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Center for National and International Studies

 

FB Digest@VoxPOPULI

25.01.2021

“… Putin resembles a tsar who is pushed to the corner….”                                                                                                  

The Fb community continues to discuss situation in Karabagh, Russia interests, Turkey’s status, policy of Armenia, social issues of the military and their families, agreement with Turkmenistan on joint exploration of the disputed oil field, protests in Russia, film of Navalny about Putin’s palace and reaction to it in Azerbaijan, changes in the structure and management of SOCAR, controversial official statements about education fees by the new Education Minister,  recognition of the Azerbaijani deputies at PACE, collection of signatures there on release of Navalny, rights of oil workers, new charges against the PFP activist , coma condition of the 90th day of hunger strike by journalist’s Afghan Sadigov, the state of investigation of the case of human rights defender Ogtay Gulaliyev.

Situation in Karabagh. FB community continues to follow and react to the situation in Karabagh. It is concerned about absence of official reaction to the violation of Azerbaijan’s sovereignty such as recent blockage of the road to Agdere by the Armenians,  Russian peacekeepers calling Upper Karabagh — Artsakh etc.  Some share information, that the Foreign Minister Bayramov has allegedly written letter of  resignation   in protest of demand of parliamentary ratification of Russian peacekeepers activities in the country, spent 36 hours in the State Security Service and was urged to go back to work.  The activist comments that people should use the opportunity and protest Russian peacekeepers and protect the future generations. Fb community discusses contradictory statements from Armenia regarding status of Shusha. The MP Fazil Mustafa reacted to the statement by the foreign minister of Armenia Ara Ayvazian that Shusha is a cultural center of Armenians, that “another fairy tale” is continuation

of the “illness of Armenians”, which after the victory of Azerbaijan is not worth paying attention to. The attitude to war is continuously the subject of discussions. Ilkin Rustamzade calls the war “unambiguously immoral, savage” and that’s why “ we all hate it and damn it”

One may also criticize the results of the war, Russian arrival, but, he argues, if the enemy came to your house, killed you, and threatened by new occupation, it is doubtful to speak about peace, regardless of who is in power.

Pashinian’s statement about Shusha.The political and civil leaders react to the statement of Armenia’s president Nicol Pashinian about pre-conflict ethnic composition of Shusha city in Upper Karabagh. Arif Hajili, the leader of Musavat party argues that statement of Armenian president that 90% of the population of Shusha were Azerbaijanis shows that among Armenian politicians Pashinian is the most rational leader, who really wants to put an end to the hostile relations between the neighbours, stop being vassals of Russia and create atmosphere of cooperation. This, he stresses, supports Musavat party’s idea, that the regulation of the conflict should be taken out of Russian monopoly and transferred to the bilateral Armenia-Azerbaijani format.    Ilkin Rustamzade, the youth leader, praised the statement by Pashinian, who publicly stated that before the conflict majoriy of the population of Shusha were Azerbaijanis, so it cannot be considered Armenian. Rustamzade calls it “writing the history” and disapproves some ironic statements by FB users.

Economy, governance and corruption. Natig Jafarli of REAL posts the painting depicting of the old Azerbaijani woman selling the seeds in the Soviet times and using the newspapers Pravda to make  cones. He calls it the victory of economic views of a “grandmother” over the Soviet official propaganda and used it as a symbol to explain the problems of the current Azerbaijan economy. He argues, that there are two things which are not possible to administratively control – ideas and money, and that was understood by “grandmothers”, but not the Soviets and still continues as an inertia of the Soviet thinking.   The FB community widely shares and ironically comments on the statement of the newly appointed Minister of Education Emin Amrullayev that it would be wrong to decrease fees for education, because “the value of their ( educated people- L.A.) product is not high”. Altay Geyushov comments that this is probably the only minister of education in the world, who declares uselessness of education. Rabiyya Mammadova, the feminist leader, comments, that this is said by so much publicized young minister, who received an education abroad. She argues, that regardless of where did one get an education, once he/she becomes the part of the system, it is not possible to change anything. Natig Jafarli of REAL quotes the survey conducted few years ago among students that showed that 86% of them saw their future work in budget/government/state sector (compare to the US – 4%, EU -9%). FB community widely discusses the changes in the management of the State Oil Company (SOCAR), According to the decree of the president the management of the company is transferred to the Supervisory Board, the chair of which is appointed by the president, as well as approve the rest 7 members. The Minister of Economy Mikail Jabbarov was appointed the chair of newly created Supervisory Board. The FB community ridicules the appointment calling Jabbarov the “Minister of All Issues”. The economic expert Gubad Ibadoglu argues that this means preparation to the privatization of SOCAR and  explains the structural changes in the company by this objective. He lists the other indicators directed to the mitigation of economic challenges, such as 1) recently created Azerbaijan Investment Holding started to re-structure the debts of SOCAR and other big state companies, 2) the rise of gasoline and diesel price will lead to the increase of SOCAR’s revenues in the domestic market with the next step probably being the gas price increase. 3) changes in SOCAR aim at attraction of the investments 4) reductions at the SOCAR will acquire more large scale nature and will touch not only workers, but the specialists and engineers. He also notes with irony  that SOCAR pays double salary to its “trolls”, although their level is quite low, so they need by his opinion double training both in language and the economic expertise. The economic expert Samir Aliyev stresses that the changes in SOCAR are directed to the improvement of the corporate governance of the company, which was the worst among others in this regard. But he warms that the existence of two Boards may create parallel management in the company, that’s why it is more effective if the Supervisory Board approves the members of the Board of Directors.  He also warns about the conflict of interests created by the new appointment of Jabbarov, as he is the head of both Tariff Council and the Supervisory Board of SOCAR. An activist comments that newly appointed Jabbarov recently was appointed to the Supervisory Board of the Karabagh Revival Fund, so most probably weekly he devotes 17 minutes for each of his duties. He sarcastically suggests the president Aliyev to appoint Jabbarov’s  wife to help, so she would share those duties with him, and also to hurry and appoint him in the parliament too.  The Fb users also react negatively to the appointment of the ex-minister who was charged with corruption Ali Abbasov  a director of the Institute of the Management Systems. The journalists report that Azad Ragimov the Minister of Culture and Sports fell into coma condition in the located in NY, USA, Presbyterian hospital. Habib Muntazir ironically suggests to replace him by Mikail Jabbarov. The opposition activist Fuad Gahramanli  comments that the problem of the authorities is not just the authoritarian governance, but  the “backward and reactionary way of thinking”.   He compares the generally poor attitude and social policies of the kleptocratic authorities to the people as a whole, especially in comparison with Kazakhstan and Belarus.  

 Media reports operation of the Main Department on Struggle with Corruption conducted in Masalli region’s hospital and arrest of its chief physician Jalil Nazarov under charges of corruption.

Russia’s status and interests. Ali Karimli of PFP analyses Russia’s gains in Karabagh at the expense of Azerbaijan and how it will use them. He calls its policy toward Azerbaijan -a “ stick and carrot” policy, explains Turkey’s policy and dissatisfaction, and effect of the Russian protest rallies in 90 cities of the country  on Azerbaijan. The opposition activists note that the authorities circulate a new argument, that if Navalny comes to power in Russia it will take side of Armenia. They doubt this argument, asking what would he do differently from Putin? Will he hit the country by rockets? But did not Putin already do it by providing Armenia with free weapons to hit Ganja, Barda, Terter? The other matter is that he will not support Ilham Aliyev— that’s what it is.

Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan agreement over disputed oil field. The economists and politicians react to the end of the long lasting dispute between the two Caspian littoral states over the off shore Kapaz/ Sardar oil field. Natig Jafarli argues that “it makes the de-facto alliances de-jure ones”, and a “success of Baku-Ankara-London cooperation”. He also praised the contribution of the EU, as there were numerous visits of the EU representative on energy issues to Turkmenistan during last few years due to priority of the Turkmen gas supplies via Azerbaijan of EU markets. This project in turn was threatened from the North – by the Nord Stream 2 project, which is being squeezed now by sanctions. He suggests that the Azerbaijan -Turkmenistan agreement indicates soonest joining by Ashkhabad  of TAP-TANAP project. The economist and politician Gubad Ibadoglu asserts that most probably there was also an agreement of Russia and Iran contributing to this resolution of the dispute. He argues that this dispute was of political nature, as it has relatively small reserves- 50-70 m tons of oil, explored by Azerbaijani oil men in the Soviet times. He considers that the share of profit will not be a problem, as there is a rich experience of the officials in this area, and that’s why the details of the agreement are kept secret. He reminds the readers that the government benefitted more than people from 150 bln dollar oil revenues produced in the last 20 years. He expresses regret that Azerbaijan is not progressing – 60 years ago while the other countries were sending satellites to the Moon, Azerbaijan has been developing oil in the Caspian, today, when they are preparing to land in Mars, Azerbaijan is still looking for an oil in the Caspian.

Social issues. The war heroes families complaints on the indifference and mistreatment by the local administration and hospitals continue to arrive. The FB users share a story of the father of the wounded soldier, who was refused free treatment at the state hospital with rude comments and had to do it at his expense in the private one. The group of troops stationed in Lachin region , appealed to the president in the video to reverse the decision to cut their salaries, which they consider highly unjust. The opposition and civil leaders strongly reacted against the decision to cut the salaries of the troops which continue to serve in Lachin. Arif Hajili of Musavat made a statement, where he stresses the big dissatisfaction in the society in regards this policy, especially against the background of rising oil price and mega multimillion projects of the corrupt ministers oligarchs and demands the reversal of the decision. The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection revealed the statistics of unemployment in the country increased by 124, 3 thousand people or almost 50%. This is in spite of declared creation of 150 thousand jobs. Azadlig newspaper reports population of Khachmaz blocking the road Khachmaz-Gimil in protest of its poor condition. Two years ago 35m manat was spent on renovation of the 6 km long road, which has collapsed by now.  The activists also mention that based on Armenian media sugar price has increased by 5% in the country, while in Azerbaijan it increased by 25% and the reasons are unclear. Gubad Ibadoglu argues that in 2006-2020 under the disguise of the construction projects 67,4 bln manats of the budget money were stolen. Only by means of tax, customs and construction since  2003  115, 5 bln manat were misappropriated, which means stealing from each family 51, 750 manat.  The economist Gubad Ibadoglu attracts attention to the unhappiness expressed  by the IDPs in the numerous letters to him, that they disapprove plans of the government on restoration of the liberated lands. He argues, that for almost 3 decades IDPs dreamed of going back to their homes and villages in the regions. People, who lived all these years in the refugee camps, dormitories and train cars do not want to go back to the similar environment, as the government plans to eliminate some small villages by uniting them and putting IDPs in temporary new block houses. Ibadoglu comments, that concentration of construction on a smaller spot connects it to corruption as it makes misappropriation easier. He urges the government to reveal to the public any plan on reconstruction so it would not create problems in the future.

Human rights. The Fb community shares with high concern the information of coma condition of the imprisoned journalist Afghan Sadigov  on the 90th day of hunger strike. The activists and his fellow journalists attract attention to the threat to his life and demand his immediate release. They also decry the new charges against Niyamaddin Ahmadov, the bodyguard of Ali Karimli, and started collecting signatures in the campaign demanding his release.  The historian and opposition leader Jami Hasanli recalls particular cruel conditions of Ahmadov’s imprisonment such as problems in his health due to the tortures, prohibition of communication with his family for 8 months, and the fact the 3d time of changing the charges. He argues that this resulted in the actual blow to the case.  The son of Ogtay Gulaliyev, human rights defender who was hit by a car in 2019, reports that the criminal case regarding negligence of doctors in the City Hospital was closed  due to the lack of corpus delicti and was not sent to the court. However, after his recent visit to the General Prosecutor’s his assistant assured him, that this decision was reversed and the case was opened again. The human rights defender’s son notes that the copies of the decision on closing the case was not sent to the family. Mirvari Gahramanli, the head of NGO protecting oil worker’s rights comments that there is contradiction in the official SOCAR’s statement on absence of reductions in the company, and the notice given to workers about the reductions, based on the Labor Code articles 70 and 77, along with proposal to join the SOCAR program. This program was declared in 2014 and very few of fired workers actually joined it. She also warns them not to sign the agreement on compensation (5 salaries payment), as this will be followed by the refusal of their access to the newly opened jobs in the company. She concludes that company is taking an advantage of the situation when the country is occupied with war and pandemic and leaves the oil workers and the families in even more dire conditions. The journalists share information that the activist Anar Musayev was imprisoned for 25 days.

Protests in Russia and Navalny. Azerbaijani political and civil leaders continue to follow and comment on the situation about Russian opposition leader Navalny. The local media closely  reflects the all national rallies in Russia, including their course in Moscow, St Petersburg, Khabarovsk etc.Many opposition leaders call it “a big day for Russsia”, when Navalny made people go out to the protest squares, and Russian people now live the experience of Azerbaijani people. They call the beginning of the end of Putin. Ilgar Mammadov of REAL, considers that protests indicate deep divide in the Russian economic -political elites and that Putin himself has lost interest to power, judging by his last press-conference. He reports that their party member MP Erkin Gadirli while at the meeting in PACE signed the appeal for the extraordinary session devoted to Navalny.  Fuad Gahramanli of PFP stresses that although Navalny is arrested he won over Putin. He argues that the real victory is in the public opinion, which he recently gained discrediting corrupt deeds of Putin. At the same time, externally the wave of pressure on Putin also is growing, including sanctions on the Nord Stream -2 project. He predicts that authoritarian regime of Putin will face difficult times soon, especially in the context of the elections in the Parliament before the September, which might accelerate even larger scale protests.  Osmangizi TV commentators Arif Shahmarli and Emin Huseynov discussed the popularity of the Navalny’s  film about Putin’s palace and analyze why there was such a little surprise to the discrediting of corruption in Azerbaijan. Jafarli argues that process around Navalny is the indicator  of changes of the Russian society – divide among elite, emergence of a new generation of more European young people etc.- which is triggered by the upcoming elections in Duma. Many activists argue, that the events in Russia will mean the red light to the autocrats in the whole post-Soviet region. Gultakin Hajibeyli of NCDF notes the all national nature of the protests in Russia, courage of the opposition leader and his wife, calls the process “ dismantling of the Putin’s palace” and wishes success to democratic Russia.

The attitude to Navalny also serves as a reflection of  people’s position vis-a-vis government. Those who are pro-government  call him a Western agent, such as Azer Aykhan did, the brother and the deputy of the Yeni  Musavat newspaper’s editor  Rauf Arifoglu. Seymur Hezi of PFP argues, that there are two nightmares for any dictator – media and statistics which is not under control. The Navalny process makes Putin’s nightmare true in both directions, as Fb shows that 80 m people has watched the video. Putin reminds a tsar, who is pressed to a corner, and now society is divided in people in the streets and the tsar in the palace. Ganimad Zahid, a journalist in exile, analyses the current protests and comments that Russia, that values democracy and freedom,  is catching up, because there are people who want change in each layer of the society.

The FB shares the reaction of Putin’s press secretary Dmitri Peskov to the rallies, that “ very few people came out to the streets, while majority supports Putin”. The activists argue that  change of power in Russia and democratization there will positively influence situation in Azerbaijan and will remove obstacles on the way of Euro-integration of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Joe Biden’s first days in the office. Fb community shares the policies of US president Joe Biden, such as cancellation of 4 decrees by Trump-building the wall on the borders with Mexico, exit from the Paris Climate Convention, exit from the World Health Organization, prohibition of the immigration from the Muslim states. There are reports about pressure of the pro-Armenian senators on the administration in the eve of the approval of the new State Secretary.

Relations with the West. The recognition of the new delegation of Azerbaijan to PACE was met with ambiguity in the society. Altay Geyushov commented with irony that in the meantime the Council of Europe quietly accepted the new delegation of the “ fake” deputies of Azerbaijani parliament and called PACE – swindlers, as contributing to the shaping of despotism while shouting about human rights, requires shamelessness. Bakhtiyar Hajiyev, the youth leader, recalls that last year while his alternative in the parliamentary elections Nigar Arpadarai was sleeping at home, he was conducting door to door campaign to collect the votes. “The elections were extremely falsified, you were put in my chair, and now I sleep, while you are on a trip to Strasbourg to the PACE session. That’s why never forget to thank the Supreme Commander Ilham Aliyev for his “fair” decision. I do not forget”, concludes Hajiyev.


Январь 26, 2021