun in Fizuli
● In Azerbaijan, like in the whole Muslim world, the month of Ramadan has begun. Believers fast strictly (no food or water) from sunrise to sunset for the whole month. The end of the month of Ramadan is a bank holiday in Azerbaijan, with two days off. This year the public holiday falls on April 21 and 22.
● French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna has said she will visit Baku and Yerevan in early April.
● “We categorically refute the information spread by the Armenian Defense Ministry about the fatal wounding of an Armenian Armed Forces soldier at a combat position towards Arazdian, allegedly as a result of Azerbaijan shelling on March 22 at 4:20 pm,” the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said.
● Sketches of a new residential complex (pictured) in the town of Fuzili have been unveiled. Construction has already begun in the town: the centre of the Azerbaijani district of Fuzili, which returned to Azerbaijani control during the Second Karabakh War. The block will consist of over a dozen 5-6 storey buildings.
● A famous Azerbaijani producer, director and actor, Oktay Aliyev, was killed in an accident on a motorway near Baku. According to preliminary reports, he suffered a heart attack while driving.
Wednesday, 22st March, Georgia
● The Tbilisi Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s verdict in the case of David Kezerashvili, former defense minister under the United National Movement and founder of the critical Formula TV company. According to this decision, Kezerashvili is guilty of embezzlement of more than 5 million euros and must pay this amount in favor of the country’s Ministry of Defense.
“The verdict is political in nature and is aimed at preventing the activities of critical media,” employees and management of the Formula TV company say.
● Several European foreign ministers have called on the EU to impose sanctions against “pro-Russian oligarchs” involved in “destabilization attempts” in Georgia and Moldova, Politico reports.
● The Parliament of Georgia will reconsider the draft law “On Deoligarchization”, adopted in two readings. The reason is the critical conclusion of the Venice Commission, which considered that the bill in its current form “provides the government with excessive influence on the process” and “may lead to violations of human rights without achieving the intended goal.” We wrote about the conclusions of the Commission here: https://rb.gy/dykmgp
● “Georgian authorities oppose the EU helping people”: MEP Siegfried Murešan.
● “[Saakashvili’s] health is catastrophic, he has also lost weight and already weighs 62 kg”: ex-president’s mother.
● Several women accused Shalva Ramishvili (pictured), propagandist and host of the pro-government POST TV channel, of sexual harassment.
The authorities expressed support for the journalist. “I don’t believe it,” said Mamuka Mdinaradze, one of the Georgian Dream leaders. “This is a discrediting of the critical host.” More details here: https://rb.gy/x3u8gl
● “An arrest warrant does not yet mean a court decision”: Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of Georgia’s ruling party, on the Hague court’s warrant for Putin’s arrest.
Wednesday, 22st March,Azerbaijan
● “The Armenian side uses civilian vehicles to transport military goods”: Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan.
● “We call on Armenia to return to the negotiating table and not to manipulate international public opinion,” Elchin Amirbekov, assistant to the first vice president of Azerbaijan, said in an interview with France 24.
● US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. During the telephone conversation, the situation around the Lachin-Khankendi road was discussed.
● US Assistant Secretary of State to visit Azerbaijan. Michel Sison is waiting in Baku on March 29.
● The US is planning to allocate up to $100,000 to improve the skills of English language teachers in Azerbaijan.
● In the ranking of “the happiest countries in the world” published by the UN Global Sustainable Development Organization, Azerbaijan ranked 88th. Finland is once again recognized as the happiest among 137 countries.
Wednesday, 22st March, Armenia
● “We say no to the enemy in our opposition,” a protest action took place in the unrecognized NKR. Today is the 101st day of the blockade, Lachin is the only road connecting the region with Armenia and the outside world.
● The ruling party nominated Deputy Prosecutor Anahit Manasyan for the position of Ombudsman. The post of chief conductor of the country has been vacant for two months.
● Reaching retirement age will not be grounds for dismissal – such a bill is being discussed in the National Assembly of Armenia.
● The salary of prosecutors in Armenia will increase by 92%.
● Armenia national team defender Varazdat Haroyan has signed a contract with Astana club. About this compoil Kazakh club.
● Armenia entered the top five of Georgia’s largest trade partners in January-February: trade increased by 92% to $203 million.
Tuesday, 21st March, Armenia
● The Armenian national team held the first open training session before the game with Turkey.
● Law enforcement reports a new “coronavirus” revelation – 8 people are accused of falsifying vaccination certificates. For each fake, they received about $800.
● “Diplomacy is the only way to peace in the South Caucasus,” US Secretary of State Blinken wrote after a telephone conversation with Nikol Pashinyan.
● “Diplomatic raiding” called Lavrov the participation of the United States and Europe in the Karabakh settlement. “They are trying to subdue the trilateral agreements between Armenia, the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan,” the Russian Foreign Minister said.
● A new date for the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, Armenia and Azerbaijan is being discussed: Lavrov.
● There is no targeted anti-Russian campaign in Armenia, – said Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan. Tens of thousands of Russians live peacefully on the territory of Armenia, conduct their business, and as for demonstrations and actions, the Armenian Constitution and its laws guarantee freedom of assembly, he said.
● An exhibition called “My Room” has opened in Yerevan (pictured). The theme of the exhibition is a strong, independent woman.
Tuesday, 21st March, Georgia
● MEP Marketa Gregorova: “I think this is a very important moment for Georgia and the Georgian authorities to show which direction they want – pro-Russian or pro-European. I want it to be more pro-European. But according to the law on foreign agents, we saw that there are people who want to move in the Russian direction.”
● The Franklin Club terminates cooperation with the University of Georgia. “The country’s authorities are using the campaign they launched against us to attack the university in a completely unfair way,” a Tbilisi-based discussion and education center said in a statement. After the recent mass protests against the “Russian law on foreign agents”, in which youth were the main participants, the Club became the target of fierce criticism from many high-ranking officials. Thus, Prime Minister Garibashvili accused him of spreading the ideas of “liberal fascism” and called his members “anarchists” and “Satanists.”
● The President of Georgia stood up for the students after Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili called the protesters in Tbilisi “1,000 lari politically engaged youth”. “A government official may not approve of the form of protest, but this does not mean that the position gives someone the right to insult their own citizens,” Salome Zurabishvili said.
Photo by David Pipia/JAMnews
Tuesday, 21st March, Azerbaijan
● Novruz holiday is celebrated in Azerbaijan. The country is on official holidays, which will last until March 26.
● 100th day of protest action by Azerbaijani activists on the Lachin road. From December 12, 2022, the protesters demand a meeting with the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Karabakh, as well as the admission of Azerbaijani specialists to monitor deposits. So far none of their demands have been met.
● “We call on Armenia to refrain from provocative steps and statements, dangerous rhetoric that is detrimental to ensuring peace and security in the region, and instead of continuing to unreasonably accuse Azerbaijan and distract the international community, to fulfill its obligations,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry.
● Azerbaijan announced the allocation of $100 million in aid to earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.
● The transportation of the first batch of Kazakh oil from the Kashagan field along the Aktau-Baku route has begun. In total, about 7,000 tons of crude oil were loaded.
● The Azerbaijan Weightlifting Federation has applied for participation in the European Championship to be held in Yerevan.
Monday, 20th March, Georgia
● Giorgi Amilakhvari will replace Mikhail Chkhenkeli as Minister of Education and Science, Imedi TV reported. Amilakhvari is currently Chairman of the Education and Science Committee of the Parliament.
● Public Defender Levan Ioseliani: “I visited Saakashvili, but I am not a doctor and will not discuss his condition”.
● One of the leaders of the ruling “Georgian Dream” Gia Volsky about Saakashvili: “It is in the interests of the state to bring foreign doctors if he has health problems.”
● A Georgian citizen was detained in Warsaw on charges of stealing money from cash registers. He faces 5 years in prison.
● As of today, the cable car in Tbilisi connecting Rike-Narikala will temporarily not be able to serve passengers.
● Department of Roads: a mountain slope collapsed under Vertkvicala, causing the road to be closed.
📷 In the photo: the future and former Ministers of Education – Giorgi Amilakhvari and Mikhail Chkhenkeli.
Monday, 20th March, Azerbaijan
● “If the realities of occupation, war and the post-war period are not included in the peace negotiations, then there will be no peace agreement. No one should forget that our lands have been under occupation for 30 years, and these important factors for a future peace treaty should be in everyone’s mind,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said, speaking in the village of Talysh, Terter region.
● An excavator blew up on a mine in the village of Afatly in the Aghdam region in Karabakh. The explosion occurred on the field during the economic work. Elmir Yusifov, a resident of the village, who was driving the excavator, was slightly injured.
● “Baku urges Yerevan to refrain from provocations, statements and false rhetoric that damage opportunities for peace,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizade said in a statement.
● A large sum of money was stolen from the vault of BTB Bank – $32,000 and 316,000 manats [$186,000]. A criminal case has been initiated.
● Retro carriages are once again demonstrated in the Baku subway. All metro passengers can take memorable photos until March 22 at the Icherisheher station. For the first time, such an exhibition was organized at the end of December 2022.
Monday, 20th March, Armenia
● Today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold talks in Moscow with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan. The issue of deployment of the EU mission on the border with Azerbaijan and other issues are on the agenda.
● The Armenian national football team will hold an open training session before the Armenia-Turkey match, where fans can attend.
● Armenia won 3 medals at the U23 European Freestyle Wrestling Championship in Bucharest.
● The capital’s subway cars have been transformed ahead of the European Weightlifting Championships, which will be held for the first time in Armenia on April 15-23 – the handrails now look like dumbbells (pictured).
● The number of fatal accidents in the Armenian capital fell by 26% last year. Such a decline in the investigative department is explained by the tightening of requirements in relation to drivers and pedestrians, who eventually become more disciplined.
● Yerevan Mayor Hrachya Sargsyan announced his resignation. But he said that despite the resignation, he remains part of the ruling team.
The main topics of the day in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, 13-17 March, 2023