The actions of the local police while detaining those breaking lockdown rules in Baku resulted in public outrage. The same reaction followed in response to the violence shown by Russian forces to Azerbaijan citizens who cannot return to their homeland due to the lockdown and are forced to stay in a tent camp at the border with Dagestan.
Police Operation Condemned by Civil Society
June saw a development that spawned angry public response to police actions. On June 7 a violent attempt by police to detain those violating lockdown rules took place in the Yasamal district in the capital of Baku, which resulted in negative reactions among local residents. They started to throw garbage and plastic bottles from their balconies, aiming at the police. In response to this in the morning of June 8 local police units surrounded the building and without showing their search warrants started to break into apartments. As a result of this police operation 11 people were detained. The arrest was filmed on camera by the police and uploaded into social networks. One of the videos features scenes of a police unit breaking into an apartment where a young man was sleeping and detaining him without allowing him to put on his clothes. He was forced into the police car wearing nothing but his underwear. Later, the detained stated they had been violently beaten in the police station.
The explosion of public indignation followed. In social networks citizens assessed the actions of the police as immoral abuse of power. The National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF) condemned the operation stating that the Ministry of the Internal Affairs violates the Constitution and crosses the line of moral ethics and law. The authorities were forced to back down and apologize for what had happened. This incident was an illustrative example of high tensions on the rise between authorities and the local society.
“Police attempt to detain violators of lockdown rules in Baku resulted in negative reactions among local residents”
Azerbaijan’s GDP Went Down
In June, the State Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan announced economic results for the first five months of the current year. The government, for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, reported the decrease of Azerbaijan’s GDP. According to the State Statistical Committee, in January-May 2020 GDP production (AZN 27 billion 480 million) went down by 1,7% against the same period in 2019, with non-oil GDP rate decrease leaving behind the total dynamic. The share of non-oil sector made up 66,3% of GDP production within the five months of this year.
The executive director of the Center for analysis of economic reforms and communications Vusal Gasimli stated that by 2020 the total foreign debt of Azerbaijan made up $9,1 billion – about 17% of the country’s GDP. According to him, the debt strategy provides for the bigger return of the national debt by 2025 than new debts and will gradually go down to 12%.
At the end of June, the Central Bank of Azerbaijan reported having foreign currency reserves on the level of $ 6 billion 436 million 300 thousand, that went up by 2,8% against the beginning of the year.
In June, the Central Bank of the Republic of Azerbaijan decreased the bank rate from 7,25% to 7%. Moreover, the Central Bank expects that by the end of 2020 the inflation will reach 3-3,5%.
This month Azerbaijan also saw new amendments into the Tax Code coming into force as well as the law on social insurance that provides for tax deductions and other incentives as well as tax holidays for enterprises (including small and medium businesses) due to significant changes in economic conditions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). According to the amendments, the legislature provides for some measures in order to improve the financial situation of taxpayers and introduce temporary tax regime in the country starting January 1 till the end of the year.
Controversial Relations with Russia and Improved EU Attitude
June saw some significant events taking place on the border between Azerbaijan and Russia. On June 15 the citizens of Azerbaijan located in a tent camp in Kullar, Dagestan, held a desperate protest rally in an attempt to come back to Azerbaijan. The protesters were massing on the main road in order to attract attention to the situation at the border. The protest was violently broken up by the Russian special police unit OMON. The social networks and Azeri mass media featured video coverage of violent beatings of Azerbaijani citizens by the Russian police unit. This resulted in the outbreak of negative reactions among Azerbaijan’s civil society. Approximately 100 people were detained, while criminal charges were presses in 10 cases. However, these events were followed by a faster process of Azeri citizens crossing the border between their homeland and Russia.
On June 2 Azerbaijan’s Minister of Defence Zakir Hasanov was interviewed by the local media and stated that April battles of 2016 aimed at liberating parts of Azeri territories were put on hold after a phone call from Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu. The interview launched a controversial response. There was an outbreak of angry comments in the mass media and social networks regarding Russia interfering with Azerbaijan’s domestic affairs, as well as regarding Azeri top officials following orders of their Russian counterparts.
President Ilham Aliyev refused to visit Moscow for participating in the military parade, quoting the pandemic as the main reason.
As opposed to this, June saw positive development of relations between Azerbaijan and the European Union. On June 18, in the course of EaP Summit video conference the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev stated that cooperation with the European Union is one of Azerbaijan’s most important foreign policy priorities.
On June 20 the European Parliament adopted a resolution under the name “Draft European Parliament Recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the Eastern Partnership, in the run-up to the June 2020 Summit”. This document is drafted having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 20 May 2010 on the need for an EU strategy for the South Caucasus, where chapters 8 and 10 of this resolution call the territories with Armenian forces “occupied lands”.
In chapters (b o) of the new resolution there is a call to immediate withdrawal of foreign military contingent from all occupied territories. The resolution was embraced by Azerbaijani officials.
Photo: Opposition activist Amrakhov detained in Azerbaijan
Source: Caucasian Knot