26 April 2010, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 19-25

Alexander Khloponin, Plenipotentiary of Russian President in the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), continues visiting regions of Northern Caucasus; the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation finds cancellation of juries in "terrorist cases" legal; persecutions of dissidents continue in the south of Russia; Georgia: miners are on strike, while downpours and landslips smash houses; negotiations on Karabakh conflict continue; Armenia suspends ratification of Armenian-Turkish Protocols, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of April 19-25, 2010, in the Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Khloponin's tour over NCFD regions continues

On Monday, April 19, Alexander Khloponin, Plenipotentiary of President in the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), continued his visit to the regions of the south of Russia. In particular, he visited Pyatigorsk, where he offered students a programme of privileged mortgage loans - 5 percent per year for 50 years.

On April 20, in the city of Essentuki, Mr Khloponin held a sitting on development of electric power industry of Northern Caucasus; on the following day he paid a working visit to Karachai-Circassia, where he scarified the situation in public health sphere of the republic and discussed the issues of the energy layer, tourist-recreational sphere and employment of villagers.

On April 22, Alexander Khloponin said, during his visit to Kabardino-Balkaria, that this republic should take the key position in the regional development programme, especially in the tourist-recreational cluster. He also offered to draft an agro-industrial map of Northern Caucasus.

Russian CC upholds cancellation of juries in terrorist cases

On April 19, the Constitutional Court (CC) of the Russian Federation announced its decision on the check of constitutionality of part 2, Article 30, and part 2, Article 325, of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure, according to which cases on crimes of terrorist character cannot be considered by juries. The CC found no contradictions of the above provisions to the Constitution of Russia.

Two of the CC judges had dissenting opinions, in particular, Vladimir Yaroslavtsev who believes that the restriction on juries means mistrust in the people, removal of them from managing their country and encroachment on democracy in Russia. The other of the two - Judge Gadis Gadzhiev - supported the essence of the decision - his dissenting opinion was on the motivation part of the decision only.

Tamara Morschakova, a former CC judge, is sure that the today's decision restricts defendants' rights.

Let us remind you that the Russian CC was addressed among others by the lawyers who take part in litigation on the events of October 13, 2005, in Nalchik. They believe that cancellation of juries in "terrorist cases" breaks the rights of their clients and contradicts the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

In Georgia, metallurgists and miners are on strike

On April 20, the United Trade Unions of Georgia went on their warning strikes of metallurgists and miners at the factory of ferroalloys in Zestafoni and seven manganese mines in Chiatura; both cities are in the Western Georgia. The factory and the mines belong to the Limited Liability Company (LLC) "Manganese Georgia" - one of export leaders among Georgian enterprises.

The trade unions demanded higher salaries and longer vacations. Initially, about 600 workers from two entities expressed their readiness to go on strike. The situation worsened on April 21, when a mine boss gave several blows and obscenely cursed a miner who stated poor labour conditions and announced the workers' intention to go on strike.

In Zestafoni, the strike took a district scale. In the morning on April 23, 2500 factory workers came to the administration building. The night and day shifts refused to go to work; and all the workers demanded to fulfil their claims.

With the aim to settle the situation in Zestafoni, Alexander Vishnevsky, Director of the "Manganese Georgia", went to Kiev, where a meeting of shareholders took place; among them - the Ukrainian Enterprise "Privat-Group", "Stancor-Metal" (Great Britain) and "Deko-Metal" (Austria). The answer was expected on April 24.

Georgia: downpours cause floods, landslips and destructions

In the middle of last week, on April 21, torrential rains caused a flood in the Kakheti District of Georgia. The calamity paralysed for several hours the traffic along the highway Gurdzhaani-Lagodekhi-Tbilisi.

Heavy rains caused the river high water and flooding of a number of streets and apartment houses in Gurdzhaani, and arable land plots in the region. The cattle and crops were lost. During the whole night, the population tried to overcome the consequences of the calamity.

In the village of Khorkheli, water flooded 7 dwelling houses; dozens of families suffered.

By April 23, a threat of breakthrough of the dam in Lake Cherem, Gurdzhaani District, caused panic among local population; as a result a local woman died from cardiac rupture, another one was hospitalized with an insult. At night on April 24, the MIA and Rescuers' Service of Georgia undertook the second evacuation round of Velistsikhe villagers.

On April 24, torrential rains in the region of Mtskheta-Tianeti (Eastern Georgia) provoked landslips and landslides of mountain slopes. Mountain rivers overflowed their banks and flooded several villages.

Armenian and Russian Presidents talk on Karabakh in Moscow

On Tuesday, April 20, Residence "Gorki" near Moscow was the venue, where President of Russia Dmitri Medvedev met his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan to discuss the current situation, mutual relations, international and regional problems, and, in particular, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

According to a source in the Kremlin, Mr Medvedev expressed his intention to "further help Yerevan and Baku in searching mutually acceptable solutions," and "should a compromise agreement be reached, to act as the guarantor of settlement."

On that very day, Robert Bradtke and Yuri Merzliakov, the American and Russian co-chairs of the Minsk OSCE Group on Karabakh settlement, held talks in Baku with Azerbaijani authorities.

On April 22, co-chairs of the OSCE Group Igor Popov, Bernard Fassier and Robert Bradtke discussed in Moscow the latest Karabakh developments, including top-level meetings in Washington, Baku and Moscow. No details were disclosed; however, the co-chairs stated that the meetings had given a new impetus to the process of peaceful conflict settlement on the basis of the Madrid principles.

Jehovah's Witnesses' cult buildings are attacked again in south of Russia

The results of the fire-technical examination of the fire in the cult building of the community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Budyonnovsk, Stavropol Territory, have become known. The examination has established that the fire took place on March 20 because of arson; besides, traces were found of numerous earlier attempts to burn the building down.

Alexander Gaponov, Chairman of the community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Budyonnovsk, expressed the general feelings of the community members about the incident: "We've put our money, efforts and souls into this hall. Here people learnt to live in peace with others. It's sad to see that aggression is escalated against us, "dissidents", which provokes certain people to this sort of evil deeds."

This is the third this year's attack on the cult buildings of Jehovah's Witnesses in the south of the Russia. In January, attacks were committed in Sochi and in the city of Volzhsk (Volgograd Region).

Ex-minister of pro-Georgian government detained in South Ossetia

On April 22, in the border with Georgia, power agents of South Ossetia detained Teimuraz Dzherapov, former minister of economic development in the administration of Dmitri Sanakoev's government formed in Tbilisi. Now, he is in custody.

As reported by the press service of South-Ossetia's KGB, Dzherapov, a citizen of Georgia, was in search since 2006 for committing crimes in the territory of South Ossetia. However, the administration of the government in exile of South Ossetia asserts that Dzherapov was detained because he refused to support Eduard Kokoity, head of South Ossetia.

Armenia suspends ratification of Armenian-Turkish Protocols

On April 22, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan decreed to suspend the ratification procedure by the parliament of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols, as reported today by his press service. Mr Sargsyan said, addressing the nation, that Armenia made a decision to suspend the ratification process, but did not quit the normalization process of Armenian-Turkish relations. He noted that the decision was demanded by national interests and stated that the last year saw pretty plenty of Turkey's public statements made in the language of preconditions.

The Armenian opposition voiced against the suspension. The oppositional Armenian National Congress treated the Sargsyan's decision on the Protocols to be one of the reasons why they demand his resignation and early presidential election.

The suspension of Armenian-Turkish rapproachement was caused by Turkey's non-constructive position, Armenian experts believe.

Scandalous replacement of head of Pension Fund in Dagestan

On April 23, Amuchi Amutinov, head of the Dagestan branch of the Federal Pension Fund, was dismissed with formulation "at one's own will". The acting head of the Pension Fund Sagid Murtazaliev officially took the post.

This reshuffling was preceded by a protests rally against Amutinov's dismissal. Under different sources, the action held on April 3 brought together from 800 to several thousands of persons, who came to support Amuchi Amutinov. His supporters believed that the dismissal was politically motivated.

Mr Amutinov confirmed these assumptions by stating that nobody had ever had any claims to his work, including his bosses in Moscow. "I came to Moscow to the regular quarterly meeting; and there Drozdov (head of the Pension Fund of Russia, - comment of the "Caucasian Knot") told me that I should leave the post. I asked 'why?', and he answered that 'there was a command from above.' I went to see Vice-Premier of Dagestan Nizami Kaziev, and after a talk with President of Dagestan Magomedsalam Magomedov he told me that the republic's power had no claims to the Pension Fund," said Amutinov.

However, on April 13 it became known that a criminal case was opened against Amutinov on the fact of forcing his subordinates to take part in the protest rally.

Let us note here that annually over 40 billion roubles pass through the Dagestan branch of the Pension Fund, provided that the whole budget of Dagestan makes about 50 billion roubles.

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