07 September 2009, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 31 - September 6

Liquidation of the "al-Qaeda" coordinator in Dagestan; self-explosion of a suicide bomber and political consequences of the resonant terror act in Ingushetia; opening of a micro-district in Tskhinvali, built by Moscow and vision by South-Ossetian President Kokoity of the future of his republic; "exit to sea" of the Abkhazian-Georgian conflict at the background of detention of ships in the Abkhazian sea zone; agreement on movement towards open Armenian-Turkish border - look up these and other events in the review of the week of August 31 - September 6 in the Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Liquidation of "al-Qaeda" coordinator in Dagestan and terror act of suicide bomber

On Monday, August 31, the counterterrorist operation (CTO) regime, introduced on the previous evening in Mutsalaul village was lifted. A source from the FSB reported that in the course of a special operation two persons were killed, one of them - a native of Algeria also known as "Doctor Muhammad". Allegedly, he was in charge of delivery of militants to Dagestan and other republics of Northern Caucasus and coordinated actions of the Dagestan-based cell of "al-Qaeda".

The second casualty was Sultan Magomedov, a resident of the Kizlyar District of Dagestan. In the course of the skirmish two FSB fighters received fragmental wounds.

According to the Dagestan FSB Department (FSBD), "Doctor Muhammad" arrived to Northern Caucasus in 1999 through the Pankisi Gorge of Georgia. Together with international terrorist Abu-Khavs he acted in Khattab's grouping and was involved in organizing a terrorist network in the territory of Chechnya.

On November 26, 2006, in the course of a special operation in Khasavyurt, law enforcers killed five suspected IAF (illegal armed formation) members, Abu Khavs among them.

In the end of 2007, Muhammad was sent to Dagestan with the task to take Dagestan militants' groupings under control, ensure receipt of money from abroad and organize channels for transportation of militants from Georgia and Azerbaijan.

In 2008 and early 2009, as power agents assert, Muhammad supported, together with the leader of Dagestan militants Ilgar Malachiev, who was liquidated in the course of a special operation, was in charge of the corridor for penetration of rebellious bands from the territory of Azerbaijan into Dagestan and further to Chechnya and Ingushetia.

According to the FSB, in August 2008, Muhammad was illegally in Azerbaijan, where he was planning, together with leaders of the armed underground, terror acts in the territories of Azerbaijan and Dagestan.

On September 1, the following day after liquidation of Muhammad, a terror act took place in Makhachkala. When GIBDD (traffic police) agents from the Northern Post tried to detain a terrorist-suicide bomber, an explosion took place.

As reported by the Republic's Centre of Disaster Medicine, after explosion "eight militiamen and three workers of the Centre, who were on duty at the post, were hospitalized with various wounds and contusions; later, a worker of Dagestan customs, who at the moment was driving past, died in hospital."

The terrorist-suicide bomber was on his way to the city for fulfilment of terror act. When the militiamen stopped his car, the criminal saw them approaching and triggered his bomb. A crater about three meters wide and 1.5 meters deep was formed by the explosion.

As stated by Ali Magomedov, Minister of Internal Affairs of Dagestan, a huge terror, which terrorists planned for September 1, was prevented.

Cadre reshuffling in Ingushetia

On Monday, August 31, President of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Evkurov stated that power agencies would face cadre reshuffling and dismissals. According to his story, some officials "are lazy to work" and execute their duties.

He also said that he was supporting closest relations with human rights defenders, in spite of their criticism. "I have this sort of relations, because they're right in their criticism. Based on their statements and proposals, I correct many of my things," said Mr Evkurov and added that human rights activists should want to take part in public life, "not to come off from it."

"I think we'll make reshufflings and dismissals," he said in his interview to the "Vesti" Russian information channel.

In the opinion of the President, because certain officials "are lazy to work" and execute their duties, even if these duties are elementary, the fulfilment of the main task suffers - to win the people's trust in the power."

"I'll have to change people. I think, in three or four positions," said Mr Evkurov.

At the same time, on Wednesday, September 2, President of Ingushetia stated that at present his primary goal in republic is to preserve his team at the background of war on corruption. According to Yunus-Bek Evkurov, results of his checks have shown that the republic's officials work "satisfactorily".

"I have one problem now - to keep my team. And not to let thefts," said the President.

Speaking about his vision of Ingushetia in the future, he has noted: "I want every family of a militiaman or official to know that once he goes to his work in the morning - he will surely come back safe and sound in the evening." He also said that dreamed of travelling over his land without securities.

"So far, this situation seems fantastic," said Evkurov. It is confirmed by criminal statistics.

From the start of 2009, 68 law enforcers and servicemen were lost and 212 wounded in Ingushetia, as reported on August 30 by Arkadiy Edelev, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, in the course of the meeting.

Besides, according to his story, in the course of attacks, 30 local residents were killed and 85 received wounds. Mr Edelev, who began, after the terror act in Nazran, supervising the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Ingushetia, has called "to ensure the principle of punishment inevitability for the crimes and establish the supremacy of the law."

Valery Zhernov, Acting Minister of Internal Affairs of Ingushetia, has added that this year some serious terror acts in Ingushetia were prevented, and 85 militants were neutralized.

He reminded that after the explosion in Nazran the MIA personnel works in the strengthened regime.

Russia-South Ossetia mutual relations

On August 31, President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity said that South Ossetia would like to create the union state with Russia. At the same time, he stated that his republic had no plans to be a part of Russia.

"We want to build such union relations with Russia, which would allow having no borders between the Ossetians living in the south and those living in the north. We wish to make a union state with Russia," Mr Kokoity has stated. At the same time, in his interview to the "Itogi" magazine he said that his republic is not ready to give up its independence."

"But we want a union with Russia, like it has with Belarus. Forms of association can be different," he said and added that "creation of united Ossetia is out of question." "Yes, on the principle, we're ready. But imagine, what a storm will rise in the world! Russia will be accused of annexation. But Russia does not want another country's territory, and we understand it," said Eduard Kokoity.

Leaders of South Ossetia discuss with the Russian party the issue of dual citizenship. "Our Constitution provides for dual citizenship. Now we discuss signing an agreement with Russia on recognition of dual citizenship," said Mr Kokoity.

After the war, the territory of South Ossetia increased, the President has noted: "We've taken under control the territories, earlier occupied by Georgian party - the whole border of the former South-Ossetian Autonomous Region, which is today guarded by Russian frontier guards together with their Ossetian colleagues."

Gennady Kokoev, an MP of South Ossetia from the "Edinstvo" (Unity) Party, speaks about the independent future of South Ossetia.

"We should document our independence with own self-sufficient economy. Russia is interested in strengthening the independence of South Ossetia. It will help Russia to reject accusations of imperial ambitions and desire to incorporate new territories of the former Soviet Union," Mr Kokoev said in his interview to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent.

According to his story, "equal cooperation of the two states" is the optimum variant.

According to political scientist Vissarion Aseev, at present, the accession of South Ossetia to Russia is not discussed at any serious political level.

"Russia doesn't want South Ossetia in its structure, since it's not beneficial for Russia and contrary to its interests. Kokoity is getting Russia in wrong, same as Saakashvili did it with America. Both Presidents use this method with the only aim in mind - to keep power," Mr Aseev said to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent.

Timur Tskhovrebov, oppositionist and the editor of the only independent newspaper in South Ossetia "21 Seculare", is categorically against South Ossetia's accession to Russia. "For 20 years we did everything possible to gain international status. Russia and Nicaragua are the two countries, which recognized South Ossetia, and it became a subject of the international law. The people of South Ossetia are infinitely grateful to them for recognition. But accession to Russia is excluded. However, after building in South Ossetia of the state of law and order, and after its further recognition by the whole international community and, first of all, by Georgia, it'll be possible to speak about a union with Russia, something of the EU type," Mr Tskhovrebov said.

In the opinion of Dmitri Starostin, journalist and author of the programme "Caucasian Ridge" at the Russian News Service, South Ossetia will not be attached to Russia. He is sure that in the nearest decades the Russian Federation will not try to incorporate South Ossetia.

Nevertheless, it does not mean that Russia-South Ossetia relations will become less friendly, especially in the recovery sphere.

On Monday, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov opened the mini-district "Moskovskiy" in Tskhinvali. On the eve of the new school year, the micro-district received a modern school and the first out of two kindergartens, which are planned for the new residential area.

In total, the "Moskovskiy" will have over 200 apartment houses, two kindergartens for 140 children each, a physical culture and health-improving centre and trading facilities. The construction is carried out by the SU-155" group of companies.

The three-storied school was built to a special project and is able to withstand an earthquake up to 8 points. 600 pupils can study here. The schoolyard will have pitches for basketball and volleyball and a separate football stadium now under construction.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Georgia treats the opening of the "Moskovskiy" mini-district as a "cynical action". According to David Dzhalaganiya, Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, "giving by the aggressor the name of his capital to a part of occupied territory" is "the continuation of Russia's criminal policy, expressed through violation of international laws."

Abkhazian-Georgian "naval" conflict

The Georgian Gagra City Court in exile (functions in Kutaisi within other bodies in exile) has sentenced Mekhmet Osturk, a citizen of Turkey and captain of the Turkish ship "Buket", sailing under the flag of Panama, to 24 years of imprisonment.

On August 16, Georgian frontier guards detained the "Buket", transporting a large amount of POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) - over 3000 tons of gasoline and 775 tons of diesel fuel. Georgia asserts that this step was required, because a foreign ship entered the occupied territory. On the other hand, the Abkhazian party is sure that detention was made in neutral waters.

As reported on Monday by the Gagra Court in exile, the decision to sentence Osturk to 24 years in prison was made on the basis of six episodes, when under command of the captain the ship with "contraband cargo" arrived to Abkhazia and entered the territorial waters of Georgia.

The captain of the tanker was charged "on the facts of repeated violations of Georgia's frontier and navigation regulations in the occupied territory."

On the same case also Ilgar Imanverdiev, a citizen of Azerbaijan and former captain of the "Buket", was detained. He is under a threat of essential imprisonment.

The verdict to the Turkish captain was commented by Sergey Shamba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia. According to his story, Abkhazia now promises to arrest Georgian ships in neutral waters of the Black Sea "just like it is done by the Georgian party."

"Same as they do, we'll show that we can do the same in neutral waters. Well, if nobody wants to react to the fact that the Black Sea waters became the zone of such actions, we'll behave in the same way," said Mr Shamba.

On September 2, President of Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh gave an order to the republic's Navy to destroy the Georgian ships, which break the republic's sea border. According to his story, this step was dictated "by the incessant piracy actions by Georgia."

In his turn, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Grigol Vashadze refused to make comments on this order and promised that the head of Abkhazia will sit in prison.

On September 5, Georgia received fines from the company-owner of the detained "Buket" and released citizens of Azerbaijan who were onboard. "Under the decision of the court, they are free to move to any country or return to Azerbaijan," said Elkhan Polukhov, press secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Azerbaijan.

The fine for four citizens of Azerbaijan was paid by the Batumi-based representative office of the company "Denza Tanker" - owner of the "Buket" tanker. The total fine, appointed by the Poti City Court, made 3000 laris (about 56,200 Russian roubles).

As stated by Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, the "Denza" agreed to pay the fine for the captain too.

The Russia's MFA has demanded that Georgia should to stop its illegal actions in neutral waters.

Armenia and Turkey agree to open border

Armenia and Turkey have agreed to open their interstate border within two months after enactment of the "Protocol on Development of Bilateral Relations". The countries have also agreed to establish diplomatic relations as of the date of signing of the "Protocol on Establishment of Diplomatic Relations", as reported by the MFA of Armenia.

Political consultations will be completed within six weeks; then, the parties will sign both Protocols and deliver them for approval by the parliaments of both countries.

The MFA of Armenia has reported that "the above two Protocols are defining the scope of settling bilateral relations within reasonable terms."

The statement emphasizes that setting up of mutual relations will contribute to regional peace and stability, and that Armenia and Turkey undertake to continue joint efforts through mediation of Switzerland.

However, on September 1, Ahmet Davutoglu, head of the Turkish MFA, stated that his country has no plans, at the present stage, to open the border with Armenia, although the diplomat expressed his satisfaction with the started process of "warming up the relations."

"The aim of Turkey is to keep best relations with our neighbours and set up stable and universal peace in the Caucasus," Mr Davutoglu said.

The Minister also assured that Turkey "would take Azerbaijani interests into account at every stage of the process." "If everything goes as planned and if the mutual obligations are fulfilled, the border can be opened from the start of the new year," he said.

The MFA of Azerbaijan, in its turn, stated that opening of the Armenian-Turkish border without settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is contradictory to the national interests of Azerbaijan.

The statement of this latter ministry says that "the Azerbaijani position on this issue is based on numerous statements of high-ranking officials of the Turkish Republic." As the main point of such statements, the words are presented of Turkish officials that the Turkish-Armenian borders can be opened only after withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

Thus, the MFA of Azerbaijan, although believing that "definition of relations with other countries is, in the principle, the sovereign right of any state"; however, remarks that "this issue is directly touching the national interests of Azerbaijan," and "the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border without settling the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is contradictory to the national interests of Azerbaijan," as reported in the statement.

The joint statement of the foreign policy agencies of Armenia, Turkey and Switzerland on establishment of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Yerevan caused an ambiguous reaction in Azerbaijan. The public and the authorities of the country apprehended this information rather negatively, as a whole.

"I think that this is a betrayal of Azerbaijani interests and a deceit of the Turkish and Azerbaijani public. It contradicts the promises of Prime Minister Erdogan that he had personally given in Baku to our MPs and the public," said, in particular, Vafa Guluzade, former state adviser on foreign policy and political scientist in his conversation with the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, when making comments on the plans to normalize the relations.

Eldar Namazov, head of the Public Forum in the Name of Azerbaijan, said in his comments on the situation: "Apparently, the package-based version of normalizing the Armenian-Turkish relations is postponed; and the process is realized in some truncated variant. That is, at the given stage, diplomatic relations are established between Ankara and Yerevan, while opening of borders and start of economic cooperation is postponed until some further stage."

"However, they'll still have to synchronize the normalization process of the Armenian-Turkish relations with the process of Karabakh settlement," the expert believes. In Mr Namazov's opinion, "no complete normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations can take place until real steps in Karabakh settlement and liberation of occupied territories of Azerbaijan are taken."

He believes that establishment of diplomatic relations is a step-by-step process; and Ankara, when taking every new step in this direction, will consult with Baku.

Arastun Orudzhlu, head of the "East-West" Research Centre, believes that "the today's situation is a logical outcome of the Turkish-Armenian relations in these last years."

"The current authorities of Turkey disregard the Azerbaijani interests," said Mr Orudzhlu. In his opinion, the Azerbaijan position weakens, and it can be regarded as a defeat.

Unlike the experts, Azerbaijani oppositionists and authorities are not so radical in their comments on this issue.

"As far as I know, the two Protocols have no point on opening the border with Armenia. Therefore, we should be precise in our estimates," said Isa Gambar, leader of the "Musavat" opposition party.

Elkhan Polukhov, head of the press service of the MFA of Azerbaijan, has reiterated the well-known position of Azerbaijan, according to which "normalization of relations between Yerevan and Baku prior to settlement of Karabakh conflict is against Azerbaijani interests." At the same time, according to his story, Baku respects the right of every state to establish relations with other countries.

Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia, has stated, in his turn, that Armenia brought closer the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations; and for the first time in the newest history signing of major international documents will be followed by public discussions, which will enable hearing all the viewpoints.

"We've tried to set up worthy relations with our neighbour, as it should be in the civilized world of the 21st century. I believe that these Protocols give us such opportunity," said Mr Sargsyan.

According to the President, the Protocols are reflecting a number of key directions. In particular, the negotiations and arrangements reached with Turkey contain no precondition related to peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, or any other issue. Besides, the historical issues in Armenian-Turkish relations should be discussed not by historians but by an intergovernmental commission.

Artem Erkanyan, a political analyst for the "Shant" TV Company, has noted that the Party "Justice and Development", now in power in Turkey, has enough influence to promote ratification of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols.

Kiro Manoyan, head of the Bureau "Ai Dat" of the ARF "Dashnaktsutun", has stated that the Protocols are no guarantee of real establishment of diplomatic relations.

According to Karen Bekaryan, head of the organization "European Integration", the closed border with Armenia prevents Turkey from claiming to be an active player in the region. He has noted that, apart from relations with Armenia, Turkey has serious problems related to the Kurdish and Cyprian issues. "For accession to the EU, Turkey will have to solve at least one foreign policy problem," the expert has noted.

However, on September 2, in the capital of Armenia, about one thousand demonstrators voiced against the Yerevan-Ankara agreements. The protesters demanded that Turkey recognize the genocide of Armenians.

Paris and Washington have highly appreciated the course of negotiations between Armenia and Turkey. The US Department of State also welcomed the joint statement made by Armenia and Turkey: "The process of settling relations should go without any preconditions and within reasonable terms. We call Armenia and Turkey to act promptly. We are ready to closely cooperate with the governments of both countries and help in improving relations. It is a historical process, which will add to establishment of peace, safety and stability in the region," said Ayan Kelly, the speaker of the Department of State.

Supreme Court upholds setting aside sentence on Politkovskaya's case

On September 3, the Supreme Court of Russia returned to the Prosecutor's Office the murder case of Anna Politkovskaya, observer of the "Novaya Gazeta", for combining it with the main criminal case, under which all the persons involved in the crime are established, including the customer and the executor.

Thus, the Court has satisfied the cassation complaint lodged by Anna Politkovskaya's children and the cassation presentation submitted by the General Prosecutor's Office of Russia.

Karinna Moskalenko, advocate for the victims, has expressed her "constrained satisfaction" with the decision of the Supreme Court which, in her opinion and in the opinion of Vera and Ilya, Anna's children, and representatives of the "Novaya Gazeta", will contribute to a complete and comprehensive investigation into Anna Politkovskaya's murder.

On the same day, the Supreme Court of Russia recognized as lawful the cancellation of the acquittal verdict on Politkovskaya's case. This was reported by Murad Musaev, advocate of one of the defendants.

"The Court has denied my supervising complaint, where I asked to recognize the verdict cancellation illegal," said Mr Musaev.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has welcomed the return of the case on three suspects of murdering the journalist to additional investigation before its repeated delivery to the court.

Kadyrov's claim to Oleg Orlov, head of HRC "Memorial"

On September 3, the Moscow GUVD refused to initiate a criminal case against Oleg Orlov, head of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" under the article of "slander" in the context of his utterances that President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov was responsible for the murder of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova. This was reported by Andrei Krasnenkov, Kadyrov's advocate.

"The investigatory department of the Moscow GUVD has considered our petition to open a criminal case against Mr Orlov and denied it," said Mr Krasnenkov.

Nevertheless, it is expected that on September 10 a consideration of the civil suit will take place, lodged by Kadyrov on defence of his honour and dignity against the head of the HRC "Memorial".

Let us remind you that on July 16, right after the murder of the Chechen human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, the leader of the HRC "Memorial" accused President of Chechnya of Natalia's death and announced suspension of the activity of his organization in the territory of the republic.

The HRC "Memorial", where Natalia Estemirova had worked for about ten years, links the murder of its employees with the policy of the authorities in Chechnya connects murder of the of the employee with a policy of authorities in Chechnya. The statement of the "Memorial" notes that Russia is overwhelmed by the state terror, and Ramzan Kadyrov has made the work of human rights activists in Chechnya impossible. According to Mr Orlov, Kadyrov threatened the human rights activist, and, according to some sources, her last reports on the situation in the Chechen Republic caused fury of the Chechen President.

In his turn, President of Chechnya assured Oleg Orlov in a telephone conversation of his non-involvement in Estemirova's murder. Ramzan Kadyrov said that there were no proofs of his guilt of the death of Estemirova.

"If Kadyrov is guilty, if Kadyrov's people are guilty, let them prove it. What is the reason for Kadyrov to kill the woman, whom nobody needs? She had never had either honour and dignity, or conscience; and all the same I had appointed her the Chair of the Council (a public board under the administration of Grozny, - comment of the "Caucasian Knot")," said Kadyrov on air of Radio Liberty on August 8.

These words of the Chechen President had caused sharp disapproval among the republic's NGOs. Some of them perceived this statement as a mockery on the victim's memory, others - as a warning to all opponents to the ruling regime.

President of Russia Dmitri Medvedev believes that the murder of the employee of the HRC "Memorial" was a provocation; he was sure that the crime would be solved and the culprits would be punished according to the Russian criminal law.

Meanwhile, on September 3, unknown persons, who presented themselves as tax inspectors, toured the registration residential places of Oleg Orlov, Chair of the Board of the HRC "Memorial", and Alexander Cherkasov, a member of the Board, and tried to clear out details of their life.

A neighbour told Mr Orlov's mothers that about 4:00 p.m. on that day somebody called at the door. She saw an Asian-looking man of middle age, who presented himself as "an employee of the tax inspection". The neighbour talked with the man. He showed her some papers and asked about the persons who actually lived in the apartments on their floor, and whether apartments were leased by someone.

The visitor paid special attention to the apartment, where Oleg Orlov is registered, and asked about Orlov himself. The neighbour told nothing particular. As it was found out later, the same man also addressed same questions to another neighbour on the same floor, as the HRC "Memorial" reports.

On the following day, September 4, Oleg Orlov called the district tax inspection. There, he was told that no inspectors are ever sent for holding this sort of interrogations, and advised him to address the militia.

In the morning on September 3, a woman called at the door of the apartment, where Alexander Cherkasov is registered. His mother opened the door. The visitor presented herself as an employee of tax inspection. She had some papers in hands and asked, whether anyone from among the neighbours was engaged in illegal entrepreneurship.

According to Mr Cherkasov's mother, the woman knew the names and surnames of the residents of different adjacent apartments. Since "the woman looked decent", the mother, without asking for documents, let her in to show that the apartment is not used for entrepreneurial activity. When asked about Alexander Cherkasov's occupation, his mother said that he is engaged in "research activities".

On September 4, Mr Cherkasov addressed the tax inspection. He was told at the department of cameral checks that no employees of the inspection were sent on the eve to his address.

"In the context of recent threats addressed to human rights organizations and their employees, and attacks on human rights activists both in Moscow and in other regions of Russia, the HRC "Memorial" expresses its concern of the fact that unknown persons, having informed false data about themselves, were gathering information about the employees of the Centre," runs the statement of the "Memorial".

Claims of the Prosecutor's Office to opposition in South Ossetia

On September 3 it became known that the authorities of South Ossetia had accused of breaching contract provisions before subcontractors the top managers of the "Stroyprogress" Company, which was building the Dzuarikau-Tskhinvali gas pipeline; the head of this company - Albert Dzhussoev is at the same the leader of the opposition to President Eduard Kokoity.

A criminal case was already opened against the "Stroyprogress" on the fact of hiding funds from taxation (about 160 million roubles) and inflicting damage to the ecology of the republic (estimated as 250 million roubles).

"In the course of preliminary investigation of the actions of the top managers of this company, more than 30 its employees addressed us on non-payment of salaries for 7 months," Eldar Kokoev, Deputy General Public Prosecutor of the republic told the "Gazeta.Ru".

According to the "Stroyprogress", which is registered in Moscow, its indebtedness to hired subcontractors is about 60 million roubles. This was the reason of delays in salary payments.

However, since all the documentation is in Moscow, Tskhinvali has addressed the Russian State Office of Public Prosecutor with a respective request for help. "We can't do without it," Mr Kokoev answered to the question, whether he expected excitation of a criminal case against Dzhussoev in Russia.

According to Anatoly Tandelov, who at the final stage of construction was in charge of the southern section of the pipeline, "three enterprises, which conducted drilling works from March to late July this year, have not been paid, even for the most complicated blasting works in the Kudar Swell." Now, the subcontractors should, under the contract provisions, collect the debts through the Moscow Arbitration Court.

"Workers were not paid their salaries for several months. The blasting works at the Kudar Swell were performed in the hardest conditions. Thirty workers employed there hoped to receive their salaries at least upon the end of all the works; however, even after commissioning of the gas pipeline they haven't received a rouble. Albert Dzhussoev, director general of the organization, fails to answer telephone calls and avoids meeting the people, whom he owes for five months," Mr Tandelov told the ITAR-TASS.

According to the construction head of the gas pipeline, "in spite of the fact that the customer of the construction - the MRK Engineering - has already paid out the whole sum to the general customer, not all the works in the southern section have been completed."

Mr Tandelov said that "in the southern section of the gas pipeline, the technical road was not completely built; bridges were not built; engineering protection of the gas pipeline and the state district power plant improvement works were not made the optical-fibre communication line was not laid down; the fire-safety signalling system was not installed; radio communication towers were not erected; and no autonomous electric power supply is ensured."

As Mr Tandelov has explained, "it is all necessary for ensuring technical protection of the pipeline, for the control and operative recovery of the work of the gas pipeline in case of an accident."

Meanwhile, Mr Dzhussoev called all the charges presented by South-Ossetian authorities unreasonable and politically motivated. After recognition by Moscow of South Ossetia's independence, as Albert Dzhussoev asserts, President Kokoity became an absolute master of the country, and "over a hundred of most prominent persons of the republic were forced to leave their homeland for fear of repressions." Mr Dzhussoev states that he is ready to hold a fight with the President and achieve his resignation.

According to his story, Mr Tandelov "was not a subcontractor": "He had worked at the 'Stroyprogress' and was once fired, as a matter of fact, for plundering building materials; however, when Kokoity's people started to expel our specialists and attack our machinery, we were forced to return him back to work."

Mr Dzhussoev is sure that the Russian Prosecutor's Office will not open a criminal case against him, and sooner or later Moscow will support him.

Anniversary of Beslan terror act

A three-day-long Memory Watch for the hostages who fell victim five years ago started on September 1 in Beslan with a bell ring on the ruins of Beslan Schools No. 1. Exactly at 9:15 a.m. Moscow time, like five years ago, a bell rang over the ruins, and flowers were laid in the school gym, where terrorists kept over 1200 persons for three days. Now, over two thousand persons came to the school yard to pay tribute to the victims of the 2004 terror act.

Taimuraz Mamsurov, head of North Ossetia, whose son and daughter were hostages too, was among the first to lay fresh flowers in the gym.

In the morning, Bishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz Theophan, who in those days was together with residents of Beslan, served a requiem for the victims in the school yard.

Mourning music sounded over the school ruins; and residents of Beslan and the republic, following the tradition, lit candles and brought bottles with water, toys and fresh flowers.

Many former hostages paid tribute to the memory to their lost friends. "With every year, it's more and more difficult for me to come here; but I'll come here again and again, because my 15 schoolmates perished here," said Geor Gigolaev, a boy of 15.

In the middle of the gym, where flowers and wreaths were laid, a 3-meter-high Orthodox cross was erected; the floor was covered with carnations, and the walls - with photos of perished hostages and fighters of regiments "Alpha" and "Vympel", who were lost at rescuing hostages. Mothers and close relatives of perished children were all the time in the gym. A big poster "We remember" was placed on one of the walls, and names of all casualties were written on black background.

The school was under strengthened supervision of the militia; no motor transport was admitted to the territory. Metal detectors were installed at access to the school from different directions; and militiamen were checking people's belongings.

Susanna Dudieva, chair of the NGO "Mothers of Beslan", said that every day dozens of persons are still coming to the place of tragedy.

School No. 1 in Beslan, where hostages had been seized, will become a memorial complex; the school building will be preserved in the same condition, as it was for these five years. The German company "Knauf Kasse" will be in charge of the memorial; its experts will deal with restoration and preservation of the school building - it was decided to cover the surface of the building with a sort of a glass hood.

September 2 was announced to be the Day of Silence.

On September 3, cities of Russia held the Solidarity Day in War on Terrorism. Russian temples held requiems in memory of the victims of the acts of terror committed in Beslan and Moscow.

Thousands of people arrived to the city to mark the fifth anniversary of the tragedy. All the day long people were coming to the yard of School No. 1 in Beslan; mourning music was performed there.

At 1:05 p.m. Moscow time, a minute of silence was announced in North Ossetia in memory of the victims of the terror act in School No. 1 of Beslan in 2004. On that very minute five years ago, first explosions took place in the mined gym of the school. Before the minute of silence, a bell chime sounded over Beslan; and then, 334 white balloons were let into the sky - equal to the death roll of perished hostages.

After the school, mourning actions continued at the memorial cemetery. There also, white balloons went into the sky; and under the knock of metronome the names of all the victims were announced, including special agents and rescuers of the Ministry for Emergencies.

On the eve, employees of the Special-Purpose Centre of the FSB also came to Beslan to commemorate their perished colleagues. They handed over their military accoutrements to the museum of Beslan School No. 1.

Requiems in memory of victims of terror acts passed all over Russia. In Moscow, on blessing of the Patriarch, the requiem was held in the Life-Giving Trinity Temple.

In Moscow, memory actions were held in the places, where terror acts had been committed in different years - in front of the Dubrovka Theatrical Centre, in the Guryanova Street and Kashira Highway, as reported by Channel One." A guard of honour appeared in the underpass of the Pushkin Square; and in the Guryanova Street the memorial meeting was held near the chapel built in the place of the house blown up by terrorists.

On that day, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin began the sitting of the presidium of the government with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of terror acts in Beslan and Dubrovka. "Today is the Memory Day of the victims of all crimes committed by bandits, with the most barbarous and resonant of them in mind - Beslan and Dubrovka," said Mr Putin.

In his turn, Sergey Mironov, chairman of the Council of Federation, has stated today that "our memory about the victims perished from hands of bandits should be efficient." "This monstrous crime was accomplished in a small North-Caucasian town. A normal human can't understand that this could be conceived and committed by humans. However, having seized defenceless children, they ceased to be humans," the speaker has emphasized.

Mr Mironov is sure that counteracting terrorism is only possible "through solidarity of all citizens and the society as a whole, not just through actions of law enforcement bodies." "Terrorists want to break this solidarity, disrupt links among people and trust of the people in the state; in order to remain unpunished in all their crimes and evils. But our memory about innocent victims should be effective," he has noted.

"The investigation will last for many more months; and there are formal reasons for that: it is necessary to establish the names of all the terrorists, their possible helpers and so forth. And we are not against this intention to clear out all the details of the terror act," said Susanna Dudieva, chair of the "Mothers of Beslan".

"However, we can clearly see another aim in protracting the process - an open unwillingness of the inquiry bodies to make an objective estimate of the whole range of objective circumstances and already established facts. Moreover, these bodies are undertaking to distort them, or hide them whatsoever," Ms Dudieva is convinced.

According to her story, it is done by means of overloading the case by far-fetched examinations and studies, which are announced allegedly important for establishing the truth. "Most ridiculous reasons are invented for protracting the investigation. Thus, same examinations are held for several times, and for years they are added to the materials of the case for unknown reason," she has stated.

"Recently inspector A. Solzhenitsin has stated that the outcome of Beslan terror act was successful, since the share of casualties did not exceed 30 percent of the number of hostages. I wonder who has defined these standards and whether they tested them on their relatives and friends," the chair of the "Mothers of Beslan" asked with indignation.

The "Mothers of Beslan" have sent three complaints to Strasbourg. The first - the main complaint - is on the state's violation of the victims' right to life, to objective investigation, to access to the materials of the investigation, and to efficient trial.

The second complaint has to do with inactivity, non-professionalism and negligence of the former Minister of Internal Affairs of North Ossetia Dzantiev.

The third complaint refers the heads of the Malgobek District Militia Division of the Republic of Ingushetia; since at their trial jurymen had found them innocent and released from any punishment.

The complaints have been accepted by the European Court; and the applicants hope that consideration will start next year.

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