Iraqi, Armenian presidents hold talks in Baghdad to boost ties

Feb 28 2024

BAGHDAD: Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and his Armenian counterpart Vahagn Khachaturyan met in Baghdad and discussed means to enhance bilateral ties in various aspects.

A statement by the media office of the Iraqi presidency said on Tuesday that the two leaders discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields, including the economy, trade and investment, Xinhua news agency reported.

During the meeting, Rashid stressed the importance of intensifying international efforts to "continue combating the threat of terrorist organisations and extremist ideology that target the security and lives of everyone without exception, " the statement said.

Rashid also commented on the tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan, stressing Iraq's position calling for dialogue and adopting political solutions to settle their differences.

Later on Tuesday, the two Presidents held a joint conference, during which Rashid welcomed Khachaturyan and expressed his readiness to "work with his Armenian counterpart to make this visit an essential milestone in improving relations between the two countries".

For his part, the Armenian President told the press conference that the talks discussed ways to develop bilateral relations and many issues related to regional developments.

"We stressed the need to reach a peaceful settlement of existing conflicts based on the rules of international law and respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and equality among all countries, " Khachaturyan added.

Caucasus: The credit outlook for the region is generally good – ratings agency

Feb 27 2024
Feb 27, 2024

Fitch Ratings is cautiously optimistic about the creditworthiness of the South Caucasus states of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. But in a recent call with reporters to discuss the regional outlook, Fitch analysts acknowledged that geopolitics is a wildcard when it comes to predicting the region’s financial future.

According to Fitch, the three countries are not in danger of defaulting on their obligations, but neither are they seen as particularly safe investment opportunities. 

Azerbaijan enjoys the highest Fitch rating among the three South Caucasus states with a BB+/positive outlook, just one notch below investment grade. Fitch analyst Erich Arispe Morales applauded the government’s “fiscal prudence” as it strives to reduce its dependence on hydrocarbon export revenues. The country’s key task in the coming years is developing non-energy sectors of the economy, he said. 

Morales told reporters via Zoom that the need to generate comparatively high levels of revenue will remain strong as the Azerbaijani government proceeds with the reconstruction of Nagorno-Karabakh. Baku completed its reconquest of Karabakh in 2023. At present, a significant drop in energy prices could upend Baku’s efforts to maintain fiscal discipline.

Georgia and Armenia have been “unexpected beneficiaries” of the war in Ukraine, due to “large” inflows of capital and migrants, mainly from Russia, Fitch analyst Arvind Ramakrishnan said. Even so, the two countries continue to grapple with geopolitical uncertainty, due mainly to extensive trade ties that both countries have with Russia.

Fitch currently gives Georgia a BB/positive outlook rating. While Ramakrishnan offered general praise for the Georgian Dream government’s management of the economy, he noted that the country’s political climate is “quite divisive.” Pointing to parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall, he added that there is a wide expectation that the country will maintain fiscal continuity, given that the Georgian Dream coalition is widely expected to secure reelection.

In its latest ratings assessment, Fitch expressed concern about the International Monetary Fund’s decision in late 2023 to suspend a lending program due to concerns about a governmental move to reorganize the Georgian Central Bank’s operating structure. The changes appeared to pose a threat to the bank’s policy-making independence. 

“The fiscal impact of the suspension of the IMF program … remains limited, but questions over policy credibility remain unresolved,” the Fitch assessment reads.

Ramakrishnan also said geopolitics “does weigh on [Georgia’s] rating,” going on to acknowledge that there is “no getting away from the fact” that Georgia maintains “very strong” trade relations as it strives to gain European Union membership. As for Tbilisi’s EU membership bid, Ramakrishnan said there are a “lot of complications” and it will be a “slow process.”

Armenia enjoys a BB-/stable outlook from Fitch. Ramakrishnan said the sudden influx of roughly 100,000 ethnic Armenians from Karabakh will have a “short-term negative impact” on the government’s budget, requiring increased state outlays for refugee resettlement. But he predicted that “fiscal consolidation” over the medium- and long-term will not be undermined by the refugee crisis.

The big question mark hanging over Yerevan is the country’s relationship with Russia. In the wake of Azerbaijan’s retaking of Karabakh, Armenian officials have moved to distance themselves from Russia and build stronger relationships with the West. But any westward pivot will be complicated by Armenia’s trade dependency on Russia, Ramakrishnan indicated. He said the possibility of Armenia successfully decoupling trade ties from Russia was “unlikely.”   

Fitch Ratings, along with Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, comprise the Big Three global credit rating agencies. A BB rating in Fitch’s system indicates that a sovereign government has the means to meet debt obligations, but nonetheless has “an elevated vulnerability to default risk, particularly in the event of adverse changes in business or economic conditions over time.”

New Azerbaijani attack on Armenia ‘highly likely’, Pashinyan warns


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 23, ARMENPRESS. An Azerbaijani attack against Armenia is ‘highly likely’, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan has warned.

“Upon analyzing the statements coming out of official Baku, we conclude that indeed an attack on Armenia is highly likely,” Pashinyan said in an interview with France 24. “Why? Because, for example, Baku very often makes statements about the so-called Western Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is basically calling the entire Republic of Armenia ‘Western Azerbaijan’, calling the territories of the Republic of Armenia as Azerbaijani ones. On the diplomatic level Azerbaijan is assuring that it doesn’t have intentions to attack, but where do these opinions on the likelihood of an attack come from? First of all, upon expressing the publicly agreed principles in the text of the peace treaty we see some difficulties caused by Azerbaijan. Secondly, it is the public narrative voiced on the highest level, which, in short, is reflected in calling the Republic of Armenia as ‘Western Azerbaijan’. Third, the aggressiveness on the border. For example, the latest incident, when we had four deaths, this incident wasn’t anyhow justified. They stated that one of their soldiers was wounded, and we stated that we would investigate, because there’s an order not to carry out any unjustified actions, and if it turns out that there is a violation of that order there would be consequences envisaged by law. Despite these statements, Azerbaijan took advantage of that occasion in order to display aggression. It is the combination of these facts that leads many Armenian and international experts to conclude that Azerbaijan is planning a new attack on Armenia.”

RFE/RL Armenian Service – 02/22/2024


Major Differences Remain On Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Deal

Armenia- Deputy Foreign Minister Vahan Kostanian speaks to jounalists, July 28, 

Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to disagree on some key terms of a bilateral 
peace treaty discussed by them, a senior Armenian official said on Thursday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Vahan Kostanian did not disclose them in comments to 
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan spoke last month of a “significant regression” 
in Azerbaijan’s position on the treaty. In particular, he indicated that Baku is 
reluctant to explicitly recognize Armenia’s borders through such an accord.

Senior Azerbaijani officials have said in recent months that the two sides 
should sign the treaty before agreeing on the delimitation of the 
Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Armenian analysts and opposition figures suggested 
that Baku wants to leave the door open for territorial claims to Armenia.

The Armenian government accused Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev of making 
such claims after he renewed in early January his demands for Armenia to 
withdraw from “eight Azerbaijani villages” and open an extraterritorial corridor 
to Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave. Aliyev also rejected Yerevan’s insistence 
on using the most recent Soviet military maps to delimit the long border between 
the two South Caucasus countries.

Armen Grigorian, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, said on Wednesday 
that the “regression” remained in the latest Azerbaijani proposals received by 
Yerevan this month. It applies to key provisions of the would-be treaty, he said 
without elaborating.

Grigorian insisted at the same time that the two sides could narrow their 
differences during Mirzoyan’s upcoming talks with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister 
Jeyhun Bayramov.

Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reached an agreement on the 
talks when they met in Munich last Saturday. No date has been set for them yet.

Azeri Man Wanted By Armenia Allowed To Leave Russia

        • Naira Bulghadarian

Azerbaijan - Azerbaijani fitness coach Kamil Zeinali wanted by Armenia is 
greeted at Baku airport, .,

Russia allowed an Azerbaijani man accused by Armenia of beheading a 
Nagorno-Karabakh civilian during the 2020 war to return to Azerbaijan on 
Thursday one day after briefly detaining him at a Moscow airport.

The man, Kamil Zeynalli, was apprehended at the Domodedovo international airport 
on an Armenian arrest warrant and freed a few hours later. A Russian court was 
reportedly due to start on Thursday hearings on his possible extradition to 

Russian authorities did not immediately explain why Zeynalli was allowed to fly 
back to Baku. Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Russia, Polad Bulbuloglu, was reported 
to say that his mission held “intensive negotiations” with the authorities and 
managed to convince them that the accusations brought against him are baseless.

A spokesman for the Armenian Interior Ministry, Narek Sargsian, said that 
shortly after Zeynalli’s detention it was contacted by Moscow and confirmed that 
the Azerbaijani national known as a fitness coach is wanted for the war crime 
allegedly committed by him. Sargsian again gave no details of the accusation 
which stems from the beheading of an elderly resident of Karabakh’s southern 
Hadrut district captured by Azerbaijani forces during the six-week war.

Sargsian also told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that his ministry has put together 
a “package of documents” required for the suspect’s potential extradition and 
will send them to Russian law-enforcement authorities. Ara Ghazarian, an 
Armenian expert on international law, dismissed the move as overdue and useless.

“If that person is not in Russia, Russia can no longer initiate an extradition 
process,” argued Ghazarian. “It is Azerbaijan that must initiate it, but 
Azerbaijan, of course, will not do that.”

He said Moscow’s decision to let the suspect return home is politically 
motivated and reflects mounting tensions in Russian-Armenian relations.

Lawmaker Contradicts Armenian Official’s Claim On Russian Troops

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenian - Russian border guards stationed in Syunik province are inspected by 
Russian Ambassador Sergei Kopyrkin, May 24, 2022.

Russian troops are not deployed in or around a border village where four 
Armenian soldiers were killed last week, a pro-government lawmaker said on 
Thursday, contradicting a senior Armenian official’s claim about Russia’s 
responsibility for the Azerbaijani ceasefire violation.

The remote village, Nerkin Hand, is located in Armenia’s southeastern Syunik 
province bordering Azerbaijan and Iran. It is half-surrounded by Azerbaijani 
army posts.

Armen Grigorian, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, blamed the 
Russians for the deadly incident there as he defended on Wednesday the European 
Union’s monitoring mission along the Armenian-Azerbaijan regularly criticized by 

“The EU monitoring mission has no access [to the border village] and only Russia 
does,” he told journalists. “Russia is present there and it failed to prevent 
the incident.”

Narek Ghahramanian, a Syunik-based parliamentarian representing Armenia’s ruling 
Civil Contract party, insisted, however, that “there is no Russian presence in 
the village or in the positions” around it held by Armenian forces. He said 
Russian troops only have a checkpoint on a road leading to Nerkin Hand.

“Honestly, they are not present in our positions and could not have prevented or 
failed to prevent [the cross-border Azerbaijani fire,]” Ghahramanian told 
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

Armenia - A convoy of European Union monitors is seen in Syunik province, 
October 20, 2022.

The head of the EU mission, Markus Ritter, said on Wednesday that the Russian 
side has not allowed his monitors to visit Nerkin Hand and patrol that section 
of the border. Grigorian echoed the claim, saying that the Armenian authorities 
“will try to address the problem.”

Ghahramanian said in this regard that while he has heard complaints about the 
Russian checkpoint he personally has never encountered any problems during his 
visits to Nerkin Hand.

“I have gone there, guests from Yerevan have gone there, and villagers enter and 
leave [the village.] They [the Russians] don’t check anyone,” he said.

At the same time, the lawmaker questioned the effectiveness of Russian military 
presence in Syunik, saying that Russian soldiers and border guards have not used 
force to prevent or stop Azerbaijani truce violations.

“What’s the point of their staying there if [the Azerbaijanis] are going to 
continue to shoot?” said the lawmaker.

Russia deployed troops to Syunik during and shortly after the 2020 war in 
Nagorno-Karabakh to help the Armenian military defend the strategic region 
against possible Azerbaijani attacks. Russian-Armenian relations have 
significantly deteriorated since then, with Yerevan accusing Moscow of not 
honoring its security commitments to Armenia.

France Reportedly Ships More Military Equipment To Armenia

        • Astghik Bedevian

France - French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu (right) and his Armenian 
counterpart Suren Papikian sign an agreement in Paris, October 23, 2023.

France’s Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu flew to Yerevan on Thursday as 
Armenia reportedly received French military hardware acquired by it last October.

A deal signed by the Armenian Defense Ministry and the French defense group 
Thales at the time called for the sale of three sophisticated radar systems to 
the South Caucasus nation. Lecornu and his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikian 
attended the signing ceremony in Paris.

The GM200 radars can simultaneously detect and track multiple warplanes, drones 
and even rockets within a 250-kilometer radius, allowing air-defense units to 
hit such targets. France supplied two such systems to Ukraine a year ago.

France’s Le Figaro daily and AFP news agency reported that the three radars as 
well as French night-vision equipment will be shipped to Armenia on Thursday. 
The Armenian Defense Ministry declined to comment on those reports.

Lecornu stressed on Wednesday the “purely defensive” character of these and 
other French arms supplies. Armenia is facing “major security challenges,” he 
told the French broadcaster RTL in a clear reference to the risk of an 
Azerbaijani attack on the country.

Lecornu headed to Armenia the day after French President Emmanuel Macron and 
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian met in Paris ahead of an official 
ceremony to inter Missak Manouchian, an ethnic Armenian hero of the French 
Resistance to Nazi occupation, at the national Pantheon.

“We will continue our defense cooperation with Armenia,” Macron said at the 
start of the meeting. He urged Azerbaijan to explicitly recognize Armenia’s 
borders and enable Nagorno-Karabakh’s displaced population to return to its 
homeland “freely and rapidly.”

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry condemned Macron’s statement, saying that it 
could only create “new tensions” in the region.

UAE - A French ACMAT Bastion armoured personnel carrier at a defense exhibition 
in Abu Dhabi, February 25, 2015.

Lecornu and Papikian are scheduled to meet on Friday. Andranik Kocharian, the 
chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on defense and security, did not 
rule out that more French-Armenian agreements could be signed as a result of 
their talks.

“Armenia seeks to acquire weapons of very high quality from multiple sources,” 
Kocharian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.

The two ministers signed in October a “letter of intent” on the future delivery 
of French short-range surface-to-air missiles to Armenia. It emerged afterwards 
that France will also supply a total of 50 armored personnel carriers. The first 
batch of 24 Bastion vehicles apparently bound for Armenia was spotted in the 
Georgian port of Poti in December.

Kocharian also stressed the importance of France’s pledge to train Armenian 
military personnel. According to Le Figaro and AFP, the French military will 
hold three “mountain combat training courses” for them this year.

Russia has long been Armenia’s principal supplier of weapons and ammunition. But 
with Russian-Armenian relations worsening and Russia embroiled in the 
large-scale war with Ukraine, Yerevan is increasingly looking for other arms 
suppliers. Since September 2022, it has also signed a number of defense 
contracts with India reportedly worth at least $400 million.

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2024 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.


France to honour foreign Resistance member: who was Missak Manouchian?

Feb 20 2024

A mural of Manouchian, and the Panthéon where he will be interred with his wife Pic: OKcamera / Shutterstock / Abaca Press / Alamy Stock Photo

France will add its 82nd person to the Panthéon tomorrow (February 21), a hero of the French Resistance movement during World War Two who was executed shortly before liberation.

Armenian-born Missak Manouchian will be interred in the building, alongside his wife Mélinée, becoming only the seventh non-French born person given the honour.

The Manouchians will be the first people interred in the Panthéon since Joséphine Baker in 2021 (although her remains are still in Monaco).

President Emmanuel Macron will lead the ceremony, which will also see 23 of Mr Manouchian’s Resistance member comrades who were executed alongside him ‘symbolically’ represented in the chamber for their actions during World War Two.

Although not as well known as some of the other Resistance members such as Jean Moulin, Manouchian was a dedicated guerilla fighter in Paris throughout the war, and has been memorialised in songs and poems. 

Manouchian was born in 1906 to Armenian parents, in what was then the Ottoman Empire. His parents died in the Armenian genocide, after which he was orphaned in Lebanon. 

As this was a French protectorate at the time, Manouchian was able to eventually move to Paris, where he worked both as a model for sculptors and as a factory worker in a Citroën plant.

He became a member of his local trade union, and then a member of the French Communist Party in the 1930s – this means he will be the first ‘official’ Communist to be memorialised in the Panthéon. 

As a foreigner, Manouchian could not join the army and was evacuated from the Paris area in 1939, settling in Normandy, but quickly after the occupation he joined the local Resistance movement. 

He was arrested in a round-up of ‘anti-communist’ members of society by the German soldiers, but through his wife Mélinée secured a release, and he immediately returned to Resistance activities.

Originally, led the Armenian section of the underground Resistance.

France had seen a large influx of Armenians after the genocide, and Manouchian was friends with the Aznavour family – which included the future singer Charles Aznavour – who were part of his group.

He later became a gunman and saboteur attached to the FTP (Francs-tireurs et partisans), the Resistance movement led by the Communist Party, carrying out activities in Paris.

His group was known for many high-profile sabotages and assassinations, but eventually an informer gave away information about the group, leading to Manouchian’s arrest in 1943.

Manouchian and 23 others under his command – those who will also be symbolically memorialised in the Panthéon – were subject to months of torture, before being assassinated on February 21, 1944, exactly 80 years before tomorrow’s ceremony. 

Manouchian missed the beginning of French liberation by just a few months, but his efforts have been remembered, particularly by those from foreign backgrounds. 

The positive perception of the Armenian diaspora by the French in the latter half of the 20th century was in part due to Manouchian’s actions during the Resistance, some historians have argued.

He is also well known for his poignant last letter to his wife written just before his execution.

A particular section reads:

“I wish for happiness for all those who will survive and taste the sweetness of the freedom and peace of tomorrow… At the moment of death, I proclaim that I have no hatred for the German people, or for anyone at all… The German people, and all other people, will live in peace and brotherhood after the war, which will not last much longer. Happiness for all.” 

He also implored his wife to remarry and have a child, as it was his 'greatest regret' that he was unable to be a father to her children. She remained unmarried for the rest of her life, however.

The letter inspired a poem by Louis Aragon (Strophes pour se souvenir) alongside a song by French singer Léo Ferré (L’affiche Rouge) with both use excerpts of the letter. 

A film released about Manouchian and his group sparked a fierce historical debate over the traitor who handed him over to the German soldiers, but later analysis of police records confirmed it was not a politician but a member of the group who was captured and tortured.

Armenia to Acquire Historical Building in Paris for 23 Million Euros to House Embassy

Feb 15 2024
In a significant move, the Armenian government has announced its intention to acquire a historical building in Paris, valued at 23 million euros, to house its embassy in France. The decision, made during a cabinet meeting on February 15, 2024, marks an important milestone in Armenia's diplomatic history.

The building, nestled in the prestigious 16th arrondissement of Paris, carries significant historical weight. Once owned by the late third president of France, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, it stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of French history. The Armenian government's decision to purchase this property underscores its commitment to preserving and celebrating such historical significance.

The seller has agreed to part with the property for 23 million euros, a figure that, while substantial, is believed to be lower than the building's actual market value. The process of acquiring the building is expected to take between three to four months, during which the Armenian government will make state payments amounting to 7.5% of the building's value to facilitate the transaction.

The funds for this significant purchase will be allocated from the Armenian government's 2024 state budget, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs receiving the necessary resources to complete the transaction. This allocation reflects the government's prioritization of diplomatic relations and its commitment to strengthening Armenia's presence on the global stage.

The Armenian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ararat Mirzoyan, met with his French counterpart, M. Stéphane Séjourné, to discuss this important development. The meeting served to underscore the strong bilateral relations between Armenia and France and the shared commitment to bolstering these ties further.

As Armenia embarks on this new chapter in its diplomatic history, the acquisition of this historical building in Paris serves as a symbol of the country's enduring commitment to preserving history, fostering strong diplomatic relations, and investing in its future.

Greece Sees Opportunities in EU and Armenia Aviation Agreement

Feb 9 2024
Posted On 09 Feb 2024
By : GTP editing team

Greece expects the recently implemented Common Aviation Area Agreement (CAAA) between the EU and Armenia to create new opportunities for the promotion of its tourism product and for consumers, airlines and airports, said Deputy Transport Minister Christina Alexopoulou this week.

Addressing parliament, Alexopoulou said the EU’s approval of the common aviation area agreement with Armenia would pave the way for synergies with airlines and air transport, which she added, was a Greek government priority.

Signed in 2021, the agreement entered administrative application last month, aims to remove market restrictions and create a common aviation area between Armenia and the EU. The deal will also facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade between the EU and Armenia.

The minister also referred to flight safety standards achieved by Greece.

Earlier this year, Transport Minister Christos Staikouras and Acting Executive Director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Luc Tytgat discussed Greece’s strong performance with regard to safety standards and strengthening regulatory policies in the aviation sector.

“Greece increased its implementation levels of international standards from 69.1 percent to 74.89 percent, compared to the global average of 69.3 percent,” she said.

Under the agreement, all EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from anywhere in the EU to any airport in Armenia, and vice versa for Armenian airlines.

Concluding, Alexopoulou said the agreement further strengthens ties between Greece and Armenia.

The EU-Armenia CAAA was ratified by the Greek parliament plenary on Wednesday, February 7, by a large majority.

Armenia’s 2023 natural increase indicator grows 23,5%

 10:39, 8 February 2024

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 8, ARMENPRESS. The natural population increase in Armenia in 2023 was 11,960, which is a 23,5% increase compared to 2022, according to official data released by the Statistical Committee.

36,265 babies were born in 2023 (110 less than in 2022). 19,052 were boys and 17,213 were girls. (Male births dropped by 184 whereas female births grew by 74).

The sex ratio was 110.7 boys per 100 girls.

The number of stillbirths was 420 compared to 2022’s 427.

A total of 24,305 people died in Armenia in 2023, which is 2,387 less than in 2022. 12,567 were male and 11,738 were female.  

Statistics also showed a decline in marriages. 16,207 marriages were registered in 2023, which is 588 less than in 2022. The number of divorces remained the same at 4,525.

The statistics doesn’t include registrations on forcibly displaced persons from NK.

1 victim of Stepanakert fuel depot blast still hospitalized in Yerevan

 11:35, 5 February 2024

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 5, ARMENPRESS. One of the victims of the 25 September 2023 Stepanakert fuel depot explosion is still hospitalized in Yerevan, Healthcare Minister Anahit Avanesyan has said.

The blast killed 218 people and injured at least 120 others. Some were taken abroad for treatment. Most of them have completed the treatment and have returned to Armenia.

“Approximately twenty patients were sent to France, Belgium, Spain, Bulgaria, the US and other countries for treatment. One patient who was injured in the blast is currently undergoing treatment in Yerevan. The rest are under outpatient supervision,” Avanesyan said.

Armenia grants asylum to queer Chechen

Jan 31 2024

An Armenian court has granted asylum to a queer Chechen man, blocking his extradition to Russia. 

On Monday, Yerevan’s Administrative Court ruled in favour of granting 41-year-old Salman Mukayev, a Chechen native residing in Armenia, asylum. 

The court overruled the Migration Service’s decision to reject Mukayev’s 2021 asylum application on the grounds that his life would not be in danger in Russia outside of Chechnya.

Mukayev was reportedly detained by the Russian authorities in Chechnya on suspicion of being gay in 2020. NC SOS Crisis Group, a queer rights organisation operating in the North Caucasus, stated that Mukayev was tortured by the security forces who attempted to obtain a confession that he had had a sexual relationship with a male friend. 

[Read more: Chechen faces extradition to Russia from Armenia]

He fled to Armenia after being blackmailed by the Russian authorities in Chechnya and was charged with the illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation, or carrying of weapons and ammunition two weeks later.

In its ruling on Monday, the Court stated that despite not facing charges pertaining to his sexuality, Mukayev’s being queer posed a threat to his life in Russia.

It added that it based its decision on ‘objective, up-to-date, and reliable information’ and that ‘it can be reasonably assumed that LGBT people may face imprisonment and ill-treatment because of their sexual orientation’.

They cited reports of discrimination against queer people in Russia as well as the country’s designation of the ‘international LGBT movement’ as an extremist organisation.

‘From the current, objective and reliable data on the situation of the representatives of the LGBT community in the Russian Federation and the North Caucasus (including Chechnya), it can be concluded that the threat to their freedom and personal integrity is not limited to the territory of Chechnya’, read the court’s verdict.

The court’s decision to grant Mukayev asylum will come into force in one month if the Migration Service does not appeal it.

‘I don’t know what would have happened if the opposite decision was made; I am very happy’, Mukayev told RFE/RL on Tuesday.

NC SOS Crisis Group stated that after Mukayev was detained in Chechnya, the authorities released him on the condition that he helped identify other queer men in Chechnya.

Chechen security forces reportedly instructed Mukayev to contact men online and to invite them to a flat monitored by them.

Mukayev refused to comply and fled to Armenia instead, after which he was charged and placed on a federal wanted list.

In September 2021, Novaya Gazeta reported that Mukayev was barred from leaving Armenia for Europe by border place because he was wanted in Russia.

Activists in Armenia feared that Mukayev’s extradition to Russia would lead to his death.

Queer people face persecution in the North Caucasus and especially in Chechnya, where they are systematically abducted, tortured, abused, blackmailed, and killed.

In 2017, reports emerged of anti-gay purges organised by the Russian authorities in Chechnya, resulting in the detention of more than 100 people and the death of several others.

Those believed by activists to have been killed by the authorities included well-known Chechen singer Zelim Bakayev.

Chechens believed to be queer have not found safety in other regions of Russia.

In 2021, two siblings fleeing Chechnya, Ismail Isayev and Salekh Magomadov, were abducted by local police from a safe house in Central Russia and transferred back to Chechnya, where they were charged with transferring food to an illegal armed group.

In 2022, Ismail was sentenced to eight years in prison, and Salekh was sentenced to six.