The Region in Brief

February 22, 2023 - March 1, 2023


A Russian man prosecuted for protesting the war in Ukraine was detained at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport this week. Russian authorities opened a criminal investigation into Nikita Kamensky after he painted anti-war graffiti in a metro station in Moscow in July 2022. He was placed on Russia’s “wanted” list in December and detained in Yerevan on February 28 after his flight from Istanbul. Russian anti-war activists in Yerevan have asked Armenian lawyers to represent Kamensky and prevent his extradition to Russia. OVID Info, a Russian human rights group, says that more than 450 criminal cases have been opened against people who have protested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 


Political prisoner Bakhtiyar Hajiyev has ended his 50-day hunger strike after explicit messages were leaked from his private accounts. Hajiyev’s private messages with women, including other activists, containing nude photographs and intimate videos were published on Telegram on February 24. Opposition groups have accused the government of Azerbaijan of leaking Hajiyev’s personal information. Activists have also turned against Hajiyev for saving the images and videos of women. Feminist activist Gulnara Mehdiyeva said that the government has endangered these women’s lives by publishing their names, images and in one case their home address. “They think that if the life of any of these women ends tragically, her blood will be on Bakhtiyar’s hands, and the government will thus have destroyed its rival,” Mehdiyeva said. 


Over 60 Georgian media organizations have signed a joint statement refusing to comply with a foreign agent bill if it is passed into law. The proposed legislation would require non-governmental organizations and media outlets that receive more than 20-percent of their funding from abroad to register as “agents of foreign influence.” Critics have compared the bill to Russia’s foreign agent law. “We believe that the aim of this law is to silence critical voices, to disable the media and public organizations from reporting the corruption, injustice, and poverty existing in our country,” the statement reads. A group of journalists read the statement in parliament on Monday and chanted “No to the Russian law” while lawmakers deliberated the bill. 


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his earthquake ravaged country will move forward with elections this spring. The February 6 earthquake, which also hit northern Syria, killed almost 50,000 people and impacted the lives of 14 million people. Erdogan, who is seeking a third term as president, has been criticized for his government’s response in the aftermath of the earthquake, exacerbating his low approval ratings amid high inflation. The elections are scheduled for May 14.

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is the assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She reports on international women's rights, South Caucasus politics, and diasporic identity. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Democracy in Exile, and Girls on Key Press. She holds master's degrees in journalism and Near Eastern studies from New York University.

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