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Center for National and International Studies
“… Money has decreased, but corruption has not! …”
The FB community worries about the lands remaining out of state control, discusses Russia’s policy and interests, Turkey’s statement about Russia’s authority in Lachin, bureaucratic corruption, shares the opposition parties’ response to Aliyev’s accusations against the PFA government in “surrendering Shusha”, and follows the return from Germany and arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny by the Russian authorities.
Results of the war. The former editor of the newspaper Azadlig, Ganimad Zahid, comments on the results of the war, and why it did not result in the capitulation of the adversary. He argues that while Azerbaijan has achieved military victory, it did not turn it into a political one, because of the lack of political will. Only domestic political dividends were drawn from the victory, and this is clearly mischief. On an Osmangizi TV programme participants conclude that the status issue was left for the future, while Karabagh itself – under control of Russia. Another programme of this TV station stresses that Turkey was isolated. But Ali Karimli argues that Turkey will not be reconciled with being kept outside the solution of the Karabagh issue. People are cheering the return to Shusha of famous — shot by Armenians — monuments of the prominent personalities of culture: the composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, opera singer Bul-Bul and the 19th century poetess Natavan. On the issue of the Armenian POWs who were captured after the trilateral agreement, Ramis Yunus, activist in exile comments:” Along with the ceasefire agreement of November 10th and the end of active hostilities, Armenia had agreed to withdraw all its armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan, which unfortunately has not yet happened. Therefore, all representatives of these Armenian armed forces should be considered terrorists and not prisoners of war, to whom the laws of Azerbaijan against terrorism should be applied. This should be officially made evident to Armenia and its citizens so that Armenian parents force their government not to send their children to serve on the territory of Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh.” Ganimad Zahid argues that the Karabagh issue will never be resolved – as the problem was given away to Russia, which means the part of Karabagh not under control of Azerbaijan is given to Russia, who may stay there for 50 years. FB users report with concern the visit of Armenia’s military prosecutor Vahe Arutyunian to the Upper Karabagh without permission of Baku.
Corruption: new scandals. The FB community continues to discuss the misappropriation of 6m manat by Vugar Safarli, the executive director of the eliminated State Fund for Media Support, and his subsequent arrest. The fact that he saved this money in the Baku banks was particularly in the centre of attention of the FB community and viewed as an indicator of total absence of fear of punishment. They also mentioned that previously he was awarded by the order of “Service to Homeland” by the president. The activists consider that after the arrest of Vugar Safarli, the next to be charged should be his ex-boss Ali Hasanov.
Perception of Armenia. The opposition activist Nuraddin Mammadli considers that in the 44-day war Armenia not only lost its army, status and thousands lives of its citizens, but also the chance of speedy integration into Europe. Pashinian, elected by the people and supported by the Armenian diaspora, conducted a pro-Western policy, and unlike Azerbaijan, implemented a number of democratic reforms and started to gain an international reputation. The only mistake he made was to persist with the policy of occupation towards Azerbaijan and this cost both him and Armenia a lot. Unfortunately, this mistake led both Armenia and Azerbaijan into the dependence swamp with Russia. Natig Jafarli of REAL argues, that Azerbaijan as a result of the first Karabagh war lost lands, but managed to consolidate its independence from Russia, by signing big energy contracts with the West, etc. Armenia took the opposite course and with the support of Russia occupied the lands, but became totally dependent on Russia. In other words, as a result of the first Karabagh war, Azerbaijan lost its lands, while Armenia — its independence. After the 44-day war — it is important to develop economic relations with the allies of Azerbaijan, but more important to turn the military victory into the qualitative changes in the country – by adopting a new Constitution, electing a new parliament, building a strong civil society, etc.
Political parties. Political parties expressed strong reaction to the accusation of the president Aliyev, that the “Popular Front Government had sold out Shusha” in his speech on 6th January. Arif Hajili of the Musavat party states that the corridors of Lachin and Megri should enjoy the same status. He suggests the symmetric principle of resolution of conflict: whichever status is going to be given to the Armenians who lived in Upper Karabagh before 1989 should be equally awarded to the Azerbaijanis living in the Zangezur and Goycha regions of Armenia. He also reacts to the speech of Aliyev in Shusha. “Ilham Aliyev may not know certain facts because during the occupation of Shusha and Lachin his was too involved with small business. At that time, the PFA was not in power, while the Musavat party was not yet restored. The Popular Front of Azerbaijan was not fighting for power but defending Karabagh”. He reminds that at the time of the attacks on Shusha the supporters of Ayaz Mutallibov and Heydar Aiyev were demonstrating in Baku. Ali Karimli posts the video proving that while Popular Front activists were fighting in defence of Shusha in 1992, the supporters of Heydar Aliyev (later YAP) were demonstrating before the Parliament building. The recording of Elchibey testifies to his trying to convince the supporters of Ayaz Mutallibov to postpone presidential elections due to the tense situation at the front. He made a prediction: “In a year’s time you will oust the president which you choose under such conditions! Karimli reminds that the main demand of YAP members daily protesting in front of the Parliament was to increase the age census (65) for the presidential candidate so they would be able to bring Heydar Aliyev to power.
Institute of Elchibey. The advisory board of the Institute of Echibey held its meeting, and among other issues, discussed the speech of President Aliyev on 6th January in Shusha, accusing his government of surrendering Shusha. It issued a statement that such fake accusations and distortion of history damages national unity and contradicts national interests. The board warned that if this policy continues it will give an adequate answer to that, and declared its plans to publish and to organize events promoting and publicizing the true history of the democratic movement in the country, first of all for the young generations.
Human rights. The human rights defender, former prosecutor and political prisoner Rufat Safarov appealed to the head of the Penitentiary Service to cancel the decision on the PFP activist Elzamin Salayev, who was transferred to the punishment cell of prison 17. FB users share the complaint of businessman Sahil Babayev regarding the Minister of Labour and Social Protection, that the latter misappropriated the former’s money and put him in prison. While court expertise showed his innocence, the minister is using his influence to reverse the expertise in his own favour and to sentence the businessman. Rustam Ismayilbeyli was stopped in the street by police while waiting for a taxi and asked to show the SMS permission required by the quarantine rule for going out. They fined him 200 manats for exceeding the deadline by 7 minutes — but took him to the police office instead of doing it on the spot, threatening to keep him there until the money was paid. The lawyer reports an incident in prison 13. A prisoner ill with diabetes, Royal from Ganja city, was beaten and killed. The special forces were brought to the prison following the protests of the prisoners and hundreds were tortured. An extremely strict regime has now been imposed in the prison, whereby prisoners are punished for trivial mistakes. They are also prohibited to make phone calls. Chingiz Sultansoy, journalist in exile, claims that the appeals to national consolidation of the government are in contradiction to the attacks on the opposition: PFP activists Emil Salimov and Ruslan Amirov were interrogated in the General Prosecutor’s office, they say the criminal case against PFP leader Ali Karimli was opened. Three political prisoners — the PFP members Agil Maharramli, Niyamaddin Ahmadov, and Zamin Salayev — are subjects of cruel treatment and discrimination. The NIDA youth movement member Elmir Abbasov was literally hijacked on the street and brought to the police station only for his critical post on FB about President Aliyev. FB shares Amnesty International’s statement, that Azerbaijan and Armenia have both violated humanitarian laws.
COVID-19. Gubad Ibadoglu comments on the authorities’ plans to ease the quarantine starting from 18th January — SMA permissions will be cancelled, vaccinations will start (people are discussing the reliability of the Chinese vaccine, which the Azerbaijan government has imported) on the 25th January, trade centers, museums, hairdressers will open, and travel to and from the regions will be allowed. From 1st February, places of public catering will be open. However, nothing is said about the 190 manats of compensation. The activists comment on the situation in Nakhichevan, where there is no quarantine, schools are open, mass meetings are conducted, nobody wears masks, while the number of deaths of COVID is increasing day by day. They compare it with the situation in North Korea.
Economy and social issues. “Money has decreased, but corruption has not!”. Osmangizi TV discusses the planned building of the Central Bank for 260m Euros and compares it to the poor housing of the war victims. Azadlig newspaper features numerous complaints of the customers of Azerishig and Azergas on the issue of bills. The economic expert analyses the recent cases of corruption of the chair of the AzerCarpet enterprise, Vidadi Muradov, and the chair of the State Fund for Media Support, arguing that this constitutes proof that the corporative principles of management do not work in Azerbaijan and the division of power bears declarative nature at best. Gubad Ibadoglu raised the issue of sharp ( 1,93 times) increase of budget spending as compared to average monthly in December 2020. He calls the plans of construction for the Central Bank building “The gravestone of the national economy for 450 m manats”. People report a visible increase of food prices, even for bread in Azerbaijan’s shops. The economic expert jokes that there should be The Fund of Dirty Money Laundering (FDML), which would collect the money of corrupt officials and then after it is laundered, direct it to the necessary sectors of the national economy.
Relations with Turkey. The FB community discusses the statement by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Chavushoglu that Russia’s peacekeepers in their activities in Lachin should ask permission of Azerbaijan. Some call it the first open warning to Russia by Turkey. They also share information by the Turkish media, that the two countries – Azerbaijan and Turkey — plan joint military exercises in the Kars region on the borders with Armenia between 1-12 February 2021. The MHP leader Devlet Bahcheli proposes opening a school with 9 subjects in Shusha, named after Uzeyir Hajibekov, if Erdogan and Aliyev agree. The social networks also report confirmation by Chavushoglu of a joint Monitoring Center with Russia, with 60 military personnel from each of the two states, and a future defense agreement with Azerbaijan.
Relations with the West. An author considers that the statement of Chavushoglu manifests changes in geopolitics. He considers that previously Turkey could find an agreement with Russia, because it acted out of its national interests while simultaneously trying to neutralize pressure by the West. In turn, Russia was interested in Turkey’s distancing from the West in this agreement. However, he continues, now the situation has changed because Turkey is also expressing the interests of the West in restraining Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions. The recent statements of Erdogan that future of Turkey is with the EU, the instruction of Turkey to the leadership of the NATO forces of rapid reaction, is already changing the balance between the two countries. Apparently, the West is not interested in Russia’s hegemony in South Caucasus, concludes the activist, so Azerbaijani officials should take this change into account in their policy.
Relations with Russia. Azadlig newspaper quotes the ruling party YAP deputy chair Ali Hasanov, saying that the president, after liberating Shusha, took the Russia factor into account. “He could easily return Khankendi, Lachin etc., but did not do it, as he is very smart person. If he entered these lands, Russia would stay aside. The president raised the status of Russia and Putin. Good for Putin, he paid out his debt.”
Relations with France. The FB community discusses the corruption scandal connected with the Sarkozy-owned insurance company Reso-Garantiya. FB users share the information in Azadlig newspaper, which revealed that the company with Armenian co-owners was traced to their entrance to the market in Azerbaijan in 2013 and that it was involved in lobbying activities for both Azerbaijani and Armenian elites in France.
Relations with Iran. The FB community notes the criticism of Iran by President Aliyev in his speech in Shusha, when asking how a Muslim country can be friends with a state that destroys mosques or keeps cows inside mosques. “Let these leaders give an answer. Not to me — to their people”
Arrest of Navalny in Russia. The FB community is following the arrest of Navalny closely. The majority expresses solidarity with the Russian opposition leader. Arif Hajili of the Musavat party argues that his courageous step will further weaken Russia’s authoritarian regime. He reminds that the usual 70-80% support for Putin has already declined to 40% and even the “military-political successes” in Azerbaijan did not increase it. Some, however remind that Navalny shares his neo-imperial views on the FSU. The activist in exile Ramis Yunus argues that Alexei Navalny supported the Russian annexation of Crimea, supports the Kremlin’s policy towards Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria, does not hide his pro-imperial views on the post-Soviet space, including the maintenance of the so-called «Russian world» in these territories, with all that it implies. Altay Goyushov praised Navalny for returning and comments that now it does not matter whether he is arrested or not – in both cases this will create a problem for Putin. Some stress that in spite of the deviation of landing from the scheduled Vnukovo to Sheremetyevo airport, the plane passengers did not express any protest, and here is the difference between democracy and autocracy, comments Ilkin Rustamzade.