24 February 2010, 10:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 15-21

Visit of delegation of the Human Rights Group of UK Parliament to Chechnya; recall by Ramzan Kadyrov of his claim against journalists and human rights defenders; conflict of ecologists with the agency in charge of preparing Sochi to Olympiad-2014; new strategic agreements of Russia with Abkhazia; explosions in Ingushetia; and inauguration of President of Dagestan, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of February 15-21, 2010, in Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Kadyrov "pardons" human rights advocates and journalists

On Monday, February 15, the Basmanny Court of Moscow stopped the proceedings on the claim of President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov against the "Novaya Gazeta", since the claimant had recalled his claim. It became known one week after Ramzan Kadyrov had followed his mother's request and recalled his other claims - against Oleg Orlov, head of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and a group of Moscow journalists.

Some independent experts do not exclude that Kadyrov's decision was made under Kremlin's pressure.

Ramzan Kadyrov's decision to recall his claim against the "Novaya Gazeta" was a surprise for lawyer Andrei Krasnenkov, who represented his interests in the Moscow court. Vyacheslav Izmailov, a journalist of the "Novaya Gazeta", believes in his turn that an open trial, initiated by Kadyrov, could have drawn attention of the broad public to kidnappings committed in Chechnya.

Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the International Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), named Kadyrov's decision to recall his claims the first small step towards liquidation of the frightening effect on journalists in Russia.

British MPs surprised with rebuilt Chechnya and upset with "safety issues"

On February 15, members of Human Rights Group of the UK Parliament arrived in Chechnya.

On February 16, the British MPs met students of the Grozny University and visited a gymnasium and a boarding school for children-orphans and children remaining without parental care. They were amazed at the republic's changes and wanted to talk to local residents. According to Lord Judd, head of the delegation, after his first visit to Chechnya in 2000 the republic's life has seen changes "so impressive that at times you forget what had happened here quite recently."

His colleague Joanna Swinson, who unlike Lord Judd came to Chechnya for the first time, said that what she saw in the republic "indicates a breakthrough not only in social conditions of people's life in Chechnya, but also about significant progress in souls of people."

On February 18, the meeting of the delegation with the Ombudsman in Chechnya Nurdi Nukhazhiev was on the brink of failure. Mr Nukhazhiev initially wanted to refuse to meet the Britons in protest against the attitude of the UK Parliament to the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and expressed his discontent with actions of some international organizations, which use "double standards" when dealing with such notions like human rights.

"We often see double standards in approaches to the problems of human rights in the policy of some western countries, and, in particular, of Great Britain," Nukhazhiev stated at the meeting, which still took place.

The members of the British delegation hurried to assure Ombudsman Nukhazhiev that "they had come not to criticize the authorities of the Chechen Republic, but because they are not indifferent to the fate of the Chechen people."

On February 19, on the following day after the end of the visit, a press conference took place in Moscow, where Mr Judd and Ms Swinson told that apart from the rebuilt Chechnya they saw the "climate of fear" and "absence of criticism of the authorities".

Russian ecologists suspend cooperation with "Olympstroy"

On February 15, the Russian representative office of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) disseminated a statement saying that, despite the increased last year's level of public participation in debates on preparation for Sochi-2014, the decisions are not fulfilled, which questions the expediency of such consultation mechanisms.

On the following day, it became known that the Russian ecologists suspended their cooperation with the State Corporation "Olympstroy", in charge of preparations for Olympiad-2014. This was announced by Igor Chestin, head of the WWF Russian representative office. The "Olympstroy" treated the ecologists' demarche as a complete surprise. In the opinion of the builders, ecologists "took a non-constructive stand" and mislead the public.

Russia and Abkhazia agree about air traffic and Russian base

On February 17, Igor Levitin, Russian Minister of Transports, and Anatoly Panteleev, Head of the Department of Civil Aviation of Abkhazia, signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of air transport. The parties agreed to set up, each in its territory, the necessary conditions for the other party's air flights and ensure the respective air-navigation, technical and airport supporting services.

On the same day in Moscow Presidents of Russia and Abkhazia Dmitri Medvedev and Sergey Bagapsh signed an agreement on creation of the Russian base in the breakaway republic.

Immediately, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia accused Moscow of "attempts to strengthen its military presence in the occupied territories of Georgia."

NATO also criticised and refused to recognize the Russian-Abkhazian agreement on the military base to be legitimate.

In his turn, Kanat Saudabaev, current Chairman of the OSCE, said during the visit to Georgia that he saw no special threats in this event.

Explosions continue in Ingushetia

On February 19, several explosions happened in Ingushetia, in which over 30 persons suffered. Most of them are employees of power agencies.

Under official information there were two explosions; however, eyewitnesses say that there were at least six of them. It is precisely known that the first of them took place at the attempt to neutralize a self-made explosive.

On that very day in Nazran unidentified persons shelled the house of Militia Major Rustam Khalukhaev, an employee of the MIA's Centre for Counteracting Extremism, from their sub-machine guns. Fortunately, there were no victims.

In Dagestan, new President enters office

On February 20, the newly appointed and approved President of the Republic of Dagestan Magomedsalam Magomedov officially took the post of President. He took his oath on the Constitution of Dagestan. The new leader promised to bring the republic out of crisis, eradicate corruption and bring investors to Dagestan.

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