South-Caucasus Geopolitical Watch – from 10 December to 16 December 2022

09-12/12/2022: New European investments in the partnership with Georgia.

According to the press release of the Georgian Ministry of Defence dated 9 December, the Council of the European Union has approved “another package of financial assistance to Georgia within the framework of the European Peace Facility” from an amount of 20 million euros which, for the first time “will provide support to Georgia in the field of cybersecurity”.

On 12 December, the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, for his part, announced via Twitter the allocation of 2.3 billion euros aimed at creating the strategic submarine electric cable of the Black Sea between Georgia and the EU.

10/12/2022: Critical statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry on the Geneva International Discussions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed through Denis Gonchar, director of the 4th CIS department of this institution, in an interview published on 10 December by the TASS news agency, its dissatisfaction with decision-making “behind the scenes, without consulting all participants” by the co-chairs of the UN, the OSCE and the European Union who “contrary to the assurances given […] have not been able to ensure the restoration of the old work rhythm of the Geneva format” and decided to “take a break in the discussions again, this time until February 2023”. He thus declared: “we can see the real background of what is happening: our colleagues in Washington and Brussels have decided to set geopolitics in motion also in the Transcaucasian direction” while underlining: “the imperative of ensuring regular contacts between official representatives of Tbilisi, Sukhum and Tskhinval [which] becomes evident in the context of provocative appeals from Kyiv and various Western capitals to the Georgian authorities to open a “second front” against Russia in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia”.

He also reported on the development of bilateral relations with Georgia by mentioning “the uninterrupted operation of the only highway operating between [the two] countries […] the construction of a tunnel under the Krestovy Pass […] the Upper Lars checkpoint […] being expanded” highlighting the “pragmatic line” of the Georgian government and the 51% increase in trade between the two countries in the first 10 months of 2022 and approaching a record $2 billion.

An interview published by RIA Novosti the following day with Abkhaz “Prime Minister” Alexander Ankvab stated his positions regarding a possible escalation with Georgia in these terms: “We never let our guard down in any situation, especially in the current environment. Especially when there was a lot of information about several emissaries from different European countries, especially from Poland, coming to provoke the opening of a second front”. He also brought forward the end of the year 2024 for the commissioning of Sokhoumi airport and commented on the issue of the energy supply of the “republic” saying: “here we cannot continue without Russian investments, [we need to take steps] for a Russian investor to come in, and he needs to understand the relevant legislation that governs legal relations in the energy sector. So far, this legislation is not suitable for Russian investors and we are working to improve it” while defending Abkhazia’s desire to remain an “independent sovereign state“.

12-16/12/2022: Blockade of the Lachin Corridor by pro-government Azerbaijani environmental activists.

From 12 December, a group of Azerbaijani environmental activists began a protest action in Shusha on the road leading to Khankendi to, according to the media, “demand an end to environmental terror in the economic region of Karabakh”, information also confirmed by the local police in the morning, who also denounced later in the day via Facebook the blocking of the highway connecting “Artsakh to Armenia” and stating: “In violation of humanitarian rights international organizations, Azerbaijan is trying to create a humanitarian catastrophe in Artsakh. Hundreds of citizens, including minors, were blocked on the road. Some of them returned to Goris, and citizens who had been waiting for hours on the Stepanakert-Shushi section were transferred to Stepanakert under the escort of traffic officers. It has become impossible to transport medical supplies, medicines and patients with serious health problems”. The following day, it officially announced the figures of “1,100 civilians, including 270 minors” unable to return home

Several local media (Eurasianet, Ocmédia) relayed the information according to which these demonstrators were protesting against the refusal of the Russian blue helmets to let them monitor the mining activity of Aghdara/Martakert while asking to meet the commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces, General Andrei Volkov. A monitoring visit originally scheduled for 10 December, following talks between Azerbaijani state officials and Russian peacekeeping forces on 3 and 7 December, was prevented by locals of the region and employees of the mining organization. The Azerbaijani state denounces illegal mining in the Qizilbulaq gold and Damirli copper-molybdenum deposits.

The “Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Artsakh” on the same day denounced “another manifestation of Baku’s genocidal policy” while the “National Assembly” of the self-proclaimed republic denounced the use of “phosphorus bombs against the civilian population of Artsakh“. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said during his speech at the 4th World Forum “against the crime of genocide”: “Today we are witnessing consistent actions that make increasingly objective the fears that Azerbaijan actually organizes and prepares a genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh. And in this regard, I must highlight the provocations that take place, in particular, in the Lachin corridor […] I must emphasize that the Lachin corridor is a genocide prevention corridor, because closing this corridor […] actually means condemn the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to genocide according to three different scenarios. The first scenario can be that of the pure and simple expulsion of the Armenians. […] The next scenario that could play out is loss of identity which I think is also a possible model for genocide.[…] And the third scenario is physical annihilation”.

Foreign Policy Adviser to Azerbaijani President Hikmet Hajiyev spoke on 13 December during a briefing in Baku to diplomats and military attaches accredited to Azerbaijan during which he, according to the Foreign Ministry press release, said: “The road to Lachin was not closed by Azerbaijani protesters, but by the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation. Representatives of Azerbaijani civil society try to prevent the illegal transport of looted natural resources and do not interfere with the movement of civilian vehicles. […] The comments of the Armenian government on the events unfolding on the territories of Azerbaijan are an indication that the territorial claims of Armenia against Azerbaijan are still ongoing”. Yet on the same day, the daily news bulletin on the activities of the Russian peacekeeping contingent specified: “On 12 December, the Stepanakert-Goris highway was blocked by the Azerbaijani side. The command of the Russian peacekeeping contingent is negotiating with representatives of Azerbaijan to resume unhindered movement of civilian vehicles along the Stepanakert-Goris road”.

On 13 December, denunciations of gas supply cuts by the Azerbaijani side came via Twitter from the “mediator of Nagorno-Karabakh”, Gegham Stepanian, and the ambassador at large of Armenia, Edmon Marukyan, information denied the next day by the Azerbaijani public gas distribution company “Azerigas” explaining: “the gas supply of the territories where the Russian blue helmets are temporarily stationed is provided by Armenia, and these territories are not integrated into the system of our country’s gas supply. In addition, please note that relevant technical diagnostic work will be carried out in the next few days on the part of the gas pipeline that crosses the territories controlled by Azerbaijan”.

On 14 December, the “President of Nagorno-Karabakh” Arayik Haroutiounian, signed a decree providing for “the restriction of the right of freedom of movement on the territory of the Republic of Artsakh, […] the establishment of a regime special to leave the specified territory […] the protection of facilities that ensure the vital activities of the population […] the restriction of the right to freedom of assembly, the prohibition of strikes and other demonstrations […] the creation of an operational headquarters to ensure the implementation of these provisions”.

On the same day, the spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, demanded via Twitter that “the Azerbaijani government [restore] free movement in the corridor” as well as the French ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs through a press release, while the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry twice denied responsibility for the road blockage.

On 15 December, according to the media, new demands emerged as the movement was joined every day by new demonstrators sleeping on the spot, namely “the restoration of control of all state institutions of Azerbaijan, including the Ministry of Interior, the State Border Service, the State Customs Committee on Sovereign Lands of Azerbaijan, and the establishment of their respective checkpoints, especially on the border with Azerbaijan and Armenia in Lachin‘. On the same day, Nikol Pashinian denounced the taking of 120,000 people hostage and the deprivation of their right to education for 22,000 children, during his statements to the Cabinet of Ministers, while the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, Djeyhoun Bayramov again denied any Azerbaijani involvement in the disruption of gas supplies to Karabakh during his APA-reported briefing.

On 16 December, the 5th day of protest, according to several local media (Turan, JamNews, …), a new meeting between representatives of the Ministries of Economy and Ecology of Azerbaijan and the command of the Russian blue helmets would have took place in Khojaly.

12/12/2022: Statements by Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in Brussels.

On the occasion of the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Eastern Partnership in Brussels on 12 December, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Djeyhoun Bayramov reaffirmed during his speech that his country was “resolute in its desire to reintegrate its citizens from of Armenian origin residing in the post-conflict territories, guaranteeing the same rights and freedoms as for all Azerbaijani citizens” while demanding respect for the principles of “impartiality, [of] neutrality, [of] strict respect for international law and [of] consent of the parties” and denouncing Armenia’s “past practice of imitation” criticizing the failure to withdraw “its illegal armed formations from Azerbaijani territories“, the artificial delay in the “restoration of transport links”, “reckless provocations along the state’s undemarcated border in mid-September”, “a smear campaign” and “the role of certain third parties in emboldening the vengeful behaviouir of Armenia“.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan said, after highlighting the Eastern Partnership’s contribution to Armenia’s “democratic transition“: “One of the Eastern Partners, Azerbaijan, not only continuously threatens to use force against the Republic of Armenia, but has also committed several acts of aggression currently occupying more than 140 km2 of the sovereign territory of Armenia. […] In addition, over the past year, Azerbaijan has repeatedly attempted to ethnically cleanse the remaining 120,000 people of Nagorno-Karabakh by threatening the operation of the “road of life”, the Lachin Corridor, agreed by the Trilateral Declaration of 9 November 2020. […] Through its belligerent rhetoric and threats of the use of force, Azerbaijan is trying to make concessions to Armenia. In this regard, I would like to stress that the European Union and its Member States, which aim to contribute to the security of our region, should draw certain red lines”.

On 15 December, new reciprocal accusations of breaking the ceasefire came, with the Armenian Defence Ministry denouncing Azerbaijani fire “at the Armenian combat positions of Norabak and Srashen” and the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry denouncing firing “in the direction of Yellija and Zaylik settlements of Kelbajar region and Ahmadli settlement of Lachin region” on 14 December and “in the direction of Khojavand region” on 15 December by an “illegal Armenian armed detachment”, , an accusation renewed on 16 December concerning shooting “in the direction of the settlement of Goyalli in the Gadabay region and the settlement of Zaylik in the Kelbajar region”.

12/13/2022: Two Georgian fighters killed in Ukraine.

According to, which would hold this information directly from the Georgian Ministry of Defence, two more Georgian fighters were killed in Ukraine near Bakhmut on 13 December, which would bring to 28 people the “unofficial number of Georgian citizens killed in action in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022”.

12/13/2022: Mikheil Saakashvili accused of “simulation” and “obstructing” the activity of doctors by the Georgian Minister of Justice.

In an interview with the Rustavi 2 TV channel on 13 December, Georgian Justice Minister Rati Bregadze said that Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president imprisoned and treated at the Vivamedi clinic since 12 May, hampered the activity of the doctors but also that of the Court, by engaging in “certain simulations“, for which there was “corresponding evidence” and that he would be forced to reveal certain images if this pressure to obtain his release didn’t stop. This warning was carried out via facebook by the Special Prison Service on 14 December, which was described as a “criminal offence” by Mikheil Saakashvili’s lawyer.

On 14 December, according to several local media (, Mtavari TV, the lawyer for the principal concerned, Shalva Kachapuridze, announced that the former president had started a hunger strike the same day to be refused to attend his hearing at the Tribunal by videoconference for technical reasons. This hearing was to continue deliberations regarding a possible suspension or postponement of his sentence. Later, he would have announced to have suspended this strike at the request of several MEPs to whom he would have declared: “I am not sick because I did not eat on purpose, but because I am poisoned“.

According to the statement from the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, Ambassador Kelly Degnan responded on 15 December to the media on this matter at the National Gender Equality Conference saying, “The government has the responsibility to ensure that his human rights are respected, that he receives the medical and psychological care he needs and that he receives a fair trial. Basically, it is the responsibility of the government”. The head of the EU delegation to Georgia, Pawel Herczynski, reportedly, according to, said in similar terms that it was the responsibility of the Georgian authorities to “ensure that all his rights [are] fully respected, his rights as a prisoner, but also his rights as an accused” and that in the 21st century, “in a place as advanced as Tbilisi, it [was] difficult to understand why it was not possible for [Mikheïl Saakashvili ] to appear in court”. On 15 December, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement expressing concern over “the significant deterioration in the state of health of Ukrainian citizen Mikheil Saakashvili” and asking Georgia to grant the request for postponement of his sentence in order to transfer him to a European or American clinic.

12/13/2022: The Anaklia Development Consortium responds to the Prime Minister’s desire for state participation of up to 51% in the deep-water port project.

The Anaklia Development Consortium responded on 13 December via Facebook to the words of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, on 12 December, relayed by local media (, and according to which the deep water port would be built : “with the participation of the government, which will then hold 51%” and that “an international competition [would] be announced to select the partners and companies that will participate in the project“. According to him, Badri Japaridze and Mamuka Khazaradze – the founders of TBC Bank which was part of the consortium and the opposition party “Lelo for Georgia” have “failed in their obligations” by spending 3 million dollars on the project but in only attracting a total of $20-25 million from investors.

The consortium thus reported “a series of false statements” on the project, recalling that the dispute between the Consortium and the Georgian government on the project was currently in arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva. He said of the 51% state ownership: “This is the kind of corrupt and deceptive privatization and concession process that has been attempted in Georgia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union. in the 1990s […] no serious investor and no international financial institution will participate in or lend to a major project such as this if it is majority-controlled by the Georgian state, especially given the demonstrated unreliability of the Georgian state as a partner in many business cases”.

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