The Caucasus
Georgia

Russia guilty of rights violations in Georgia conflict

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled¬†that Russia’s occupation of two breakaway regions in Georgia systematically violated human rights.¬†Georgia initially brought its case against Russia in August 2018, exactly 10 years after Russia invaded and began occupying the two Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia also established military bases in those areas and a border patrol to secure an “administrative boundary line” (ABL) around the regions.¬†The process of “borderization” blocked free travel across the ABL, enacting a heavy toll on those living along the line. Villagers¬†lost access to farmland, water sources,¬†and means of income. In some cases, families were separated. Georgian Minister of Justice Rati Bregadze celebrated the court’s decision, calling the judgment an important step toward the ultimate goal of achieving the “complete de-occupation” of Georgia.¬†(Map: PLC)

The Caucasus
Caucasus

Anti-Semitic riots, attacks in Russian Caucasus

An angry mob in Russia’s Caucasus republic of Dagestan stormed the airport of regional capital Makhachkala, seking to confront passengers arriving on a flight from Israel. Some held signs reading “Child killers have no place in Dagestan” and “We are against Jewish refugees.” The National Guard only showed up hours after rioters had overrun all areas of the airport, including the runway. Clashes then ensued, with several arrested. There was a similar scene in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt, after reports on social media claimed that “refugees from Israel” were being accommodated at a local hotel. Another such rally was reported from Cherkessk, capital of Karachay-Cherkessia republic. And in Nalchik, capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, an under-construction Jewish cultural center was set ablaze, with “Death to the Yahudi” written in Russian on one wall. (Map: Perry-Casta√Īeda Library Map Collection)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Refugee exodus mounts from Nagorno-Karabakh

The separatist government of Nagorno-Karabakh, which controlled the disputed territory for more than three decades, announced¬†that it will disband by the end of the year. Azerbaijan took full control of Nagorno-Karabakh following a swift military offensive last week. The region, an enclave within the borders of Azerbaijan, is home to around 120,000 ethnic Armenians who have considered it a de facto independent state, the Republic of Artsakh, since 1991. Most of that population‚ÄĒalmost 90,000 people‚ÄĒhas fled to Armenia in the past week due to fears of persecution and ethnic cleansing by the Azerbaijani forces that are now in control. Authorities in Armenia are struggling to register and provide for the needs of the tens of thousands of people arriving from the enclave, and concerns are growing about a nascent humanitarian crisis.¬†(Map: Wikipedia)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Podcast: the fall of Artsakh & the fate of the Armenians

With a mass exodus of ethnic Armenians underway from the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh following its fall to Azerbaijani forces, the threat of “ethnic cleansing” looms. The enclave had maintained a de facto independence as the Republic of Artsakh since 1991, but the war in Ukraine has pushed the stand-off out of the headlines, and ironically given Azerbaijan a free hand to finally re-take the territory. In Episode 193 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the historical roots of the conflict, and demonstrates how the Armenians of Artsakh have been betrayed by all the Great Powers‚ÄĒincluding both Russia and the United States. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: Wikipedia)

The Caucasus
Nagorno-Karabakh

Republic of Artsakh falls to Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan launched an assault on¬†the breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh,¬†taking the territory that had been held by ethnic Armenian separatists since 1991.¬†Through the mediation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent stationed in the enclave, Azerbaijan and leaders of the self-declared Republic of Artsakh reached a ceasefire agreement that calls for the disbanding of the Artsakh Defense Army, and the removal of Armenian military forces from the peacekeeping zone that has linked the enclave to Armenia. The military operation claimed some 30 lives, including at least seven ethnic Armenian civilians.¬†The EU said it will monitor implementation of the ceasefire and warned that forced displacement of the Karabakh Armenians will be met with a “strong response.”¬†(Map: Wikipedia)

Europe
Darya Polyudova

Solitary confinement for Russian anti-war dissident

Imprisoned Russian anti-war activist Darya Polyudova has been placed in punitive solitary confinement after guards said they found a razor-blade in her belongings, which is considered a major violation at the penal colony in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria where she is incarcerated. Polyudova’s mother told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty ¬†that her daughter said guards had planted the blade in her belongings to frame her, adding that the activist is starting a hunger strike to protest the move. Polyudova, affiliated with the Left Resistance dissident network, was sentenced to nine years in prison in December on “extremism” charges related to her nonviolent opposition to the Russian war in Ukraine. (Photo: Polyudova with sign calling for release¬†of Ukrainians detained by Russia, including filmmaker Oleg Sentsov¬†and¬†Crimean anarchist Oleksandr Kolchenko. Via¬†RFE/RL)

The Caucasus

UN: Russia must investigate Chechnya attack

A group of United Nations human rights experts called on the Russian Federation¬†to investigate a violent attack in Chechnya¬†against journalist Yelena Milashina and human rights lawyer Alexander Nemov, and bring to justice the perpetrators.¬†Milashina was covering, and Nemov participating¬†in, the¬†trial of Zarema Musaeva, the mother of exiled opposition activists who challenged the leader of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.¬†Milashina is known for breaking the story of the “anti-gay purges” in Kadyrov’s Chechnya in 2017, which sparked international outcry. (Image: OHCHR via Twitter)

The Caucasus
Georgia

Russia ordered to pay damages for Georgia conflict

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Russia to pay 130 million euros ($143 million) in compensation to Georgia, almost 15 years after the war in the South Caucasus nation. The case concerns allegations by the Georgian government that actions by the Russian Federation during the 2008 conflict amounted to breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights, including ethnically targeted killings and arbitrary detention of civilians. The ECHR found that there is still a basis to make an award under the Convention, despite the fact that Russia has ceased its membership in the Council of Europe, and failed to cooperate with the proceedings. (Map: PLC)

The Caucasus
Georgia

Georgia drops ‘foreign agent’ bill after protests

Georgia’s ruling coalition agreed to withdraw a controversial “foreign agent” bill after two days of angry¬†protests¬†in the capital Tbilisi. The bill “On Transparency of Foreign Influence,” introduced in Parliament in February, would have required non-governmental organizations and media outlets that receive 20% or more of their annual revenue from a “foreign power” to register as “agents of foreign influence” with the Justice Ministry. (Map:¬†PLC)

The Caucasus
Lachin

Armenia detains anti-Russia protesters amid Lachin Corridor stand-off

At least 65 were arrested in Armenia’s second city of Gyumri as authorities dispersed a rally outside a Russian military base. Activists were demanding that Yerevan cut ties with Moscow amid a deepening stand-off with Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russian “peacekeepers” have failed to re-open the Lachin Corridor, the only access in or out of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been closed by Azerbaijan for almost a month‚ÄĒleaving 100,000 ethnic Armenians trapped, with supplies of food and medicine running low. The corridor was supposed to remain open under terms of the November 2020 ceasefire deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But the corridor has for nearly a month been blocked by Azeri activists, who charge¬†that unregulated mining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh are causing environmental damage to the territory. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
Stratofortress

Massive military drills from North Sea to Caucasus

NATO opened an annual exercise to test nuclear deterrence capabilities in Europe, with the participation of 14 of the 30 member countries. The drill, this year dubbed “Steadfast Noon,” will run two weeks and involve 60 aircraft, mostly over the North Sea. Russia‚Äôs own nuclear deterrence drills, known as GROM, are expected to begin later this month‚ÄĒwhich means they will overlap with the NATO exercise. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps meanwhile launched a large-scale military drill along the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The exercise has seen construction of a temporary pontoon bridge, allowing passage of tanks and armored vehicles, over portions of the Araz River that separates Iran from the Caucasus republics. Last month, Tehran warned that it would not tolerate any seizure of territory from Armenia by Azerbaijan after border clashes broke out between its two northern neighbors. (Photo of B-52 Stratofortress via Wikimedia Commons)

Europe
mariupol ruins

Podcast: Grozny, Aleppo, Mariupol

In Episode 144 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Donbas region not only came on exactly the same day as the 1938 Munich Agreement, which approved Hitler’s annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland‚ÄĒit was also the same day that Putin launched two of his previous criminal military adventures. On Sept. 30, 1999, Russian tanks rolled into Chechnya, marking the start of the Second Chechen War, with massive aerial bombardment of the region’s capital city of Groazny. On Sept. 30, 2015, Russian began air-strikes in Syria, marking the start of a massive military intervention on behalf of the Bashar Assad dictatorship, in which the city of Aleppo would be virtually destroyed by bombardment. And in Putin’s new war of aggression in Ukraine, the Azov seaport of Mariupol has been similarly nearly obliterated. A review of this history reveals Vladimir Putin as a serial city-destroyer, who must be deposed and put on trial for his crimes against humanity. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.¬†(Photo via Twitter)