An Armenian court of appeals has refused to order the release of Armen Ashotyan from detention. Ashotyan was charged last November with abuse of power and money laundering during his time as the chair of the Board of Trustees of Yerevan’s Mkhitar Heratsi Medical University. Armenia’s Investigative Committee says that Ashotyan ordered a number of property acquisitions that financially damaged the state-run university. Ashotyan is a member of the opposition Republican Party, which has condemned the charges as politically motivated due to Ashotyan’s vocal criticism of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Ashotyan served as education minister under former President Serge Sargsyan.
Vitaly Balasanyan, former politician and commander of the Artsakh Defense Army, has been released from custody. Balasanyan was detained late last week on charges of assaulting the police, illegal possession of weapons and drugs in his home, and embezzlement of public property. He was arrested while reportedly trying to stop police officers from searching his home. Details of the embezzlement charges have not been made public. Balasanyan served as a commander of the Artsakh military during the first Artsakh War in the 1990s. He was appointed secretary of Artsakh’s security council after the 2020 Artsakh War. He was later sacked by Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan after the start of Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh in December 2022.
Footage claiming to show locals praising Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili was found to be staged. In the video published on Sunday, PM Gharibashvili is seen interacting with locals in the town Tsageri in the Racha–Lechkhumi region, who approach the prime minister to praise him. However, opposition media outlets have identified the so-called locals as civil servants who work for Gharibashvili’s administration. They are seen multiple times in different locations throughout the video. One woman, identified as an employee of the city’s gardening service, is seen filming Gharibashvili on her phone and shouting blessings at him. Beso Namchavadze, a senior analyst at Transparency International Georgia, said that 53-percent of the population of Tsageri lives below the poverty line. “That’s why they carried the same people around to say thank you,” Namchavadze said.
Environmental authorities are heightening monitoring efforts of the Black Sea following the destruction of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine in June. The destruction has polluted the Black Sea with significant levels of oil, unexploded mines and chemicals. Countries that border the Black Sea, including Georgia and Bulgaria, have reported a drop in tourism levels to coastal towns after the destruction, especially from Europe. Environmental experts have attempted to dispel fears, stating that the immense volume of the Black Sea can absorb the pollutants. Nonetheless, Georgia’s National Environmental Agency has promised to monitor the water quality every 10 days.