21 September 2009, 10:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 14-20

Development of armed conflict in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan; outcomes of the next round of Geneva consultations on conflict settlement in Transcaucasia; resonant trials in the regions of Northern and Southern Caucasus; events in economy, culture and sports, – look up these and other events in the review of the week of September 14-20 in the Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Conflict in Northern Caucasus

Monday, September 14, was 150 days after cancellation of the almost ten-year counterterrorist operation (CTO) regime in Chechnya. The past week saw already the seventh terror act with the use of a suicide bomber – on September 16 in Grozny, several dozens meters away from the building of the Republic's House of Fashion, a woman-suicide-bomber blew her up near a road police car with two militiamen inside.

On September 14, in the village of Khattuni, Vedeno District of Chechnya, as local residents assert, a broad-scale "zachistka" (cleanup) was conducted, in the course of which a local resident was kidnapped. Power agencies of the republic refrain from any comments.

In Ingushetia, Chechnya's neighbour, on September 15, at the entrance to Nazran from Magas, employees of unidentified power bodies, armed with armoury machines, tried to detain Makasharip Aushev, a member of the Expert's Council under the office of Russian Ombudsman. Mr Aushev is convinced that it was a kidnapping attempt; he escaped it by a miracle, thanks to help of the people who happened to be nearby and militiamen at the adjacent patrol sentry post.

In the evening on Monday, September 14, a combat clash burst out in central Nazran of militiamen with members of the armed underground. During the fight, three persons, later identified as militants, were killed, and two others managed to escape.

Dagestan also saw armed clashes. At night of September 16, the militia post at the entrance to Derbent was shelled. As a result of the incident, two persons were wounded in the car, which militiamen wanted to examine. And in the morning on September 19, in the course of a combat clash in the Kizlyar District three participants of the armed underground were liquidated.

Last week, a message arrived from Dagestan about disappearance of Nariman Mamedyarov, a resident of Makhachkala, who had been kidnapped by power agents but released under recognizance not to leave due to active interference of human rights activists. The Prosecutor's Office of the Lenin District of Makhachkala initiated a check of the application submitted by Mamedyarov's relatives, where they report that Nariman had again disappeared on his way home. The relatives are sure that he was again kidnapped by power agents. As they say, Mamedyarov should have evidenced at the trial of Magomed Kurbanov, accused of participating in IAFs (illegal armed formations).

On September 14 in Makhachkala, participants of a non-authorized picket protested against changing custody conditions of two inmates. The militia dispersed the picket with use of electric shockers. As a result, a woman was taken away by an ambulance.

In the end of last week, disturbing news arrived also from Karachai-Circassia. On Sunday, September 20, a murder was committed in Cherkessk of Ismail Bostanov, Deputy Chair of the Spiritual Department of Moslems of Karachai-Circassia and Stavropol Territory and Rector of the Islamic Institute. His car was shelled by unidentified persons, when he stopped at the traffic light in the city centre. As a result of the attack, Bostanov's son was also wounded. He was operated on, and his life is out of danger. Ismail Berdiev, Mufti of Karachai-Circassia and Stavropol Territory, said in his comments on Bostanov's murder, that "most likely, it was a revenge of extremists", with whom Bostanov actively fought at the ideological level.

Political situation in Southern Caucasus

On September 17, delegations from Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia rallied in Geneva, with participation of the USA, OSCE, European Union and United Nations, for their 7th consultation round on settlement of the consequences of the 2008 armed conflict in Transcaucasia. The parties discussed the situation in the zones of Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts. The negotiations were long and hot, but resulted in no particular agreements.

Representatives of Georgia and international organizations stated the necessity of demilitarization of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and deployment of international peacekeeping and police forces there; while delegations of Russia, Sukhumi and Tskhinvali rejected these proposals. The parties took a six-week timeout to amend and add their proposals.

Last week, the Abkhazian-Georgian relations, not very warm as they are, were enriched by hostile rhetoric, caused by the decision of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church to separate from the Georgian one. It was officially announced by Priest Vissarion Apliaa, manager of the Sukhumi-Abkhazian Eparchy, who said that in 1943 the Abkhazian Church was violently merged with the Georgian one, and now – the "historical justice" has been restored.

Elias the Second, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Whole Georgia, has called not to take seriously the statement of Abkhazian spiritual leaders about the independence of the Abkhazian Church, saying that "nobody has the rights to announce independence without the consent of the Georgian Orthodox Church."

The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) opposed the decision of the Abkhazian clergy by stating its respect of the canonical borders of the Georgian Patriarchy and asserting that despite appeals of the Abkhazian clergy, the position of the ROC on the matter remains unchanged.

On September 17, in Armenia, President Serzh Sargsyan held a meeting with the leaders of political forces, devoted to the issues of normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations. During the meeting, Mr Sargsyan said that in his initiatives to normalize the relations with Turkey the most important for him was to demonstrate the Armenians' advance readiness "to recognize the senselessness of moving against the global progress."

From September 15, the Party ARF "Dashnaktsutyun" started its protest actions and a hunger strike in front of the buildings of the government and Armenia's MFA in the context of the initialled Armenian-Turkish Protocols. The oppositional Armenian National Congress has disseminated its statement that the promulgated Armenian-Turkish Protocols evidence the "bankruptcy of the foreign policy of the ruling regime."

On September 17, the interim parliamentary commission published its final report on the events on March 1, 2008, in Yerevan. The commission has recognized the actions of the police "in general proportional", when policemen dispersed the participants of mass protest actions against the outcomes of the presidential election, and treated the actions of the organizers of the rally on March 1, which "had still more heated the atmosphere and passions", as unacceptable.

The oppositional Armenian National Congress reacted to these conclusions by a statement that the commission had failed its mission to clear out the circumstances of the death of the victims on March 1, and that the final report of the commission was, as a matter of fact, written in the lobby of the President's office by the General Prosecutor's Office and special agencies.

Resonant trials

In Baku, on September 16, the court hearings were launched on the case of young bloggers – Adnan Gadjizade and Emin Milli accused of hooliganism. The bloggers see, together with the human rights activists supporting them, the real context of the litigation in the video clip, published by then in the Internet "on the donkey's policy", which hinted, in allegorical form, towards non-observance of human rights in Azerbaijan. On September 18, the victim and witnesses evidenced on the Gadjizade-Milli case. The words of the victim, in particular, his unexpected confession that he had written his application to the police under policeman's dictation, caused certain questions by the bloggers' advocates.

In Tbilisi, on September 14-16, the court continued to consider the case on the "Mukhrovani mutiny", where the defendants are accused of disobedience to the order of the commander of the Mukhrovani battalion – this May they have refused to go out for preparation to the parade on the Independence Day of Georgia. Thirty-four defendants have pled guilty and stated that after the defeat in the August war of 2008 taking part in the parade was an insult of officer's dignity. Two defendants recognized their partial guilt; and five more – rejected to admit it whatsoever.

On September 14, the Supreme Court of North Ossetia passed its verdict on Alexander Khachirov's case; he was accused of high treason by espionage in favour of Georgia. The Court sentenced him to seven years in high security colony. The court session was held closed.

On September 14, the Moscow Regional Military Court, in fulfilment of the decision of the Military Panel of the Supreme Court, returned to the Prosecutor's Office the murder case of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

On September 17 at the Tver Court of Moscow, advocates of singer Christina Orbakaite moved a petition on amicable agreement under her claim to Chechen businessman Ruslan Baisarov on establishing residence of Deni Baisarov, son of Christina and Ruslan. Baisarov's advocates rejected the agreement. Earlier, on September 15, the district court of the capital of Chechnya satisfied Baisarov's claim against Orbakaite and left Deni to live with his father. Deni, a boy of eleven, said that he would like to live with his father.

At the preliminary hearings on September 17 on the case of Radiy Burulov, Mayor of Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, accused of excess of his official powers, the defence suggested changing the victims. Instead of the Mayoralty of Elista, which would not recognize itself as a victim, although it is recorded in the case as such, the advocates offered to regard the 16 municipal establishments as the victims. They had suffered because they had to buy petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL), delivered under high prices, because Burulov, under the version of the investigation, had illegally ensured the victory in the POL delivery tender to the company belonging to members of his family.

On September 17, a trial took place in the Krasnodar Territory on suspension of the activity of the Novorossisk Committee on Human Rights (NCHR). The pretext for the claim lodged by the Public Prosecutor against the NCHR was the slogan "Freedom is not given – it is taken", used during one of the actions in Novorossisk, when human rights activists protested against the "curfew", introduced in the Krasnodar Territory for children and teenagers. The Department of the FSB for the Krasnodar Territory saw in the slogan indirect appeals to violent antisocial actions. Some of Russian cities have launched solidarity campaigns with the NCHR.

Resignations in power bodies

In Ingushetia, a regular session of parliament on September 17 considered the issue of the work of the republic's Ombudsman. After the secret voting of the MPs, Karim-Sultan Kokurkhaev was dismissed before term.

On September 17, President of Dagestan Mukhu Aliev sacked his Minister for Construction and Housing and Communal Services Nizam Daudov and appointed Yusup Umavov instead, having released the latter from the position of the head of the Dagestan Forestry Agency. On September 16, at the sitting of the government, the work of this Ministry was criticized – as of September 1, 2009, the readiness of the objects of the housing and communal infrastructure of the republic for the winter season was 69 percent.

Economy news: outcomes of Sochi Investment Forum

The first results of the 8th International Investment Forum "Sochi-2009", which took place on September 17-20 and attracted delegations from 56 regions of Russia and 27 foreign countries, have been summed up. The total number of participants exceeded 7700 persons. According to preliminary data, at this year's Sochi Forum Russian regions signed contracts worth 500 billion roubles, having essentially exceeded the last year's 365 billion roubles.

Over two thirds of all the signed funds will go to the Krasnodar Territory – 177 investment contracts to the sum of 351 billion roubles. Dagestan concluded five agreements to the sum of more than 10.5 billion roubles. The delegation of the Volgograd Region had arrived to the forum with investment projects and energy saving programmes to the total sum of about 44 billion roubles and signed 11 agreements. During the Forum, the Astrakhan Region agreed with the "Microsoft Rus" to boost cooperation in use of information technologies. The delegation from Chechnya signed a number of agreements with major banks of Russia – the "Vnesheconombank", Savings Bank of Russia and "Rosselkhozbank".

Other subjects of the South Federal District (SFD) also presented their projects at the Sochi Forum. Thus, Adygea presented 45 investment projects to the sum of 36.8 billion roubles and 55 investment sites. Karachai-Circassia prepared 18 projects to over 154 billion roubles. Kabardino-Balkaria brought to the Forum its 7 investment projects worth 66.8 billion roubles. The participation results of these republics in Sochi are now updated.

For the first time ever Armenia took part in Sochi Forum this year: it presented different projects to be implemented both in the territories of Armenia and in Sochi.

The forum also saw signing of agreement with the "Volkswagen" automobile concern on general partnership for the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2014.

The "Caucasian Knot" presents a photo album from the Investment Forum in Sochi.

Culture events

The whole last week, September 13-20, the city of Anapa, Krasnodar Territory, hosted the "Kinoshock" 18th Open Festival – the film festival of the CIS member-states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The prize for the best direction was awarded to the film "Border" by Arutyun Khachatryan from Armenia; the Georgian film "Meteoidiot" won two prizes – for the best script (Irakliy Kvirikadze) and Knyazhinski Prize for the best camerawork (Walter Van den Ende and Mikho Kvirikadze). A special prize of the International Festival Board for the courage and dignity in profession was awarded to Georgian film writer Irakliy Kvirikadze. Besides, the joint film of Georgia and Kazakhstan "Other Coast" received a special diploma of the jury for defence of humanitarian values.

On September 18, Baku hosted the opening ceremony of the 11th "East-West" International Film Festival with participation of renown cinema figures from many countries. The event will last till September 23. Its programme includes 14 films. Under the festival tradition, these are the movies, which have already taken part in other film festivals. The event will award prizes in the following nominations: "For the most humane message to viewers", "For contribution to global cinematography", "For the most womanly image", "For the manliest image" and "For a bright debut".

Sports news

In Georgia, Nodar Akhalkatsi, President of the Football Federation, has retired on his own will. He explained his decision by discontent of the fans with poor results of the national team. Mr Akhalkatsi said, however, that he would stay "on the service to Georgian football."

On September 20, Elena Isinbaeva, a sportswoman from Volgograd won the Golden Grand Prix of Shanghai competition. Mass media disseminated data about her victory in pole vault with a new world record at 5.07 meters. However, the All-Russia Track-and-Field Federation refuted this information, saying that she really was the winner, but at 4.85.

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