08 December 2009, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 30 - December 6

Inspectors look for "Caucasian component" in "Neva-Express" train accident; strained interethnic relations in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachai-Circassia; results scandalous election of Mayor in the Dagestan city of Derbent cancelled, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of November 30-December 6 in Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

"Caucasian trace" in "Neva-Express" accident

Active debates continued through the last week about possible involvement of militants from Northern Caucasus in the explosion on November 27 in the Novgorod Region of the passenger train No. 166 Moscow-St Petersburg, where 27 passengers were killed or mortally wounded.

Only on December 2, militants of Northern Caucasus announced their "authorship" of the accident. They named the terror act against the "Neva-Express" train a link in the chain of "operations against strategic objects in the territory of Russia." Their statement disseminated by their supporting Internet resources marked that the explosion was aimed at Russian high-ranking officials.

However, spokesmen from power agencies treat this statement as an extremists' "propaganda canard" and assert that their leader Doku Umarov has no more capacities to commit broad-scale diversions outside Chechnya.

The investigation is searching four suspected executors of the terror act; their identikits were already published. Three of them are presumably of Slavic appearance, while the fourth one is a typical Caucasian.

At the same time, it was reported that on December 1 two natives of Chechnya - Amirkhanov brothers - and an Azeri Zaur Guliev were detained, and, according to their lawyers, exposed to torture in the town of Solnechnogorsk, situated near Moscow, in connection with the "Neva-Express" explosion case. As reported by Irina Gordienko, a correspondent of the "Novaya Gazeta", Amirkhanov brothers are still kept in one of Moscow isolation facilities; and their advocates are not admitted to them.

Meanwhile, on December 1, the Novgorod Regional Court held a session on the case about the previous explosion of the same "Neva-Express" train, which happened near Malaya Vishera on August 13, 2007. Under the version of law enforcement bodies, Doku Umarov was the customer of that terror act. The court ruled to extend the arrest of the figurants of the case - Salambek Dzakhkiev and Maksharip Khidriev - till March 3, 2010.

Let us note here that one day before the court session, Ruslan Badalov, chairman of the "Chechen Committee for National Salvation", said that he was shocked by Khidriev's statement, in which he pled guilty of preparing the terror act and confirmed his earlier statement that he had slandered the other defendant - Dzakhkiev. In Mr Badalov's opinion, there are eyewitnesses who evidenced Khidriev's alibi.

Besides, on December 4, Salambek Dzakhkiev appealed against the verdict on bribing an inspector of the Investigatory Committee under the Prosecutor's Office of Russia, which was passed on him on November 24. The date of consideration of the appeal was not yet appointed.

Situation in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachai-Circassia

The conflict of Adyg organizations with the authorities of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic (KBR) has intensified. The point is in the laws adopted by the local parliament on October 30, according to which in the Cherek and Elborus Districts the so-called "inter-village territories" were liquidated, and the lands were delivered to residents of Balkar villages. Last week messages appeared that leaders of two public organizations were beaten.

On November 30, Ruslan Keshev, leader of the public movement "Circassian Congress", was attacked and received heavy bodily injuries. On December 5, Ibragim Yaganov, leader of the United Public Movement (UPM) "Khasse", was beaten and hospitalized in grave condition.

Mr Yaganov believes that he was attacked by Islamic fundamentalists, who acted in concert with "near-power structures." "We're surprised with the current tandem of praying people with militia - earlier they were usually in opposition," he said.

According to his story, on December 4 aggressive youngsters together with militiamen dispersed a Balkar rally.

The "Khasse" leader put the responsibility for what happens now in Kabardino-Balkaria on the republic's leadership and personally on President of the KBR Arsen Kanokov, who has failed so far, as Mr Yaganov asserts, to make any statements on the facts of beating and interfere into settling the land disputes.

Earlier, the "Khasse" had made an official statement on the fact of Keshev's beating. The activists of the organization are sure that the aim of the attack was to disrupt the preparation to the rally of the Adyg society, appointed for December 5 in Nalchik. Adygs had planned to move their claims on the land issues at that rally. However, the administration of Nalchik offered them to refrain from the event "because of complicated crime situation", and on December 4 the board of the "Khasse" decided to cancel the rally.

The situation in the neighbouring Karachai-Circassia is also strained. Here, the forum-rally of Circassian youth held on November 26 with demand of self-determination and restoration of the Circassian Autonomous Region in the status of a Russian republic caused a resolute discontent of the authorities and the organization of Karachai people named "Tyore".

In the opinion of Aslan Beshtoev, chairman of the public organization "Adyge Khasse" of Abkhazia, who took part in the rally, the conflict stemmed from the "reckless national policy", pursued by the authorities, which "infringes the rights of one of the title nations of the republic." According to his version, the aim of this policy is "to create the Karachai-Balkar territory and squeeze Circassians from the places of their residence."

Pilyal Khasanov, deputy chairman of the public organization of the Karachai people "Tyore", believes that there were no objective reasons for holding the rally.

"If we compare the population, we can see that Circassians occupy as many high posts as Karachais. The only exception is that President of Karachai-Circassia is a Karachai; however, by our estimates, he works for the Circassians more than for us," said Mr Khasanov.

Rashid Kantserov, Chairman of the Committee for National Policy of Karachai-Circassia, said that there is no confrontation inside the republic.

"The main aim of those who held the rally was a new territorial repartition of Karachai-Circassia, which, as a matter of fact, is a derogation of the fundamentals of the constitutional order. Such actions are among the factors that kindle the interethnic enmity," Mr Kantserov is convinced.

Court cancels election outcomes of Derbent Mayor

On December 3, the City Court of Derbent cancelled the results of the October 11 election of the city Mayor, when according to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of Dagestan, the incumbent head of the city Felix Kaziakhmedov was re-elected. By this decision the Court satisfied the claims of candidates-losers Kazimov, Ramazanov and Yaraliev, who asked to nullify the protocols of the polling stations and the city electoral commission of Derbent.

According to the information of the City Court, during the process, which lasted for more of two weeks, they interrogated about two hundred witnesses, who confirmed facts of numerous violations in the course of voting. The case initiated under Imam Yaraliev's claim was separated into individual proceeding.

On December 4, President of Dagestan Mukhu Aliev made his comment on the Derbent Court decision. "At the trial, there was not a single representative of the Derbent territorial electoral commission (TEC), and not a single document of this commission was considered by the judge. Therefore, I think that the decision will be challenged at higher judicial instances," he said.

A similar statement was made by Magomed Dibirov, chairman of the CEC of Dagestan. He said: "An essential violation is that the court made the decision without the presence of any TEC members, whose protocols were the subject of the trial."

However, Nikolai Pankov, head of the inter-coordination board of the "Edinaya Rossiya" Party in the Southern Federal District (SFD) said that "as soon as the decision comes into force, we'll enforce it."

Let us note here that the situation around the election cancellation unfolds at the background of the fight for the power over the republic as a whole, which has become still tenser after November 19, when the Presidium of the General Council of the "Edinaya Rossiya" approved their candidates to the post of President of Dagestan.

According to some federal media, on November 29 the meeting in Makhachkala of local legislators with high-ranking visitors from Moscow regarding coordination of future President of Dagestan ended in a scandal, since Amuchi Amutinov and Abusupyan Kharkharov, Deputies of the National Assembly of Dagestan, poured criticism on President of Russia Dmitri Medvedev.

However, later both Amutinov and Kharkharov accused the press of distorting the situation.

"At the meeting with visitors from Moscow one of deputies said that he would vote even for ill vote though for a Chukchi man, should he be nominated by President of Russia. But I said that I am worried with the destiny of my homeland; therefore, I'd give my vote only for a worthy person, who understands Dagestan specificities and is highly experienced. For me, such person is the current head of the republic Mukhu Aliev," Mr Amudinov said.

"We asked President of Russia to take into account the situation in the region, since we are sure that the efficient work of the ruling vertical is only possible in the meaningful dialogue regime. Our initiative is absolutely usual, initiated in full conformity with the legislation; and nobody is against President of Russia," Mr Kharkharov has added.

On December 3, Magomed Suleimanov, speaker of the National Assembly of Dagestan, said that the mechanism of nominating candidates for the post of the head of the republic should be more clear and transparent, but the MPs would support any decision of the president of the country. This was Mr Suleimanov's comment on the appeal of Dagestan MPs to Dmitri Medvedev, adopted on November 26, which caused a great scandal.

"I'm a state servant and like my colleagues don't like all sorts of demarches. However, our opinion, expressed publicly, was hastily treated by some people as an act of disobedience of the republican parliament to the federal centre," said Magomed Suleimanov.

At the same time, Mayor of Makhachkala Said Amirov has stated that the MPs had got beyond the law and interfered with the authorities of the federal centre.

Georgia and Russia continue exchanging accusations

In the end of last week, the official Tbilisi gave a sharp reaction to the intention of the Russian Federation to deploy three frontier boats models "Sobol" and "Mangust" in the port of Ochamchira (Abkhazia). The deployment was announced by Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Frolov, deputy head of the Frontier Department of the Russian FSB for Abkhazia.

Russia says that its frontier boats will ensure safety of the ships going to Abkhazian ports and defence of sea borders of this republic. However, Georgia regards it as piracy and "strengthening of the occupational military contingent."

On December 4, the National Commission of Georgia for Communications made a decision to fine a number of Russian TV Channels for broadcasting in the territory of Abkhazia without Georgia's permission.

Since the "NTV", "TV-Tsentr", "Rossiya" and "Kultura" have already been fined in absentia by the Commission by 50,000 laris (about 30,000 US dollars) each, now, the fines are ten-fold - 500,000 laris. The fine on the Public TV of Russia "Channel One", which had been fined twice by Georgia, was defined as 1 million laris (about 600,000 US dollars).

The Russian TV Channels are not going to pay the fines. According to the officials of "Channel One" and "TV-Tsentr"> they got permissions for broadcasting from the authorities of Abkhazia.

Meanwhile, the delegation of Georgia at the meeting of the European Air Navigation Planning Group at the European and North Atlantic Office of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), held in Paris on December 1-3, raised the issue on stopping Russia's actions of Russia in the air space of Abkhazia. Under the version of Tbilisi, by making flights in the air space of Abkhazia, Russia breaks the Georgian legislation and the International Convention on Civil Aviation. Deputy Minister for Economic Development Georgiy Karbelashvili has addressed a letter to President of ICAO Roberto Kobe Gonzales asking to take measures to stop Russia's violations.

Another last week's conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi stemmed from the prohibition, on December 1 at the airport of the capital of Georgia, for a group of the Russian experts to cross the state border. Having spent half an hour there, they came back to Moscow by a return flight via Yerevan. President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili said that these experts "are actively cooperating with Russian special agencies and support occupation of the territory of Georgia."

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