10 August 2009, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: main events of August 3-9

Resignation of Government and appointment of new Prime Minister in South Ossetia; closing of Georgian-South-Ossetian border; first anniversary of 2008 August War in Transcaucasia and related Russia's and Georgia's loud statements on the occasion; start of dialogue between the authorities and opposition in Georgia; new details about the attempt on Isa Yamadaev, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of August 3-9 in Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

President of South Ossetia replaces his Prime Minister

In South Ossetia, the past week started with a message about the intention of the republic's President to hold a cadre reshuffling in his government. On Monday, August 3, Eduard Kokoity signed a decree on dismissal of his former Prime Minister Aslanbek Bulatsev together with the whole Government, which was approved on October 31, 2008. Having dismissed Mr Bulatsev, President Kokoity reiterated his pre-electoral promise to pass over some of his powers to the Parliament and Government.

Aslanbek Bulatsev's resignation was explained by his health condition (the Prime Minister quite often was away from office because of illness). Making comments on his decision to replace the Premier, Eduard Kokoity has specially emphasized that the resignation had been caused "exclusively by Mr Bulatsev's health condition", not by any "political or administrative motives." However, this motivation has not aroused trust in Kokoity's opponents and caused serious doubts in the analysts who trace the situation in South Ossetia. They believe that this cadre reshuffling in the republic's Government is one of the outcomes of the recent trip to the region of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Moscow's discontent with the rates of South Ossetia's restoration.

It was back in June that Eduard Kokoity spoke about the need to reorganize his Govt and expressed dissatisfaction with the work of some bureaucrats. Members of South Ossetia's opposition think that dismissal of the Government was caused by Kokoity's wish to make some of his former ministers guilty for failures in restoration and use them as "scapegoats". Information also appeared that from the very start Kokoity was against Bulatsev's appointment as Premier that they "poorly matched together" and the former had forced the latter to leave the country one month after the appointment. Eduard Kokoity, however, is resolutely refuting this and keeps stating that Aslanbek Bulatsev himself had many times asked to dismiss him because of poor health.

On August 5, by Kokoity's proposal, a Russian Vadim Brovtsev was appointed to be the new Prime Minister of South Ossetia, Director General of the Chelyabinsk-based construction company named "Vermikulit". By the outcomes of secret ballot, he was supported by 24 out of 27 deputies of the Parliament of South Ossetia. According to Mr Brovtsev, he needs three weeks to form the new Government of South Ossetia.

Some oppositionists and media have treated Vadim Brovtsev as the Kremlin's candidate, where bosses are interested to toughly supervise the restoration processes in South Ossetia. Mr Kokoity, however, rejects any Moscow's role in this appointment. Albert Dzhussoev, one of the main Kokoity's opponents, also believes that Brovtsev's appointment was a personal and independent Kokoity's choice, but remains highly critical to this choice, explaining that today is not the apt time for holding this sort of "experiments on the sick body of South Ossetia."

The Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed Vadim Brovtsev's appointment as South Ossetia's Premier, called it timely and confirmed that he was not "Moscow's hand". The State Duma of the Russian Federation found appointment logical and expressed hope that it would help toughening the control over spending the money that Russia gives to South Ossetia.

Georgia and Russia exchange accusations on war anniversary

The past Saturday, August 8, was a year from the start of warfare in South Ossetia, which then turned into the Georgian-Russian military conflict and resulted in Russia's recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia and Georgia met the jubilee of the 2008 August War with mutual accusations of unleashing the last year's conflict and of new provocations.

On August 6, the Government of Georgia presented its "Report on Full-Scale Russia's Aggression against Georgia", published in the form of a book. It was stated at its presentation that the Russian aggression had started not last August but "much earlier".

The Russian party treated the report of the Georgian Government and its conclusions as bluff, "pure lies" and "obvious handwriting of the western PR-agencies."

On August 7, Georgian MPs held their extraordinary session to give a political estimate to the events of August 2008. It was proclaimed at the session that the Russian-Georgian war is not over, since "Russia's aggression against citizens of Georgia continues."

Russia, in its turn, insists that Georgia was the aggressor and war instigator. The Joint Staff of Armed Forces of the Russian Federation has accused Georgia of preparing a new aggression against South Ossetia, having stated that "a hidden rearmament of the Georgia's army" is underway to this end. On August 5, at a press conference in Moscow, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Joint Staff, said that the Russian party had gathered all the facts concerning last August's events in South Ossetia, and now Russia would try to bring those guilty of unleashing the war to responsibility.

On the first anniversary of 2008 August events in Transcaucasia, Presidents of Russia, North and South Ossetias expressed their opinions. Russian leader Dmitri Medvedev, having accused Georgia of escalating its military might and provocations on borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, foretokened a "fair and severe punishment" to Georgian leadership for giving the order to launch the warfare in August 2008 and assured that Russia would provide South Ossetia not only with financial, but also with military help and would never give up its recognition of South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence. Head of North Ossetia Taimuraz Mamsurov treated the Georgia's attack on South Ossetia as "state terrorism", and President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity reiterated his opinion that the last year's war was "an attempt to exterminate the small Ossetian nation."

Russia's Premier Vladimir Putin has warned Tbilisi that talking from the posture of strength is fruitless and said that Georgia's leaders were to blame themselves for the chaos in their country, as they "failed to defer the opinion of their people."

In his turn, President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili, presented on August 7 his emotional statements on air of the "Imedi" TV Company, saying that for the sake of restoring the territorial integrity of his country (i.e., return of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Georgia) he was ready to sacrifice "the parts of his body hunted for by Vladimir Putin." Mr Saakashvili has also expressed his readiness to give up his idea of Georgia's accession to NATO in exchange for Russia's guarantees of safety and territorial integrity.

South Ossetia closes its border with Georgia and wants to be in Russia

At night of August 5, under the initiative of the South-Ossetian party, the South-Ossetian-Georgian border was closed. The decision was made by President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity who had explained the need to close the border by "frequented provocations from the Georgian party" and cases of swine flue in Georgia. On August 4, prior to close the border, Mr Kokoity expressed South Ossetia's desire to become a part of Russia. According to his version, the overwhelming majority of the population of his republic stands for acceding Russia.

On the first day after closing the border, Georgia did not fix any special changes and movements of Russian and South-Ossetian militaries in the vicinity of the border, although the situation in the frontier area was characterized as restless. Local residents continued to freely cross the border.

However, already on August 7 it became known about detention by the South-Ossetian party of five Georgian citizens "for illegal crossing the stare border" at the post in Disev village, opposite the Georgian village of Koshka. The detained Georgians appeared to be shepherds who got to the territory of South Ossetia in search of their cows. They were brought to Tskhinvali for interrogation, but in the evening of the same day they were released and sent home. On that day, Georgia stated kidnapping of five shepherds by South Ossetia at Koshka village.

Georgia's opposition starts dialogue with authorities

On August 6, in Tbilisi, the first expanded sitting of Georgia's Security Council took place, where, along with the Council's permanent members, leaders of the non-parliamentary opposition Irakliy Alasaniya (block "Our Georgia - Free Democrats"), Zurab Tkemaladze (Party of Industrialists), Konstantin Gamsakhurdiya (Party "Freedom") and Bachuki Kardava (leader of National Democrats) took part. The sitting discussed the topics related to "external threat", and domestic issues.

President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili has positively estimated the outcomes of the sitting and treated it as very productive, having especially noted the importance of the fact that the political forces of Georgia, although having disagreements on domestic issues, are ready to get united against the external threat. In the opinion of the President, the meeting became a start of "a reasonable dialogue."

In the course of the sitting, the leaders of the opposition raised the issue of the necessity to stop political persecutions in Georgia. Irakliy Alasaniya named the achievement of the agreement about the meeting on August 12 of the leaders of the opposition with the heads of law-enforcement agencies, where the parties plan to discuss "particular issues", to be a positive result of the dialogue.

Parliament of Abkhazia breaks vacations because of "Law on Citizenship"

The Abkhazian MPs, on vacation since August 1, were forced to get back to work because of the situation in the society after adoption by the Parliament, on July 31, the last day of the spring session, of amendments to "Law on Citizenship", which assume granting of the Abkhazian citizenship to Georgians living in the Gali District.

On Wednesday, August 5, in central Sukhumi, a rally of oppositional political forces was held with participation of about 300 persons. The participants delegated a group of elders to the President of Abkhazia with a demand not to sign the law on amending the "Law on Citizenship in the Republic of Abkhazia" and to return the bill back to the Parliament. The opponents of the amendments explained their indignation with the fact that the MPs "had immediately equalled the rights of those who had fought for independence of Abkhazia and those who had promoted for many years of Georgia's colonial interests."

President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh satisfied the demand of the opposition and returned the law draft for updating to the Parliament. At the extraordinary session on August 6 the MPs cancelled the amendments and set up a working group to update the draft on amending the "Law on Citizenship in the Republic of Abkhazia". All 27 MPs who were present at the session voted for this decision.

Swine flu registered in Southern Caucasus

Last week, Georgian physicians fixed two new H1N1 virus infection cases in the country. Thus, the total count of swine flu patients in Georgia reached 12 persons. Eight out of ten earlier revealed patients have already recovered; doctor's control was lifted from them, the remaining ones take their treatment. Among them there are persons who had visited Germany, Spain and Great Britain.

In Azerbaijan, the second country's swine flu patient was discharged from hospital; it was a boy of 14 who had visited the Great Britain. Another one - an Azerbaijani woman of 40, whose swine flue was diagnosed after she had returned to Baku from France - already recovered and was discharged from hospital.

New details about attempt on Isa Yamadaev

Last week a source close to the Yamadaev family told "Caucasian Knot" about new details on the attempt committed on July 28 in Moscow on another out of six Yamadaev brothers - Isa Yamadaev. According to the source, the failed Isa Yamadaev's killer had once been his security and was enticed into murdering his boss during his vacation spent in Chechnya: a certain Khavazhi, 23, was offered "a huge sum of US dollars" for murdering Isa. However, Isa managed to know, through his own channels, that Khavazhi was his potential killer, and he organized an ambush for him in his apartment.

The source has asserted that the organizers and customers of the attempt on Isa Yamadaev were the same people who had been involved in murdering Ruslan Yamadaev in Moscow and attempting to kill Sulim Yamadaev in Dubai. According to his version, the traces lead directly to the top managers of the Chechen Republic; however, he refrained from giving names.

One of Yamadaevs' relatives, who had earlier served in the "Vostok" special battalion under command of Isa's brother Sulim Yamadaev, has also informed that the gunman who made an attempt on Isa was armed with a silent pistol "Gyurza", available only in special units of GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) and FSB (Federal Security Bureau).

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Chechnya remains convinced that Isa Yamadaev had staged the attempt in order not to go to Chechnya for evidencing on a number of criminal cases connected with kidnappings and murders.

Judges to consider Evloev's and Politkovskaya's murder cases "as they are"

On August 6, the Karabulak City Court of Ingushetia held preliminary hearings on the murder case of Magomed Evloev, former owner of the website "Ingushetia.Ru". The offended party demanded to return the case to the prosecutor's office for merging it with the case about disappearance of the case with money from the perished oppositionist, and "for correcting mistakes." The court rejected the victims' petition and appointed the hearing of the case on the merits on August 18 in the form as it arrived to the court. In response, the relatives of the casualty expressed their intention to boycott the trial. Musa Pliev, advocate of the Evloevs, has supported this intention, as the trial, as he said, "reminds a farce."

On August 5, the Moscow Regional Military Court started a repeated consideration of the criminal case about the murder of the observer of the "Novaya Gazeta" Anna Politkovskaya. The case re-arrived to the court after cancellation of the acquittal verdict passed by a jury in February this year. Representatives of the journalist's family had asked the court to return the case to the prosecutor's office "for removing the obstacles for considering it by the court." The petition was supported by the state prosecutor and the defence. One of the figurants Sergey Hadzhikurbanov also asked to return the case to the prosecutor's office. However, at its session on August 7, the court rejected the petition and appointed the next session of the case on September 7.

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