17 March 2010, 10:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 8-14

Five years after death of Ichkeria President Maskhadov; Dagestan records for Guinness Book; detentions of journalists and rallies against kidnappings in Ingushetia; oil projects in Azerbaijan; religion-motivated persecutions in the south of Russia; visit of Georgian oppositionists to Moscow and scandal with report on Russia's attack on Georgia, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of March 8-14, 2010, in Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Five years after Maskhadov's death

Monday, March 8, was five years after the date, when it was announced that in the flat Grozny District of Chechnya, in the course of a successful operation conducted by Russian special agencies, Aslan Maskhadov, President of self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI), was liquidated. In Chechnya, an opinion is widespread until now that the leader of Ichkeria had been killed on another date and in some other place, while the special operation in Tolstoy-Yurt village, where Maskhadov was allegedly killed, was just a hoax.

On March 11, in Chistye Prudy in Moscow, at the monument to Alexander Griboedov, a picket was held in memory of Maskhadov. The action was organized by an initiative group, comprising the Anti-War Club, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" and civil activists who attend the overwhelming majority of street actions held in Moscow.

"For the elapsed past five years," said the leaflet disseminated by the activists, "the methods of settling Caucasian problems by Russian authorities remained the same - exclusively by force. Any possibility of political process and dialogue with the opponents was completely excluded. As a result, the format of confrontation in Northern Caucasus has changed - the Chechen War has grown into the all-Caucasian guerrilla underground resistance."

Dagestan residents get into the Guinness Book of World Records

Earlier this week, in Dagestan, Sakinat Khanapieva, 76, a resident of the Sultan-Yangiyurt, was recognized to be the strongest grandmother in the world and entered into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Also, on March 12, competitions where held in the Dagestan village of Khadzhalmakhi, where three persons broke world records by lifting weights by hair, pulling oneself up on a horizontal bar on one hand and holding a 24-kilogram weight by one leg.

Azerbaijan sanctions scaling up oil extraction in Caspian Sea

On Tuesday, March 9, in Baku, the office of the SOCAR (State Oil Company of Azerbaijan) hosted a ceremony of sanctioning the Chirag Oil Project - building a new oil extracting platform in the contract area "Azeri-Chirag-Gyuneshli" (operated by the BP) of the Caspian Sea.

The investments into the project are estimated as 6 billion US dollars. According to Rovnag Abdullaev, President of SOCAR, the Project assumes application of "new technologies earlier not used in the Caspian basin." It will allow extracting additionally 360 million barrels of oil out of the contract area "Azeri-Chirag-Gyuneshli".

Head of Ingushetia promises to protect journalists but forbids rally of kidnapped person's relatives

On March 9, Israpil Shovkhalov, editor-in-chief of the Caucasian independent magazine "Dosh", reported by telephone that together with Abdullah Duduev, chief editor, they were on business trip in Ingushetia, where they were detained by power agents.

Journalists were interrogated by unidentified persons in camouflage, then, released. The agents refused to name the agency they were from. According to the journalists, the timely call to media colleagues saved their lives.

On the following day - March 10 - Shovkhalov and Duduev were received by President of the republic Yunus-Bek Evkurov, who promised to provide securities to journalists who come to Ingushetia and emphasized that they would never interfere with the work of media people.

It is worth noting here that in Ingushetia the journalists had visited the many-day-long picket in the village of Plievo, where local residents demand from power agents to return Mikail Pliev, their co-villager, who was kidnapped on March 4 in Pyatigorsk.

On the following day after meeting the journalists Evkurov forbade Mikail's relatives and friends to go on with their protest action.

Defendants in Nalchik attack case state persecutions of Moslems

On March 9, at the session of the Supreme Court of Kabardino-Balkaria, where the militants' attack on power agencies of Nalchik is considered, defendant Zaur Tokhov said that prior to the events on October 13, 2005, law enforcers used to beat local Moslems and search their houses. However, militiamen denied it in their evidences.

At the following session held on March 10, another defendant on the events on October 13, 2005, in Nalchik, Murat Kardanov, a resident of Zolukokoazhe village was released by inspector's statement under home arrest. Now, Murat Kardanov is taking his treatment at the Republic's Anti-TB Clinic.

And on March 11, defendants in the same criminal case Zaur Sokmyshev and Murat Kashirov rejected their advocate replacement, having blocked the session continuation.

In south of Russia, Jehovah's Witnesses are stronger oppressed

On March 11, in the city of Taganrog, Rostov Region, on the following day after dissemination of the booklet "Does History Repeat? Question to Russians", quoting Russian President's words condemning encroachments on the rights and freedoms in the past, court marshals closed and sealed up the Hall of Kingdom of Jehovah's Witnesses (the believers' name for the buildings where they hold their sermons); and the public prosecutor insists on confiscation of property.

This is the first case in democratic Russia, when a divine service building is confiscated from Jehovah's Witnesses. Something of this sort already happened about 60 years ago, when houses and property were confiscated from thousands Jehovah's Witnesses; and believers were exiled to Siberia "for eternal settlement."

On the same day, employees of the Tsentralny ROVD (District Interior Division) of Sochi rejected the application lodged by the Sochi community of Jehovah's Witnesses on the fact of the attack on January 9 on the hall of their religious assemblies. The refusal to initiate a criminal case was explained by the absence of data about material damage.

On March 12, the magistrate court of the judicial precinct No. 216 of the Tuapse District of the Krasnodar Territory considered the administrative offences of Sevak Mesropyan and Artyom Zograbyan, detained on March 11. They transported, in a luggage compartment of their car, literature of Jehovah's Witnesses, ordered by S. Mesropyan for his private use. According to the addressee, he did not know that these books were on the Russian Federal List of Extremist Literature.

Literature of Jehovah's Witnesses in confiscated also in other regions of the Russian Federation. On March 12, in the Moscow Region a car was detained with some 200 kg of the literature of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Nogaideli discussed with Kremlin issues of Russian-Georgian relations

On March 9-11, Zurab Nogaideli, leader of the oppositional movement "For Fair Georgia", was in Moscow. He asked "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) to mediate the dialogue with Abkhazia and South Ossetia on return of refugees.

Also, according to Mr Nogaideli, his points of discussions with the Russian party were restart of direct air flights between the countries and return of Georgian products to the Russian market.

Fantasies of "Imedi" on Russia invading Georgia shocked the public

On March 13, the Georgian TV Company "Imedi" showed a hoax report, in which the announcer said that a terror act against the head of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity had been committed in Tskhinvali, after which Russian troops intruded into Georgia. The reports of the programme ran that President Mikhail Saakashvili was killed, and part of the opposition supported the invasion.

The programme lasted for half an hour, and after messages about "horrible bombardments of air- and seaports of Georgia" the broadcaster reported that it was "a special report about a possible development of events."

The programme caused panic among the population of Georgia. After watching "the news", hundreds of indignant residents of the Georgian capital came to the building of "Imedi" to a protest action with a demand for apologizes for the unfair hoax. The TV Company apologised.

President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili has stated that the "information programme" was too unpleasant, but realistic. Oppositionists have treated the act of the TV Company as immoral and demanded to punish "Imedi". The Georgian Commission on Communications believes that the "Imedi" had broken the Broadcasting Code of Behaviour.

Russia also condemned the report.

All news

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