01 February 2010, 08:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 25-31

Negotiations of three presidents on Karabakh conflict; outcomes of Geneva discussions; attempts in Southern and newly formed North-Caucasian Federal Districts; terror act in Abkhazia, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of January 25-31, 2010, in Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

PACE Bureau would not discuss Russia's actions in the Caucasus

On Monday, January 25, the Bureau of the PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) failed to support the offer to draft a separate report on violations of human rights in Northern Caucasus and refused to discuss the consequences of the August 2008 Georgian-Russian war.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of Russia's delegation and chairman of the Duma committee on international matters, said on the outcomes of the PACE session that the point of human rights in Northern Caucasus was brought in for discussion, among others, by delegations of Georgia and Estonia.

The Assembly leaders found the offered formulation "excessive and politically incorrect." However, within the preparation of the complex report on human rights, this spring the PACE delegation is ready to visit the Russian regions of Northern Caucasus, in particular, Dagestan and Ingushetia. The discussion of Georgian-Russian relations was also moved to the spring session.

Leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia negotiate in Sochi

On Monday, Presidents of Russia Dmitri Medvedev, of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev and of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan met in Sochi to discuss Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.

The talks lasted for more than two hours. The main result was agreement on the preamble of the document on the conflict settlement. "Although there are parts of the document, not yet agreed by the parties, they'll move their particular ideas thereon, and further formulations will be put over this text," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, but disclosed no details of the preamble.

Expectations from the talks differ among the parties. Russia hopes for a certain progress in Karabakh settlement, as stated in Baku by Sergey Naryshkin, head of the Russian President's Administration.

Experts of Nagorno-Karabakh, in their turn, expect no fruits from the meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders. " At the given stage, none of the parties is ready to sign any decisive documents, which assume certain concessions," said Albert Voskanyan, a Karabakh human rights defender.

Aram Arutyunyan, leader of the Party "National Accord", believes that the Karabakh conflict cannot be settled before 2020.

"Unless Nagorno-Karabakh is a party in the talks, they're just senseless," said Albert Safaryan, an arts critic.

Yerevan found the Presidents' meeting ineffectual, like all the previous ones. This is the opinion of a number of Armenian politicians, who see no progress in the consent about the preamble of "Madrid principles" towards general agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh. "I think we still have to cope with a long way before the Karabakh issue is close to its settlement," Grair Karapetyan, chairman of the parliamentary commission for national security and home issues and a member of the ARFD (Armenian Revolutionary Federation "Dashnaktsutyun"), told journalists.

Science and public figures of Nagorno-Karabakh also believe that negotiations of Presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were fruitless.

Azerbaijani experts are reserved in assessing the Sochi summit. "The organizers of the event should have opened its results. Since it was not done - there's no serious progress," said Eldar Namazov, head of the public forum "In the Name of Azerbaijan".

Around-the-Olympic attempt

On January 25, at about 3 p.m., in Moscow, in the "Park Kultury-Koltsevaya" metro station, unidentified persons made an attempt of the life of Evgeniy Arkhipov, Chairman of the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights.

Lawyer Arhipov is known for defending the interests of residents of Matveevka - a settlement near Moscow, which last autumn was in the focus of scandal in the context with preparations for 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Evgeniy believes that the attempt has to do with his work for Matveevka.

Within the Olympic preparations, authorities plan to essentially broaden М4 "Don" Federal Highway and organize toll lanes. It is planned to build fare collection points right near Matveevka. The construction started last September but was suspended a couple of weeks later because of mass protests of the owners of land plots in Matveevka.

According to the residents of the settlement, the construction will inevitably get into several land plots, while in other places it will go to close to the inhabited zone.

Doku Umarov's brother calls Chechen authorities militants' suppliers

On Tuesday, January 26, mass media disseminated a statement of a person, who presented himself as Vakha Umarov, brother of Doku Umarov, leader self-proclaimed Imarat Kavkaz. In his interview to the Reuters he said that illegal armed formations get money and arms from the retinue of President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov.

"All the used money (spent to organize attacks) is from Chechnya. No arms were bought," said Vakha Umarov. "They were taken from Kadyrov's forces... Kadyrov's ministers allot money to mujahads."

Under his estimates, militants are about 3000 strong in Chechnya, and 5000 in total in the Caucasus. Ramzan Kadyrov earlier asserted that they are no more than a hundred.

Vakha Umarov denied the assumptions of observers that Caucasian militants are linked with al-Qaeda, but confirmed Doku Umarov's statement that militants were responsible for the accident at the Sayan-Shusheno HPP last August, which, under their version, was a terror act. This was the start of militants' "economic war" against Russia, Vakha asserts. According to his story, militants are going to scale up the count of attacks.

Vakha Umarov rejected his personal participation in militants' actions. According to his version, he just communicates with Doku on a regular basis and knows about militants' actions and their plans.

President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, in his turn, treated Vakha's interview, disseminated through the Internet, and his assertions that the activity of well-known terrorist Doku Umarov is financed by Chechen authorities as a mere provocation.

"Western media found a person ready to tell tales about the situation in the Chechen Republic. Earlier they acted regularly as speaking trumpet of Basayev, Khattab and Maskhadov. They were liquidated. Now they found a certain Vakha Umarov, known, most probably, only to the interviewer," Ramzan Kadyrov told journalists.

Attempt to kill vice-speaker committed in Dagestan

On Wednesday, January 27, an attempt was made on Nikolai Alchiev, Vice-Speaker of the National Assembly of Dagestan. As reported by the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) for Dagestan, the official remained safe and sound.

In the Federal Motorway, near the city of Kaspisk, the car with Nokilai Alchiev was shelled by unidentified culprits.

The MIA's spokesman said that Alchiev himself told about the attack.

His parliamentary colleagues treated the attack information differently. Thus, one of the Deputies of the National Assembly of Dagestan, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that the attempt could be a falsification.

Another MP - Ahmed Izilov - told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent at 8 in the evening on the same day that he had just left the Vice-Speaker's office. According to his story, Mr Alchiev was quite OK, and "nobody had attempted him."

The Vice-Speaker himself was inaccessible for comments.

Geneva talks are fruitless

On January 28, another - the ninth round - of international debates on safety in the Caucasus was over. The talks held under the presidency of the UN, EU and OSCE were attended by representatives of Russia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Georgia and the USA. As usually, the work was organized in two groups - on safety and refugees' problems.

"Despite our appeals to pass over to discussing the draft non-use of force agreement, the organizers refer to impossibility at this stage to create a compromise document and prefer talking about the five-sided mechanism on incidents prevention and reaction, under which five-sided meetings are held in the Gali District," Vyacheslav Chirikba, President's adviser on international matters and head of the Abkhazian delegation, reported by telephone from Geneva after the talks.

"Georgia states that prior it signs the agreement, Russian troops should be withdrawn from Abkhazia and South Ossetia and replaced by some international monitoring forces," said Maxim Gvindzhiya, deputy minister of foreign affairs and a member of the Abkhazian delegation.

Discontent with the course of debates and with the prepared document was also openly expressed by Boris Chochiev, who represented South Ossetia. He said that the co-chairs had prepared "a useless document", with disregards the main point - the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In his turn, Georgiy Bokeriya, first deputy minister of foreign affairs of Georgia and head of the Georgian delegation, said in his comments on the negotiations that the Georgian party had approved the document drafted by the co-chairs, although it is not completely happy with all its paragraphs. Mr Bokeriya expressed his readiness to continue the dialogue within the Geneva process.

Meanwhile, the co-chairs of the Geneva format have expressed their satisfaction with the course of the today's round, having emphasized that the dialogue was "hard but dynamic." They have expressed satisfaction that the memorandum was signed on the outcomes of the meeting, clearly expressing the desire to continue the dialogue.

Explosion in Abkhazia: one person killed, five wounded

On January 29, in the village of Chuburkhindzh, Gali District, a terror act killed one employee of the criminal investigation division of the Gali ROVD (District Interior Unit) and two peaceful residents. Four militiamen and a local woman were heavily wounded.

The incident happened at about 1:40 p.m. Moscow time. Earlier in this village a family of local residents was exposed to an armed assault, and employees of the criminal search came to the venue. However, after the arrival they blew themselves up on the mines planted around of the house and, presumably, remotely triggered.

At the same time the pro-Georgian media, referring to Tbilisi-loyal government of Abkhazia in exile, treat the events differently and give other figures: two Abkhazian militiamen were lost and several more wounded allegedly in a clash with Russian militaries in Otobaya village, Gali District.

Beslan Arshba, head of the district administration, refuted the statements of Georgian media about involvement of Russian soldiers in the incident.

Otar Khetsiya, Minister of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia, has treated the explosion in the Gali District as "a terror act against Gali militiamen, as they were called after an armed assault committed against local residents."

Speaker of Krasnodar Duma lost in road accident on his way from casino opening

Nikolai Kotlyarov, Chairman of the City Duma of Krasnodar, was lost in the evening on January 30 in a road accident, which happened in the Krasnodar-Yeisk highway in the Timashevsk District, Krasnodar Territory, when the Speaker was on his way back from the opening ceremony of the first Russian legal casino built in the territory of the gambling zone "Azov-City".

The "Caucasian Knot" correspondent was in the group of journalists who were coming back from the opening in "Azov-City" to Krasnodar and saw the place of tragedy some half an hour after the accident, in which three cars clashed together.

According to eyewitnesses, Mr Kotlyarov was in a Toyota car with his driver, and a couple of minutes before they approached the place of the accident, another car - a Zhiguli - rushed into the road fencing, since its driver failed to cope with driving.

"The driver of the Gazel van, which followed the Zhiguli, stopped his car intending to help the victims. When he stepped away from his van, the Toyota rushed into his Gazel. Nikolai Kotlyarov and his driver died in situ," a source has reported from the place of the tragedy.

Excess of the speed limit by Toyota driver and possible car malfunction were mentioned among the reasons of the accident.

In Krasnodar, Evgeniy Egorov was appointed as acting chairman of the City Duma.

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