04 August 2009, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: main events from July 27 to August 2

Attempt on Isa Yamadaev - a member of the family, which is opposing the clan of President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov; announcement by Ahmed Zakaev, former emissary of Chechen separatists and representative of the government of the non-recognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), of moratorium on warfare by militants; escalation in the area of Georgian-Ossetian conflict; progress in relations of the authorities and opposition in Georgia and a viewpoint thereon of US Vice-President Joe Biden; update of the "Madrid principles" of settling the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh - look up these and other events in the review of the week from July 27 to August 2 prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Domestic political situation in Georgia

On July 27, the Georgian TV Company "Imedi" broadcast a report, where a journalist told, without disclosing his source, about the talks of US Vice-President Joseph Biden with the Georgian opposition in the course of his visit to Georgia on July 22-23.

According to the verbatim of the anonymous source, Joe Biden gave the following answer to the claims of ex-speaker Nino Burdzhanadze as to legality of Presidential and parliamentary elections of 2008: "And we, democrats, lost our elections to George Bush, and our loss was much more dramatic and heavy; but after that we did not go out to streets and did not destroy the state system."

In reply to Nino Burdzhanadze's statement that Georgia has an illegitimate president, Mr Biden said: "Except for you, no country, no leader and no politician in the world doubts that Saakashvili had won the elections. Nobody, except for you, challenges his legitimacy. The fact that you are the only people refusing to recognize him as president will damage your political future."

Joe Biden has also expressed his bewilderment with the form of the opposition's protest. "In America nobody can dictate the Congress from the street. Our country is a powerful state just because political disputes never get outside the constitutional framework."

According to the TV Company, in the course of the meeting with the US Vice-President, Levan Gachechiladze said that President Mikhail Saakashvili was the cause of aggravated Georgian-Russian relations.

"I don't understand you any longer: once you say that Saakashvili is a Russian agent; then, you assert that because of him you have problems with Russia. You should be more logical in your statements. Russia has a problem not with Saakashvili, but with Georgians' love for freedom, and this problem has ever existed," Mr Biden.

Speaking later live at the TV Company, Nino Burdzhanadze confirmed that the source had very precisely reported the information; however, she noted that the main aim at the meeting with Joe Biden was to demonstrate Saakashvili's mistakes not the proofs of election falsifications.

Tamara Khidasheli, a member of the NGO "Association of Young Lawyers", has confirmed that Biden spoke about Saakashvili's legitimacy. "He didn't comment, he stated directly that the West had recognized these elections," she said.

According to Levan Gachechiladze, the conversation was not so tough, but it was reported rather precisely.

On that very day, when these data was made public, President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili brought in his proposal to the Parliament of Georgia about giving a chance to those oppositional deputies who gave up their mandates in June 2008 to get back to Parliament.

To make it possible, according to Saakashvili, a new article should be put into the Constitution of Georgia, stipulating the restoration of the authorities of those MPs who have earlier refused from them. However, the explanatory note to the President's application indicates that the restoration procedure will not cover those deputies who were elected in majority constituencies, since after their refusal repeated elections have been held in these constituencies.

On August 2, members of non-parliamentary opposition parties in their joint statement rejected the Saakashvili's proposal.

The non-parliamentary opposition has stated that the parliamentary elections of 2008 were forged and "outgoing from this fact, the current parliament is illegitimate and does not express the will of the Georgian people."

"Therefore, we reconfirm our refusal from the mandates 'offered' by Saakashvili; and by doing so we put a full stop to insinuations that some of us are allegedly willing to make a deal with the authorities," the statement of the opposition says.

On that very day, Vakhtang Kolbaya, a member of the Party "Democratic Movement - United Georgia", headed by Nino Burdzhanadze, reported about an attack of unknown persons in masks on two activists of the party, after which one of them was hospitalized in a grave condition.

Earlier, the Republican Party of Georgia had accused the authorities of continued political repressions against the opposition.

It is remarkable that on July 28, on Tuesday, republican David Berdzenishvili, a member of the "Alliance for Georgia" said that the opposition in Georgia had passed over to a new stage of political struggle and now goes to regions. The first three-month stage of political confrontation of the ruling authorities and the opposition has ended in a draw.

Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia continue exchanging accusations

Representatives of Georgia and Russia accused each other of ethnic cleansings in the course of the August 2008 conflict. It happened on July 28 in the course of debates at the UN General Assembly of the principle of "responsibility to protect", adopted by world leaders in 2005.

While speaking in the course of the debates, Acting in the course of discussion in General Assembly of the United Nations, Alexander Lomaya, Georgia's permanent representative at the United Nations warned about the danger of distorted interpretation of this principle "responsibility to protect", which envisions the duty of governments to protect their citizens from genocide, ethnic cleansings and other grave crimes.

Lomaya accused Russia of committing "an ethnic cleansing in the course of unilateral military invasion" made under the pretext of protecting the population. According to his story, the aggression had been prepared by mass issuance of Russian passports to residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as reported by the Russian Service of the UN Radio.

His Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin offered in response to analyse from the viewpoint of the principle of "responsibility to protect" the military operation of Georgia in South Ossetia, which, in his opinion, was aimed at liquidation of South-Ossetians. Mr Churkin said that Russia acted "in the only possible way": "Russia, acting on the basis of Article 51 of the UN Charter and implementing its right to self-defence, when our peacemakers occurred under direct fire of Georgian troops, has never tried to interlace its actions into not yet quite clear concept of "responsibility to protect."

"We couldn't undertake the sin of the second Srebrenica. And it would have been the case, if we had remained indifferent observers of the reckless crime of the Georgian regime," said the Russia's UN representative.

On the following day, July 29, President of the Republic of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity named the USA, Ukraine and Israel the parties in charge of the genocide of the Ossetian people, since these countries continue to arm Georgia. He also stated that a targeted information war unleashed against the republic - under a direct order of western editions.

On Friday, July 31, Mr Kokoity went further, having stated that South Ossetia will unilaterally equip its border with Georgia. He added that his republic was also planning to declare its rights on the Trusov Gorge belonging to Georgia.

On the same day in Ergneti a pre-scheduled meeting was disrupted of the working group on drafting the mechanism for preventing incidents in the South-Ossetian conflict zone. It happened because of non-appearance of the Russian party, as reported by the office of the State Minister of Georgia on Reintegration Matters.

In the meantime, data reappeared on shelling in the conflict zone.

The Ministry of Defence of South Ossetia reported that on the night of July 30 Tskhinvali was shelled from mortars from the territory of Georgia - two mines were launched, presumably, of 82 mm bore. There were no victims. In response, on July 30, the Georgian party reported that the Georgian MIA's post in Zemo Nikozi village was shelled from South Ossetia. The attack was made from automatic firearms and a grenade launcher.

On August 1, the Minister of Defence of South Ossetia reported that in the morning an observation post of this Ministry was shelled from the territory of Georgia. "There was no shooting," echoed Shota Utiashvili, head of the information and analytical department of the MIA of Georgia.

Militants in Pankisi

On July 27, Zaal Kasrelishvili, Chairman of the Confederation of Caucasian Nations, stated, referring to the in-house security service of the Confederation and information of his supporters from Europe, Asia and Northern Caucasus, that in the Pankisi Gorge of Georgia, near the border with Chechnya, about 40 militants had gathered, ready for transportation to Chechnya and Ingushetia.

"After Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov had accused Georgia of hiding militants in its territory, militants appeared in the Pankisi Gorge. They arrived to Georgia from Azerbaijan and, by unchecked data, they wish to cross the border of the Russian Federation. There is information that they want to liquidate Kadyrov till the autumn. Can you imagine what can happen if this will be the case? Russia will have a direct pretext for invading Georgia," said Mr Kasrelishvili in his interview to the Georgian weekly "Kviris Palette".

Meanwhile, political scientist and human rights activist Paata Zakareishvili said in his conversation with the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that he had no confirmed data about the militants' presence in the Pankisi Gorge, and in general, he was very doubtful as to such statements.

"Anything can be expected from these authorities. Maybe, this is a 'canard' aimed at showing Russia's image as an enemy in another aspect and divert the public's attention away from the problems that flood the country; or in general to launch another huge military adventure. Therefore, it's better not to do any analyses and forecasts on this point, and as a whole I always treat such statements somewhat doubtingly," said Mr Zakareishvili.

Mamuka Areshidze, an expert on the Caucasus and founder of the "House of Free Word", said in a telephone conversation with the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that Russia was in search of new ways of pressing Georgia, and the Pankisi Gorge can become an arena of military-political processes. "I think that Kasrelishvili is warning the Georgian authorities about such danger. As to corporate interests in this adventure, it's very close to the truth," said Mr Areshidze.

The same issue of the "Kviris Palette" published an interview with Said Khachiev, head of the Chechen Diaspora in Europe, who now lives in Germany (Hamburg). He notes that soon Russia will have to leave the Caucasus, and the Caucasian nations should be ready to these processes. According to his story, 200,000 person of the Caucasian ethnic group, who live in Europe, are ready to say their word in this resolute struggle against Russia. Mr Khachiev marks that Georgia should regain its status of the leader and key of the Caucasus, which it has lost, and unite all the Caucasian nations. Should it not happen, he believes, the Caucasus will plunge into full anarchy.

"On the eve of last year's August war we sent a letter to the Georgia's ambassador in Germany and warned him about the danger of war with Russia. We wrote that should the war break out, we were ready to actively help Georgia," said Said Khachiev.

Ahmed Zakaev calls militants in Chechnya to stop resistance

On Monday, July 27, it became known that one of the leaders of Chechen separatists Ahmed Zakaev stated on July 26 that the leadership of the non-recognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) in the territory of Chechnya made a decision to stop starting from August 1 armed actions agains the Chechen militia. According to his story, this decision was the result of Zakaev's meeting with Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov, chairman of the parliament of the Chechen Republic.

"We have suggested the chief of the general staff of armed formations of Ichkeria to prepare a draft order according to which starting from August 1 our fighters will not use arms against the Chechen militia, except for self-defence episodes," said Ahmed Zakaev as quoted by the "Kommersant" and added: "I hope very much that from this day on Chechens will never shoot at each other."

However, Ahmed Zakaev for almost ten years already is outside Chechnya and the "Chechen Republic of Ichkeria" officially represented by him was liquidated by its last president Doku Umarov in autumn of 2007, who announced establishment in the territory of Northern Caucasus of a new state formation under the name of "Imarat Kavkaz", where Ichkeria is included as one of the regions. Therefore, the armistice announced by Zakaev, may fail to become a reality, as Chechen observers regard.

"This order given to a certain 'Chief of Joint Staff of Ichkeria' on termination starting from August 1 of warfare against Chechen militiamen looks just ridiculous. In fact, there's no 'Joint Staff of Ichkeria', same as his chief and 'armed formations of the ChRI', of which Zakaev presents himself as a representative, for a long time already," one of local observers in Chechnya asserts.

"Now, the point is not the national-liberation movement in Chechnya, but quite a different matter. Doku Umarov has transferred the war into a religious opposition, where, on the one hand, there are mojaheds, that is, fighters for the faith, and, on the other hand, there are kafirs (disbelievers), who have occupied the Muslim republics of the Caucasus, and their helpers - 'murtads' (turncoats) from among local 'national-traitors'. Zakaev has no attitude to this war and to Umarov's armed formations, and there are just no other ones in Chechnya. Thus, we can assume that 'Zakaev's' armistice will give no real results," the observer has concluded.

"As to supporters of Doku Umarov, I wouldn't immediately say that it means nothing for them. I think that among Umarov's supporters there will be many of those who will listen to us," Ahmed Zakaev said in response to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent.

Attempt on Isa Yamadaev

In Moscow, in the evening on July 28, at 10:30 p.m., an attempt was accomplished on Isa Yamadaev, a brother of Sulim Yamadaev, ex-commander of the "Vostok" special battalion. As reported by a source in the Russian special agencies, the attempt was accomplished in the apartment in the presence of Isa Yamadaev and some other persons. The man who came to see Isa opened fire on him. The attempter - a certain Yu. Khavvazha, 23, was detained and arrested. It was confirmed by the Investigatory Committee at the Prosecutor's Office (ICPO).

"The person suspected of committing the above crime was detained. The problem is decided now to select in relation to the suspect of freedom restriction by putting him behind bars," said an ICPO spokesman.

On July 29, Isa Yamadaev confirmed that he was attempted on. "Thanks to employees of the criminal search of the MIA, the criminal was detained," said Isa Yamadaev to the "Echo Moskvy" Radio, but refused to answer the question whether he was wounded or not.

"On July 28, at about 8 p.m., an attempt was made on me in my apartment. The gunman entered my flat, and I invited him to come into the room, but he snatched out a pistol and started shooting at my back," said Isa Yamadaev. "Thanks to actions of the Criminal Search of Russia's MIA, the worst scenario of events was prevented."

"In the course of preliminary interrogations it became clear that this crime was another link in the chain, comprising the murder of Ruslan Yamadaev in Moscow and the attempt on Sulim Yamadaev in Dubai. At present, my life is out of danger," the Internet site of the Yamadaev family quotes Isa's words.

As stated by a source in power agencies, the murder of Isa Yamadaev, the younger brother of the commander of the "Vostok" battalion, probably, was prevented as a result of a special operation; at the same time, he could not exclude that it was an "operative game".

The source has noted that Isa Yamadaev can act as a witness in a number of resonant criminal cases, including those connected with the attempt on Sulim Yamadaev, ex-commander of the "Vostok" battalion, accomplished in the United Arab Emirates, and also the murder of Ruslan Yamadaev, ex-deputy of the State Duma in Moscow. "Therefore, protection of Yamadaev could be provided," he has added.

The spokesman of power agencies did not exclude that the coverage was carried out by special agents informally, "under personal arrangement with the top commanders," as the "Interfax" writes.

In his turn, a source close to Yamadaev said that "Isa did not entice the killer into his house deliberately, in order then to hand him over to the militia." "Both Isa and the militia knew that this person would come; and that this person was the killer. He was to come right yesterday (on July 28, - comment of the "Caucasian Knot"), because it was exactly four months from the moment of the attempt on Sulim. They have built everything by dates as well," the "Gazeta.Ru" quotes the source.

In the end of June, Isa Yamadaev wrote in his blog that a certain Chechen had arrived to Moscow with the task from the authorities of the republic to kill him. "Presumably, his name was Arbi. On July 15, Yamadaev addressed the State Prosecutor's Office with a request to protect him against the prepared attempt: he was sure that enemies of the Yamadaev family had chosen him as the next victim," writes the edition.

On July 31, Isa Yamadaev gave a subscription on nondisclosure of information about the course of investigation about the attempt. "Isa was warned about the responsibility for disclosure of information and, consequently, he will not communicate with journalists in the near future," said a source in law enforcement bodies.

The absence of trustworthy information about the details of the attempt gave birth to different versions of the incident. Isa's relatives are sure that the attempt was backed by the authorities of Chechnya, while the local law enforcement bodies believe that it was staged. There is also an opinion that the attempt was a link in the chain of discrediting the republic's leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Blocking of the "Kavkaz" Highway by residents of Dagestan

On July 27, in the vicinity of Khasavyurt in Dagestan, over four hundred persons blocked the Federal Highway "Kavkaz". There, they hold a rally for the second day.

In the opinion of Nadira Isaeva, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Chernovik" (Blueprint), the reason of the rally was in the situation that evolved in Khasavyurt after the murder of Magomed Umakhanov, son of the deputy of the National Assembly of Dagestan Ahmedpasha Umakhanov and nephew of the head of the city. Ms Isaeva says that Umakhanov was killed by mistake. The killers wanted to murder Magomed Umarov, brother of son-in-law of Ahmedpasha Umakhanov. According to Isaeva, Umarov beat a district militiaman of the Khasavyurt ROVD. "The latter decided to revenge, as the honour of the militia was touched on," Nadira Isaeva said to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent.

Let us remind you that Magomedkhabib Umakhanov, a nephew of the head of the municipal formation "City of Khasavyurt" Saigidpasha Umakhanov, was killed in Khasavyurt on April 28. At about 7:50 p.m. the nephew of the head of Khasavyurt was driving to the city marketplace, when unknown persons opened fire on him from a locally-made car, and then disappeared from the place of the incident in the same car. Magomedkhabib died in situ.

As a result of operative actions, several persons were detained: supposed Umakhanov's killers are in custody, and the person who had beaten the militiaman was set free.

Ms Isaeva adds that the claims of the protesters, mostly Kumyks among them, refer to the fact that, under their information, Magomed Umarov was released by the inquiry, while the suspects of murdering Umakhanov are kept in custody. They are also Kumyks.

Several hours after blocking the highway, it was unblocked. However, residents of Khasavyurt promised to block the "Kavkaz" Highway again, if inspectors fail to fulfil their promise to release the suspects of murdering Umakhanov.

Organizers of disorders in January 2008 in Ingushetia acquitted

On July 30, the Supreme Court of Ingushetia acquitted the defendants in the case about organization of mass disorders in the republic in January 2008.

The charges of organizing mass disorders, as a result of which the building of the "Serdalo" newspaper was burnt down, and also significant damage was caused to "Assa" hotel, were presented to Maksharip Aushev, Ruslan Khazbiev and Musa Aushev. The case lasted for about one year; however, the Prosecutor's Office failed to prove the guilt of the first two.

Under the version of the investigation, Maksharip Aushev, acting together with the owner of the website "Ingushetia.Ru" Magomed Evloev, who perished on August 31, 2008, initially called the population to come to a non-sanctioned rally; then, the accused oppositionists allegedly went out to an action demanding resignation of the then President Murat Zyazikov.

The investigation kept asserting that they had organized the disorders, accompanied by violence, pogroms and arsons, and rendered armed resistance to the authorities.

However, the court took the side of the defence and completely acquitted two of the oppositionists. Only Musa Aushev's guilt was found. He was sentenced to conditional 3 years of imprisonment.

According to the acquitted Maksharip Aushev, in Ingushetia similar cases are now considered in relation of 10 other persons.

Dispute of Azerbaijan with Turkmenistan for Caspian oil and gas

On July 27, Khalaf Khalafov, deputy minister of foreign affairs of Azerbaijan, stated, in the context of the plans of the official Ashkhabad to apply to the International Arbitration Court with a claim for a number of sea deposits, that Azerbaijan was going to protect its interests in the issue of development of oil deposits in the Caspian Sea by all accessible means.

Mr Khalafov said that back in early 1990s Azerbaijan conducted "all the necessary researches concerning development of the deposits, including their geographical, physical, and legal aspects."

Last Friday, on July 24, speaking at the session of the government, Kurbangulu Berdymuhamedov, leader of Turkmenistan, said that the issue of defining border in the Caspian Sea and the median line with Azerbaijan was not solved, basically, because of the Baku's position. In his opinion, the main reason of the situation is that the disputable part of the sea has rich deposits of natural resources, which are regarded by Azerbaijan to be its property.

Ilham Shaban, head of the Azerbaijani Centre of Oil Studies "Caspian Barrel", noted in his conversation with the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that the claims of the Turkmen party for the deposits named in Turkmenistan as "Osman" and "Omar" are absolutely groundless.

As to deposit "Serdar", or "Kyapaz" in the Azerbaijani version, the expert noted that Baku recognizes its disputable status. Azerbaijan has many times offered the Turkmen party to start shared use of this deposit.

Update of "Madrid principles" of settling Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

On July 28, it became known that co-chairs of the Minsk OSCE Group on Nagorno-Karabakh had drafted an updated version of the "Madrid principles" of settling the conflict. In the opinion of Matthew Brayza, the American co-chair, this document will form the basis for forming final main principles of the agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The co-chairs of the Minsk Group of Russia, USA and France held their debates on July 25-26 in Krakow. "We have scrupulously weighed and evaluated the positions of the parties, starting from November 2007. With account of the statement of the presidents of the countries-co-chairs made on July 10, we have prepared a new version of the Madrid document," said the US co-chair.

Among the points of the "Madrid principles" is ensuring the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to come back to the places of their former residence and return of the territories around Nagorno-Karabakh under the control of Azerbaijan.

Leaders of NGOs and public experts of Nagorno-Karabakh have declared that the latest statements of representatives of the countries-intermediaries on the settlement of the conflict on the basis of the "Madrid principles" are totally contradictory to the interests of Karabakh and Armenia.

Ara Sarkisyan, a member of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Problems, has expressed an opinion that the Azerbaijani party tries to bribe the supreme Russian generals to enter an arrangement with Moscow and give Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.

Alexander Arzumanyan, ex-minister of foreign affairs of Armenia, who is now representing the oppositional Armenian National Congress (ANC), tries to convince that all without exception six published basic principles of settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are unacceptable both for Armenia and for Nagorno-Karabakh.

Grant Melkumyan, leader of Communist Party of Nagorno-Karabakh, finds it illogical that at discussing the settlement of the Karabakh conflict they speak about Azerbaijani refugees, while there are more than half a million refugees-Armenians from Azerbaijan. In his opinion, it is necessary to consider also the issue of a similar return of Armenian refugees to Azerbaijan and to the Shaumyan and Martuni Districts of Karabakh.

According to Grigoriy Afanasyan, a Karabakh political scientist and a teacher of the Karabakh State University, the updated "Madrid principles" and the latest statements of presidents of the countries-co-chairs of the Minsk OSCE Group on settling the Karabakh conflict have led to the situation, when societies in Azerbaijan and Armenia fell into the state of spiritual chaos. However, in the opinion of the scientist, the fundamental principle here will strictly work again - the chaos in brains will again give birth to the order.

Mass fights of Caucasian natives with Russians in Astrakhan Region and Moscow

On July 31, the fact became known of a mass scuffle between Chechens and Russians with participation of 150 persons in the Astrakhan Region in the territory of the Closed Territorial Formation (CTF) Znamensk. The incident that nearly turned out into the second Kondopoga happened on July 19; however, local authorities and law enforcement bodies tried by all means to hide it.

The scuffle burst out in a suburb of the Kapustin Yar village, where the main Russian missile range is situated. A local resident Vitaly Milkov, 28, perished in the fight, and several persons were injured. Three of them were heavily wounded and hospitalized. According to other sources, Milkov died on July 25 in hospital. According to the official version of law enforcers, he died because his head was broken in the fight. On that very day, a criminal case was opened under part 1, Article 111 ("Wilful infliction of health damage"), and under part 2, Article 213 ("Hooliganism accomplished by a group of persons by previous concert") of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

Besides, it became known on July 31 about initiation of a criminal against a district militia officer of Branch One of the Interior Department of the CTF Znamensk (a division of one of the Departments of Russia's MIA). The militia major, 40, having received the information about the mass fight, failed to report in the established order to the Department and take measures to prevent it.

The fact of the fight became known only from messages of local residents that appeared in the Internet. After the fight, a curfew was introduced in the village.

There are some versions of the incident. "According to some sources, on July 19 young people were entertaining in the disco club of Znamensk. In the midst of fun, a Chechen began to molest a girl, who came to the party with her boyfriend. A verbal skirmish burst out, which grew into a mass fight. According to a local resident named Marina, who is quoted by the "Moskovskiy Komsomolets" newspaper, young men made a showdown near the club, and then "set a time" in the highway, near Kapustin Yar.

"In total, about 150 persons clashed together. Caucasians used crowbars, chains, knives and all expedient means. Russians mainly came with 'bare hands'," said the girl.

At the same time, the participants of the fight describe the events differently. "The grouping of Chechens tried laying dues on young officers, but sportsmen from the local club 'Olymp' tried to prevent it," said one of the participants of the fight. "Eventually, the parties decided to meet and clear out."

According to the source, on July 19, more than a hundred natives from the Caucasus and about 50 local residents rallied together. The shooting, according to the local resident, was allegedly launched by the Chechens. "When our guys started to disperse, some in their cars, some - by running, they opened fire on the cars, and those who were without pistols ran after them and beat with bats," the eyewitness asserts. The local Chechen Diaspora denied this version, but refused to give any comments.

Local residents and participants of the incident accuse the natives from the Caucasus of provoking the conflict. According to their story, young Caucasians "have been terrorizing the vicinities for a long time." "Two years ago they shelled a minivan with Russian businessmen," said local resident Marina, having added that "they have good ties in local militia and administration."

Meanwhile, the local militia names the incident a "bandit showdown" and categorically rejects the version of interethnic conflict. Under the official version of the Department of Internal Affairs and the Astrakhan Investigatory Department of the Investigatory Committee at the Prosecutor's Office (ICPO) of the Russian Federation, the conflict started with a collision of two cars in a local road - criminal bosses were in both of them. The road accident happened some 500 meters from the suburb of the closed military settlement Znamensk, writes the "Kommersant Lower Volga".

The participants of the accident, as militiamen assert, called their "brigades" (according to operative data, one of them comprised mainly Chechens, the other - Russians), and in an hour four cars with about 20 persons arrived to the venue. "Soon, according to power agents, Caucasians snatched out bats and knives and started a fight, which grew into a slaughter. After a while, shots were heard," the edition writes.

According to Gulnara Akmambetova, head of the Akhtuba Inter-District Investigatory Department, the information about an interethnic conflict has not confirmed yet. According to her story, "the conflict was based on personal aversions and has an economic and everyday context."

A high-ranking power official, who spoke on the conditions of anonymity, sticks to another version. He said that recently a new "supervisor" from among Slavic criminal bosses appeared in Kapustin Yar, released after ten years' imprisonment. Allegedly, he has announced that he will "take care" of local Korean entrepreneurs, who, in their turn, complained to their "roof" - the Caucasian organized criminal grouping.

In their turn, Victor Likh, Mayor of the CTF Znamensk, and a local representative of the "Edinaya Rossiya" Party do not exclude that the conflict could be connected with the election of the city mayor to take place on October 11.

On August 1, in southwest of Moscow, another mass fight burst out. "At about 9:50 p.m. Moscow time, at house No. 40 in Profsoyuznaya Street a mass fight took place with participation of about 20 persons," said a source in law enforcement bodies of the capital. According to preliminary data, it was initiated by natives of Kalmykia and Tajikistan.

During the fight, a native of Tajikistan received a knife wound in his stomach. Six militia groups from Cheryomushki UVD (Interior Division) quickly arrived to the venue. However, they failed to detain any of the participants hot on the trail.

The Tajik victim was hospitalized. The reason of the conflict is unknown yet.

On August 2, the Day of Airborne Troops, marked in Russia, which is frequently accompanied by various conflicts, leaders of some Diaspora organizations of Moscow addressed their compatriots in Moscow with a recommendation to be careful on this day and not to leave their homes without special need.

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