12 February 2010, 10:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 1-7

Incessant armed conflict in Northern Caucasus; loss of satellite signal of Georgian TV Channel causing an international conflict; Baku and Yerevan restart talking about a new war for Nagorno-Karabakh, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of February 1-7, 2010, in Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

New names in victims' list of North-Caucasian conflict

The past week was marked by a new splash of violence in Northern Caucasus.

Thus, for one day only, on February 5, two key employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) were killed in Dagestan. In Izerbash, the car of Lieutenant Colonel Gapis Isaev, head of the Inter-District Department for Fighting Extremism, was blown up; the colonel died in situ from his wounds. In Makhachkala, the service "Volga" car of Ahmed Magomedov, head of the UVD (Interior Department) of Makhachkala, was shelled. Mr Magomedov's driver and two securities were killed in place, while he died a bit later in hospital.

At the same time, law enforcement bodies reported about liquidation on February 3 of a citizen of Egypt Mokhmad Mohammad Shakhban, also known as Safe Islam, founder of the al-Qaeda network in Northern Caucasus, and Ibragim Magomedov, 39, a resident of Andi village, Botlikh District.

In the neighbouring Ingushetia, the armed confrontation also takes away lives of members of armed underground and employees of law enforcement bodies.

On February 7, in Ordzhonikidzevskaya village, unidentified criminals shelled a car with Ahmad Daslatiev and Rustam Arsunkaev, employees of off-departmental security, who died in situ from their wounds. One day earlier, in the same village, a bomb blew up near the house of Militia Lieutenant Colonel Magomed Agiev, Head of Staff of the Sunzha ROVD. The militia boss received traumas and was hospitalized.

On February 4, in the "Kavkaz" Federal Highway in Nazran, unidentified persons shelled armoured UAZ vans carrying a rapid response team of the Ingush MIA. Two agents of the team and a head of one of the divisions for controlling illegal drugs circulation, who occasionally was passing by, were wounded.

On February 1 in Nazran, unidentified persons shelled the building of the Ingush MIA from a grenade launcher, killing one person and wounding three more, including two civilians and a woman, a resident of Nazran. On that very day, a grenade launcher aimed at the building of the Frontier Department of the FSB was found in the yard of a kindergarten in Nazran. In the course of neutralizing it, when the adjacent territory was surveyed, a bomb blew up, killing one person and injuring five more.

In Chechnya, within last week, at least 10 persons were lost in combat clashes.

On February 4, employees of law enforcement bodies, who conducted a large-scale special operation aimed at neutralizing members of illegal armed formations (IAFs) in the south of Chechnya in a large forest in the vicinity of Dachu-Borzoy, Grozny District, killed six supposed militants. On that very day, five federal soldiers died and six more were wounded as a result of armed clashes in the Urus-Martan District, in a large forest, several kilometres to the south from Komsomolskoe (Saadi-Kotar) village. According to the regional ICPO, three casualties were identified: one of them - Ilman Istamirov - was, under operative data, the so-called "Emir" of Kevzina village, Vedeno District; the second one - Shamil Akhmadov, born in 1987, and the third one - Ibragim Gaziev, born in 1987.

However, the situation in Chechnya is also characterized by renewed pressure on human rights organizations. On February 7, in Shali District, militiamen detained three Russian human rights activists, members of the Public Commission on Chechnya, set up in the end of last year, - Vladislav Sadykov, Dmitri Egoshin and Roman Veretennikov. They have released on the following day.

CC-I loses its satellite signal

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France has commented on the conflict of the Eutelsat, European Satellite TV Company, with the Georgian "Caucasian Channel One" (CC-I)." The French Ministry calls the Satellite Company and Georgian authorities "to try to seek contact points."

The Company asserts that it had no contract with Public Television of Georgia (PTG). The test broadcasting of the Georgian CC-I lasted for one week, and this point was agreed on in advance with the Georgian party. However, Tbilisi states that the operator switched the signal off its agreement with Russia.

Meanwhile, the managers of CC-I addressed several American networks for help in organizing broadcasting.

Official Baku proclaims its right to return Karabakh by force

The last week's restart of warfare in Nagorno-Karabakh was actively discussed by politicians in Azerbaijan and Armenia, and experts on the problems of the region.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev said in his interview to the "Euronews" Channel that peaceful settlement of the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh depends on Armenia and its readiness to withdraw its troops from the internationally-recognized territories of Azerbaijan.

According to his version, proposals of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh settlement "are based on restoration of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, withdrawal of Armenian troops from all occupied territories, including those beyond administrative borders of Nagorno-Karabakh, return of internally displaced Azerbaijanis to their lands and opening of all communication lines."

Mr Aliev has also noted that Azerbaijan has the right to liberate its territories. Having confirmed Azerbaijan's adherence to peaceful means of conflict-settlement, he added at the same time that "patience has its limits."

"This is the fundamental right of Azerbaijan, granted to us by international organizations, including the United Nations. We can't afford another 15 years of this frozen state of the conflict," Mr Aliev said.

In his turn, Dennis Blair, Director of the US National Reconnaissance, said that the unsettled problems on the Balkans and in the Caucasus can kindle new conflicts in Europe. He has added that the progress achieved in normalizing the Turkish-Armenian relations told on complicated Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and increased the risk of restart of Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Shortly before that, a similar statement that Azerbaijan is ready to restore its territorial integrity by use of force was made by the well-known American Analytical Centre "Stratfor".

In the opinion of David Petrosyan, a political analyst of the "Noyan Tapan" News Agency (Armenia),  the probability of warfare restart in the Karabakh conflict zone remains low, because now the military forces of the parties in conflict are in balance.

"It is also important that most of external players in the region of Southern Caucasus - Washington, Brussels and Moscow -are actually against restart of warfare, since its outcomes can be unpredictable and destabilizing. Besides, any potential restart of military operations in the Karabakh conflict zone may lead to inter-block opposition between NATO and CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) of the CIS. This script is obviously outside the plans of the United States, European Union and Russia," Mr Petrosyan is sure.

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