(18+) Execution of Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijani soldiers

A video of the deliberate killing of Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijani soldiers was spread on Azerbaijani social platforms.

The incident took place on September 13 of 2022 during the large-scale aggression unleashed by the Azerbaijani armed forces on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. The fact is confirmed by the study of the location, the combination of this video with similar videos, as well as the complex combination of weather conditions, uniforms of servicemen, conversation of Azerbaijani soldiers and other parameters.

This is another war crime committed by the Azerbaijani troops, the source of which is the consistent policy of Azerbaijanis’ hatred against Armenian people and culture, which is implemented by Azerbaijan, manifested in all spheres of public life, starting from the educational content, and in the statements of the president of that country.

What Does Russia’s ‘Partial Mobilization’ Mean?

September 26, 2022

Vladimir Putin’s announcement of partial mobilization on September 21 signaled a major escalation of the war and caught the world’s attention. Putin was forced to do this because of battlefield reverses and a shortage of personnel. Other sources of personnel are drying up. Many commentators have pointed to training and equipment challenges, which will be real, but not insurmountable. Mobilization will not turn the tide of war, but may allow Putin to implement his political strategy, which is to outlast the Europeans. What is uncertain is whether Russian popular opposition to mobilization will derail military plans. In any case, Ukraine has a window of opportunity for battlefield success before these mobilized troops arrive.

What Russia Is Doing

In his speech on September 21, Putin announced partial mobilization:

Today our armed forces . . . are fighting on the line of contact that is over 1,000 kilometers long, fighting not only against neo-Nazi units but actually the entire military machine of the collective West. . . . I find it necessary to support the proposal of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff on partial mobilization in the Russian Federation to defend our Motherland and its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories. . . . Only military reservists, primarily those who served in the armed forces and have specific military occupational specialties and corresponding experience, will be called up. Before being sent to their units, those called up for active duty will undergo mandatory additional military training based on the experience of the special military operation.

The decree implementing partial mobilization adds what is called “stop loss.” Personnel will remain on active duty involuntarily until the end of partial mobilization. This is a sensible step when militaries face personnel shortages and large-scale military operations, as the personnel retained are already in units and trained. However, in the United States, “stop loss” proved to be controversial when implemented during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics called it a “backdoor draft.”

Putin declared that this mobilization would be limited to former military personnel. It would not expand conscription or put the nation on a war footing; that requires full mobilization. Putin’s announcement also included an industrial surge to increase weapons and munitions production.

Later, Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu elaborated that the mobilization would come in phases. He also described a deliberate training process. Shoigu and Putin stated that students and workers in the defense industry would be exempted.

This action is roughly equivalent to U.S. partial mobilization (10 USC 12302). The United States has used that authority many times in the past for Desert Storm and for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for smaller operations.

Media reports have cited the number 300,000 troops being activated, but that does not appear in the original speech. The implementing decree leaves the number to the Ministry of Defense. Some Russian bloggers have claimed that the number could be 1 million. All these numbers are speculative. Russia’s ability to induct, train, equip, and move troops to the front is limited. This mobilization will be a stream, not a surge.

Some have speculated that this will severely disrupt the Russian economy, but that is unlikely. Even if 300,000 troops are mobilized, that represents only .4 percent of the Russian labor force.

Initial Reports Indicate Mobilization Is Going Badly

The bureaucracy appears unready to handle the demands of such a complex effort. Personnel must be identified, notified, medically evaluated, administratively brought onto active duty, and then sent to a training establishment. During this administrative period, personnel must be fed and housed. The United States suffered problems with its mobilization mechanisms in 1991, the first large mobilization since World War II, but worked out procedures over time. The Russians may have the same experience.

Like many bureaucratic tasks in Russia, mobilization is being conducted using quotas levied on districts. The quota system decentralizes and simplifies execution but incentivizes local authorities to prioritize output at any cost. This can create abuses.

In addition to bureaucratic problems, security forces seem to be threatening demonstrators with mobilization, contrary to the announced policy.

Russia Is Struggling to Turn Potential Power into Actual Power

From the beginning of the conflict, commentators have pointed out that the Russian population is over three times the size of Ukraine’s (146 million versus 41 million), with larger armed forces and a much larger economy. In theory, it should prevail in a long war of attrition. Russia’s problem has been turning potential power into battlefield capabilities. Putin has described the conflict as a “special military operation” and not a war. That limited his powers. For example, the Russian military has not been able to use many conscripts, even though they constitute the major part of the ground forces. Partial mobilization will tap into some of this potential power. Ukraine, in contrast, has been able to access all the elements of its national power.

Russia Is Mobilizing Because It Is Running out of Soldiers

The Russian army has taken many casualties (some estimate 80,000) out of an initial invasion force of about 190,000 troops. Ground combat troops numbered about 140,000. From the beginning, the Russians have scrambled to maintain the ranks, taking a wide variety of actions, sometimes called “covert mobilization.” They have deployed soldiers from nearly every unit in Russia, mobilized some reservists, brought in ethnic minorities (particularly Chechens), offered large recruiting bonuses to personnel who will enlist or stay in the service, used the private contractor Wagner Group, and even recruited in the prisons. The quality of replacement personnel has not been high, but the numbers and quality have been enough to keep the Russian forces operating in the field.

As Russia analysts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee point out, the Russian army is structured to defend the homeland against invasion, not to invade a neighboring country. Thus, units were typically at about 70 percent personnel strength and had a lot of conscripts who could not deploy outside of Russia proper. For defense of the homeland, reserve call-up would fill the ranks. For a special military operation, where mobilization authorities were limited, there were just not enough troops to deploy. This is a very different military from that of the United States, which is structured for high readiness and rapid deployment outside the country.

The Timing Is Driven by Recent Russian Reverses on the Battlefield

Russia’s attacks in the Donbas region petered out in July having gained some territory, though at high cost. The Ukrainian counteroffensive has begun. In the southwest, the Ukrainians are currently attacking toward Kherson and though they have not taken much territory, they are putting the Russians under considerable pressure. Russian forces are vulnerable, occupying a large bridgehead on the west side of the Dnipro River. Ukrainian precision strikes are squeezing Russian logistics.

In the northeast, the Ukrainian counteroffensive gained much territory east of Kharkiv, though progress has slowed. The Russian generals likely told Putin that they could not hold their gains without additional troops.

Putin did have two other options: use nuclear weapons or negotiate a settlement. The commentariat has speculated endlessly about the use of nuclear weapons. Such use would risk Russian national survival for a sliver of Ukrainian territory. So far, Russia has limited nuclear threats to NATO direct intervention or Ukrainian movement into the Russian homeland.

A negotiated settlement is not possible currently because the two sides are so far apart. Putin cannot give up his conquests without endangering his regime, but Ukraine insists that Russia evacuate all occupied territory, including Crimea.

Russian Forces Are Not Large

It is important to keep in mind just how small the Russian forces are. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union maintained a military of about 3.5 million. That military is long gone. Today, Russia maintains a total military of about 900,000, of which 280,000 are in the army.

To put the Russian force into perspective, the United States has an active-duty force of 1.3 million and organized, trained reserves of 800,000. Thus, the United States has about twice the readily available trained personnel that Russia does.

To further put the Russian force into perspective, the United States sent about 540,000 troops to Saudi Arabia in 1991 to liberate Kuwait from Iraq. Total coalition forces numbered about 750,000. Russia has conducted this invasion on a shoestring.

Russia Lacks a Strong Reserve Force

Russia has tried to create reserve forces like those in NATO, which train regularly, but such efforts have not made much headway. Instead, Russia maintains lists of former soldiers who could be called to service. This is typical of military system that uses conscription because the system produces relatively large numbers of personnel. Those conscripts recently released from active duty have usable skills, but those skills deteriorate rapidly. It is a much less expensive system, but requires time and training post-mobilization.

The United States maintains a similar system called the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). This consists of military personnel who have completed their active-duty commitment but not their full eight-year military requirement. (All servicemembers have an eight-year military obligation, and enlistment contracts are written for that period of time.) These personnel remain on military rolls for possible mobilization. However, this is a second backup force behind the organized reserve units that train regularly and that most people think of as reservists. The United States called some IRR personnel to service during the height of the Iraq war, but it was very controversial, and the numbers were minimized. In effect, Russia is calling up its version of the IRR.

Training Will Be a Challenge

Both Putin and Shoigu stated that reservists would receive additional training, likely two weeks. By U.S. standards, this is not nearly enough. The United States gave mobilized units months of training before sending them to Iraq or Afghanistan, though personnel mobilized as individuals received less training. The Russian military bureaucracy is not prepared to take on so many troops. Unlike the United States, the Russians do not have basic training centers. Most training is done at the combat units, but much of that training cadre has been sent to Ukraine or become casualties.

However, the Ukrainians are not well-trained either. At the beginning of the war, Ukraine created many new units in its territorial army and provided them with only rudimentary military skills. Reports indicate that personnel may have received two or three weeks of training. The troops have gained some skills from six months of combat, but these focus mainly on survival. NATO is training thousands of Ukrainian troops, with some undergoing basic training in United Kingdom and others receiving specialized training at bases throughout Europe, but these troops are a minority. The average level of Ukrainian training is still very low. By way of comparison, the U.S. Marine Corps gives new recruits 22 weeks of training before sending them into combat. Both sides are far below that level. So Russian training will be inadequate and not up to U.S. standards, but the Russians are fighting poorly trained, though highly motivated Ukrainian forces, not the United States.

Equipment May Be Less of a Challenge

Although the Russians will certainly have some equipment problems, that is unlikely to be a major constraint. The problem with the Russian forces to date has been overequipping, not underequipping. As Michael Kofman and Rob Lee documented, the Russians maintained their units with a full set of equipment but only a partial complement of personnel. That is one reason for the high losses―not enough infantry to protect all the vehicles. The Russians, like the Soviets before them, never throw anything away, so they have lots of equipment in storage. This would not be top-of-the-line equipment, but it faces Ukrainian forces that are still armed mainly with Soviet-era equipment.

Further, if most mobilize personnel fill the gaps in existing units, then equipment problems ease. These personnel will fall in on equipment that these units already have.

Logistics has been a problem, but that seems to have eased. In the early days, Russian logistic support was abysmal, causing troops to go hungry and vehicles to be abandoned. Like many militaries, the Russians were not ready for the logistical demands of war, which are much different from the experience of peacetime exercises. However, Russian troops today do not seem to be going hungry, and the fact that the Russians fire thousands of artillery shells every day indicates a logistics system that is operating adequately.

The Purpose of Mobilization Is Ultimately Political Rather than Victory on the Battlefield

It is unlikely that the Russian generals believe this mobilization will shift the initiative and allow Russia to launch major attacks. Ukrainian forces are getting too powerful with foreign equipment and training. Rather, the strategy is likely to hold on to what Russia has already captured and push the war into the winter. Putin aims to put the European populations under enough stress from the cold, inflation, and high energy prices that they demand an end to the war. Survey data indicates that the European populations support Ukraine in its fight for democracy but are ambivalent about providing weapons and becoming involved. (The Baltic countries and Poland are an exception, being on the front line and much more concerned about Russian intentions.) Thus, Europeans might force their governments to push for a cease-fire and negotiations.

The Wild Card Is Political Opposition

Domestic opposition arose at the beginning of the war, with antiwar demonstrations in many cities. However, the Russian security forces successfully suppressed these demonstrations. The government-controlled media dominated the information space, convincing most Russians that the war was defensive and intended to suppress a neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine. Overall, the war seems to be popular with the average Russian. However, mobilization involves more Russian families in the war and has induced fears among many men that they might be called up. Opposition seems to be widespread. However, it remains to be seen whether this opposition will have an operational effect on the war or if it will peter out as earlier antiwar efforts did.

What to Watch for

Several indicators are worth monitoring to see how this mobilization plays out. First, does domestic opposition interfere with the mobilization? From a military point of view, the key question is whether such opposition significantly reduces the number of personnel available for mobilization. Can Russian forces hold out until the mobilized personnel start arriving? Although the front lines seem to have stabilized, the Russian position is fragile. It could crack in the weeks before mobilized personnel arrive. Can Russia train and equip these forces? Although the standards do not need to rise to the U.S. expectations, they do need to achieve a minimum level for personnel to be effective. Finally, does Russian morale maintain at least a minimum level? Russian morale has not been high, but the Russians keep fighting. A thousand years of history indicate that the Russians can continue fighting in conditions other nations might not tolerate.

Mark F. Cancian is a senior fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Source: http://www.csis.org

Pelosi’s visit fires debate in Armenia over alliance with Russia

The US House Speaker could hardly have timed her trip better, as Yerevan questions the merits of relying on Moscow as its main security ally.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a reputation for visiting hotspots. Her recent travels to Armenia raises debate about the country’s political allegiances | Karen Minasyan/AFP via Getty Images


SEPTEMBER 19, 2022 3:52 PM

YEREVAN, Armenia — Crowds lined the streets of Yerevan hours before Nancy Pelosi’s fleet of seven slick black cars pulled into the center of the Armenian capital on Sunday.

Waving American flags, thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of the speaker of the House of Representatives as she paid a historic visit to the Caucasian nation, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Those U.S. flags carried a significant political message about the country’s political allegiances. For years, Armenia chose to be a key strategic ally of the Kremlin, but many are now increasingly questioning whether Moscow can act as guarantor of the nation’s security against the superior firepower of neighboring Azerbaijan, which launched a massive artillery bombardment on Tuesday. Since then 135 Armenians and 77 Azeris have died in a conflict that looks at risk of breaking through a fragile ceasefire.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin mired in a war that is rapidly turning against him in Ukraine, Yerevan is finding that its appeals for help from a Moscow-led security grouping, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, are falling on deaf ears. That’s a pivotal strategic problem as the enemy in Azerbaijan is lavishly supported by Turkey, a regional military heavyweight that Yerevan associates with the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I.

10 people detained in case of clashes at Demirchyan and Proshyan streets intersection in Yerevan

10 people detained in case of clashes at Demirchyan and Proshyan streets intersection in Yerevan

21:45, 07.06.2022

Theme: PoliticsSocietyIncidents

Peaceful protesters surround City Hall of Yerevan

10 people were detained in Yerevan on the case of clashes between police and protesters at the intersection of Demirchyan and Proshyan streets, the press service of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Armenia informed NEWS.am.

On 3 June, there was a clash between law enforcers and supporters of the Resistance Movement at the intersection of Demirchyan and Proshyan streets. The law enforcers used stun grenades against the protesters. In addition, 15 people were brought as defendants. They were charged with organizing mass riots.

Ten of them were placed under arrest as a preventive measure. Four more persons were taken to a non-custodial measure. Apart from the 15 people in question, one more citizen was detained. A petition for his arrest has been filed. The preliminary investigation is continuing.

Russia Sanctions 398 Members Of U.S. Congress, 87 Canadian Senators In Tit-For-Tat Moves

Russia's Foreign Ministry also said "further announcements of Russian countermeasures are planned in the near future,"
Russia’s Foreign Ministry also said “further announcements of Russian countermeasures are planned in the near future,”

Russia has introduced sanctions against 398 members of the U.S. Congress in retaliation against punitive measures announced by Washington over Ukraine.

More sanctions are planned, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on April 13 in a statement quoted by Interfax.

“Taking into account the sanctions the U.S. is constantly introducing, further announcements of Russian countermeasures are planned in the near future,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

The sanctions include entry bans on the lawmakers affected.

In a separate statement, the Foreign Ministry said that it had introduced sanctions against 87 members of the Senate of Canada and said more measures will be announced soon due to Ottawa’s “short-sighted” policies.

The ministry said the moves follow sanctions announced by Washington last month against 328 members of the Russian Duma, or parliament.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to pro-Western Ukraine on February 24, the West slapped wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow, including the exclusion of several banks from the SWIFT messaging system, embargoes on Russian exports, new restrictions on investments, and asset freezes for government officials and their families.

Western countries have also announced the coordinated expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats suspected of spying.

Russia said it was expelling a senior Czech diplomat from the EU country’s embassy in Moscow in a retaliatory step.

Based on reporting by Interfax, AFP, and Reuters

Turkey, Armenia hold ‘constructive’ talks on mending ties

Foreign ministers of the two countries meet in the first sit-down between the two top diplomats since 2009.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meets with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meets with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan during the Antalya Diplomacy Forum [Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via Reuters]

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that he held “productive and constructive” talks with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan as they bid to mend ties after decades of animosity.

The two met on Saturday at a diplomatic forum in Antalya on Turkey’s southern coast. Ankara has had no diplomatic or commercial ties with Armenia since the 1990s but they held talks in January in a first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord, which was never ratified.


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Are frosty relations between Turkey and Armenia thawing?

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Turkey, Armenia talk normalising ties after decades of animosity

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Can Turkey and Armenia establish diplomatic relations?

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Saturday’s meeting was the first sit-down meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers since 2009. They spoke briefly on the sidelines of an OSCE meeting in November last year.

“It was a very productive and constructive conversation,” Cavusoglu told reporters after the talks, which lasted 30 minutes. “We are making efforts for stability and peace.”

Speaking through a translator, Mirzoyan said: “We are continuing the process of normalising relations without preconditions … We are making efforts.”

The two countries are at odds over several issues, primarily the 1.5 million people Armenia says were killed in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor to modern Turkey.

Armenia says the 1915 killings constitute a genocide. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World

War One, but contests the figures and denies killings were systematic or constitute genocide.

The two countries have said the January talks were “positive and constructive,” raising the prospect that ties could be restored and borders reopened.

Tensions flared during a 2020 war over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Turkey accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying land belonging to Azerbaijan. Turkey has since called for a rapprochement, as it seeks greater regional influence.


Biden administration considering protecting Ukrainians in the U.S. from deportation


FEBRUARY 24, 2022 / 11:25 PM / CBS NEWS

The Biden administration is considering protecting certain Ukrainians living in the U.S. from deportation due to Russia’s military attack against Ukraine, two people familiar with the deliberations told CBS News Thursday.

The deportation relief could be authorized through a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas or a Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) order by President Biden, the sources said, requesting anonymity to discuss ongoing discussions.

U.S. immigration law authorizes the DHS secretary to offer TPS to immigrants in the U.S. if it is determined that their home countries are unable to safely accept deportees because of armed conflict, natural disasters, an epidemic or other “extraordinary” emergencies.

DED, a similar policy, also offers temporary deportation protections to immigrants from a specific country or region. But unlike TPS, it is authorized by the president. Both programs also allow beneficiaries to apply for work permits.

Pro-Ukraine Rally Held In New York City
People draped in an American flag and Ukrainian Flag march towards The United Nations during a Stand With Ukraine Rally on February 24, 2022, in New York City. Ukrainians, Ukrainians Americans and ally’s marched from Times Square to the Russian Mission to The United Nations, the to the United Nations to show support for Ukraine and protest against the Russian invasion.ALEXI ROSENFELD / GETTY IMAGES

An estimated 355,000 Ukrainian immigrants reside in the U.S., according to government estimates. The Migration Policy Institute estimated Thursday that roughly 30,000 Ukrainians could be eligible for TPS or DED because they are neither U.S. citizens nor lawful permanent residents.

Potential beneficiaries could include Ukrainians with temporary U.S. visas, including students at American universities, as well as those without legal status. Both temporary deportation relief programs would not benefit new arrivals from Ukraine, where millions of refugees could be displaced due to the armed conflict with Russia, according to a U.S. assessment.

Asked earlier Thursday whether the administration would grant TPS to Ukrainians, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that would be a decision “made through an interagency process led by the Department of Homeland Security.”

“I don’t have any kind of prediction of that at this point in time,” Psaki said. Representatives for the White House and DHS said they did not have any policy announcements to make at this time.  

“As is always the case, we continue to closely monitor conditions in various countries across the globe,” DHS said in a statement earlier Thursday.

Russia-Ukraine war live updates: Russia investigated for war crimes as peace talks stall

Peace talks ended Monday without a breakthrough.

Destroyed settlements in Donetsk due to armed conflict between Russia, Ukraine

Damage due to armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the Donetsk region under the control of pro-Russian separatists, eastern Ukraine on Feb. 28, 2022. Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By NBC News

The International Criminal Court said Monday that it will open an investigation into whether Russia has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, hours after peace talks in Belarus ended without a clear resolution and shelling continued across Ukraine.

According to Ukrainian officials, Russia hit residential areas of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, with heavy shelling Monday, an apparent escalation of the Kremlin’s assault just as officials from both sides met for talks.

The Western response has been swift and unrelenting. Widening sanctions roiled the Russian economy Monday, forcing its currency, the ruble, to crater to a level around 30 percent against the U.S. dollar.

Follow our in-depth coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis here.

Zelenskyy: ‘Fair negotiations can only happen when one side is not shooting at the other’

Dennis Romero

1h ago / 3:22 PM PST

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that effective diplomacy can not happen while invading forces from Russia continue their assault. 

“Fair negotiations can only happen when one side is not shooting at the other one during the exact time the negotiations are happening,” he said in a translation of a video message posted via the Telegram communications app Monday night.

During Monday’s diplomatic effort requested by Zeleskyy, Russian forces were accused of inciting Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv. 

Moscow said both sides had “heard” each other at Monday’s meeting.

Zelenskyy read off the names of dead soldiers to punctuate his condemnation of Russia’s onslaught. The leader asked the world to help close off airspace to Russian air offensives. 

“The evil, that is armed with missiles, bombs, and artillery, must be stopped immediately, destroyed economically, to show that humanity can defend itself,” Zelenskyy said.

Turkey, Armenia talk normalising ties after decades of animosity

The neighbours are at odds over various issues, primarily the 1915 mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

Demonstrators waving Turkey's and Azerbaijan's national flags protest aganist the agreement signed between Turkey and Armenia
Demonstrators wave Turkish and Azerbaijani flags as they protest an agreement signed between Turkey and Armenia in 2009 [File: Osman Orsal/Reuters]

Published On 14 Jan 202214 Jan 2022

Envoys from Turkey and Armenia will hold the first round of talks aimed at normalising ties in Moscow on Friday, in a move Armenia expects will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening borders after decades of animosity.

Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic or commercial ties for 30 years and the talks are the first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord. That deal was never ratified and ties have remained tense.


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Reactions to Biden’s recognition of Armenian ‘genocide’

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‘Absurd to suggest one genocide more heinous than another’

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Turkey sets conditions for Armenia

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The neighbours are at odds about various issues, primarily the 1915 mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

Armenia says the 1915 killings constitute a genocide. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but contests the figures and denies the killings were systematically orchestrated or constitute a genocide.

During the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ankara supported Azerbaijan and accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying Azeri territory. Turkey began calling for a rapprochement after the conflict, as it sought greater influence in the region.

Russia’s TASS news agency cited Armenia’s foreign ministry as saying on Thursday that Yerevan expected the latest talks to lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of frontiers closed since 1993.

With borders closed, Turkey and Armenia have no direct trade routes. Indirect trade has risen marginally since 2013 but was just $3.8m in 2021, according to official Turkish data.

Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, said in November opening borders and renovating railways between Turkey and Armenia would have economic benefits for Yerevan, as the routes could be used by traders from Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last year the two countries would also start charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan under the rapprochement, but that Turkey would coordinate all steps with Azerbaijan.

The flights are set to begin in early February.

No easy breakthrough

Despite strong backing for normalisation from the United States, which hosts a large Armenian diaspora and angered Turkey last year by calling the 1915 killings a genocide, analysts say the talks would be complicated.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday Armenia needed to form good ties with Azerbaijan for the normalisation effort to yield results.

Emre Peker, a London-based director at Eurasia Group, said a cautious approach focusing on quick deliverables was expected on both sides because of the old sensitivities, adding the role of Russia, which brokered the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire and is the dominant actor in the region, would be key.

“Talks are likely to pave the way for more discussions in the coming months. But delivering a comprehensive, long-term pact will prove difficult due to the multifaceted nature of the talks and domestic political constraints in both countries,” he said.

“The bigger challenge will come from the question of historic reconciliation.”

The fate of talks will depend on “Ankara’s recognition that it must right-size its ambitions”, he said.


Instead Of A Hero’s Welcome, Georgian Ex-President Saakashvili Faces Years In Prison

United National Movement supporters protest the arrest of the former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in front of the prison in Rustavi on October 4.
United National Movement supporters protest the arrest of the former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in front of the prison in Rustavi on October 4.

The crowd was probably smaller than Mikheil Saakashvili would have hoped. On the evening of October 4, hundreds, not thousands, of people gathered outside a prison in Georgia to demand the release of the country’s controversial former president.

Three days earlier, on October 1, Saakashvili had returned from Ukraine hoping to make a political comeback in his homeland by leading the opposition movement to victory in crucial elections.

It didn’t work. Just hours after he posted videos on Facebook saying he had returned to the country, Saakashvili was arrested and incarcerated in Rustavi, a small city 25 kilometers southeast of the capital, Tbilisi. And in nationwide local elections held the next day, the United National Movement (ENM), the party Saakashvili founded, was outpolled decisively by the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili is escorted by police officers as he arrives at a prison in Rustavi on October 1.
Georgian ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili is escorted by police officers as he arrives at a prison in Rustavi on October 1.

The relatively small crowd outside the prison in Rustavi suggests that Saakashvili’s popularity in his homeland is not what it once was, analysts say.

“Saakashvili underestimates how much Georgia has moved on since he left. He has 20 or 30 percent support, but a larger percentage of people opposes him or are indifferent,” said Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, in an interview with RFE/RL.

“He thinks of himself as a savior who can trigger another Rose Revolution but I don’t think the Georgian public is interested in that, to be honest,” de Waal said, referring to the 2003 protest movement that swept aside the corrupt Soviet-era elite and brought Saakashvili to power.

Ex-President Saakashvili Faces Years In Prison

Supporters Of Georgian Ex-President Saakashvili Rally To Demand His Release From Prison
Supporters Of Georgian Ex-President Saakashvili Rally To Demand His Release From Prison

As president, Saakashvili was first credited with pushing through much-needed reforms, triggering praise in the West, but rumblings of discontent grew among those Georgians impacted by his changes. Over time, the charismatic and polarizing Saakashvili accumulated many critics, who faulted him for his increasingly autocratic style of rule.

Saakashvili left Georgia in 2014 and became a Ukrainian citizen, where he served as governor of the Odesa region before falling out with then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship in 2017, and, after a series of standoffs with the authorities, was finally deported to Poland in 2018.

In 2018, a court in Georgia sentenced Saakashvili to six years in prison for abuse of power, after he was accused of trying to cover up evidence relating to the beating of an opposition lawmaker. He also faces several other charges stemming from his 2004-13 presidency, including the violent dispersal of a protest and a raid on a television station started by a political rival.

While Saakashvili’s motivations for returning are unclear, some observers have speculated that the former president sensed his chances of a political comeback were greater than ever.

The October 2 elections were viewed as a referendum on the ruling Georgian Dream party, whose popularity has dipped recently. Georgia was plunged into political turmoil last year after opposition parties said elections won by the ruling party were rigged. The country has recently been rocked by a wiretapping scandal, which appears to show the widescale and long-running state surveillance of prominent journalists, clergymen, and public officials.

Ahead of the latest poll, Saakashvili issued a video appeal for Georgians to not only vote but to take to the streets a day after the polls closed.

“Georgia hasn’t had a weaker government in the nine years since Saakashvili left power,” said Egor Kuroptev, director of the Free Russia Foundation in the South Caucasus. “[The government is] the weakest, and, in principle, not very legitimate — not in terms of elections, but their own record of action. It’s been nothing but scandal and chaos, unfortunately,” he told Current Time, the Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

And while the ruling party appears to have scored a convincing victory, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said that Saakashvili’s arrival had helped the opposition and accounted for Georgian Dream losing support. The ruling party’s mayoral candidates failed to surpass the required 50 percent threshold in the key cities of Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Poti, and Rustavi and runoffs are scheduled for October 30.

Jail Time

Georgia’s ruling authorities have so far given little indication that Saakashvili will be treated leniently. Gharibashvili said on October 3 that Saakashvili, who dismisses the charges against him as politically motivated, would serve his full term of six years in prison. President Salome Zurabishvili, a former ally who was Saakashvili’s first foreign minister, has said that she will not consider offering him a pardon.

How much jail time Saakashvili will actually serve is unclear, but Kuroptev says that he will, at the latest, be freed when parliamentary elections are held in 2024. “Of course, he has no guarantees when he will be released from prison. Will it be in two days or two years?” Kuroptev told Current Time.

“I would, however, argue with those who contend he will serve the full six years because there will anyhow be a change of power in 2024,” he said. “But that is the maximum [time he will serve] as the situation in the country is far from simple.”

Supporters outside the prison in Rustavi have said they will continue their protests in the coming days, while Saakashvili himself has vowed to continue a hunger strike he reportedly started after his arrest.

But if those tactics prove to be ineffective, Saakashvili may be reliant on outside actors to secure his freedom.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who restored his Ukrainian citizenship back in 2019, has vowed to work for the release of Saakashvili, who since May 2020 has headed the president’s executive committee of the National Reforms Council, a body tasked with overseeing reforms in the corruption-ridden country.

What exactly Zelenskiy will be able to achieve, though, is unclear, argues Kornely Kakachia, director of the Tbilisi-based Georgian Institute of Politics. Ultimately, Zelenskiy, will be careful not to harm ties with Tbilisi, a key backer for Kyiv, he said.

The U.S. State Department said on October 4 that Washington was paying close attention to developments in Georgia and urged the government in Tbilisi to ensure Saakashvili is treated fairly.

Kakachia said that there will likely be more red flags for the West after statements by the Georgian prime minister that “more articles,” or criminal charges, will be added to Saakashvili’s case if “he does not behave.”

“These types of statements should not be coming from the prime minister but the judiciary,” Kakachia told RFE/RL.

The options Western countries may have are likely limited, de Waal says. “This is a nightmare for Georgia’s Western partners. They are doing everything they can to get Georgia out of this bizarre political polarization and move on to a pragmatic, real political agenda, but it’s gotten a whole lot worse,” de Waal said, adding that Gharibashvili was likely to ignore Western appeals.

“Georgian Dream doesn’t listen to the West in its war on Saakashvili,” de Waal said, noting that earlier this year Tbilisi refused an $89 million EU loan that was conditioned on judicial reform and upholding a power-sharing agreement that Brussels had brokered.

  • Tony WesolowskyTony Wesolowsky is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL in Prague, covering Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Central Europe, as well as energy issues. His work has also appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists.WesolowskyA@rferl.org