24 May 2010, 23:00
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 17-23
Elections in Nagorno-Karabakh caused a resonance far abroad; human rights defenders meet President of Russia and tell him about the burning problems of Northern Caucasus, while people are still perishing and kidnapped in the region, - look up these and other events in the review of the week of May 17-23, 2010, in the Caucasian regions prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
Karabakh elections cause anger of official Baku
On May 23, elections of the Nagorno-Karabakh parliament of the fifth convocation took place.
Four parties moved their nominees for 17 MP positions allocated for the proportional system, namely: the "Free Homeland" Party (35 persons on the list), Democratic Party of Artsakh (32 persons), Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) "Dashnaktsutyun" (10 persons) and the Communist Party of Artsakh (5 persons). Sixteen positions were elected under the majority system. The parties need to conquer the 6-percent barrier to get eligible for the parliament.
In their interviews to the "Caucasian Knot" candidates from all parties highlighted basic points of their programmes and spoke in favour of independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.
On the eve of the voting day - on May 22 - the leaders of the parties, which took part in the elections, stated that the campaign had passed peacefully, without mutual insults. They gave similar estimates of the voting process on May 23.
The final totals of the parliamentary elections in Nagorno-Karabakh will become known within five days. By preliminary data, 70.11 percent of all the voters came to cast their ballots. After tabulation of more than a half of all ballot papers, the "Free Homeland" Party was in the lead.
Let us note here that the elections were monitored by more than 60 international observers from Russia, Armenia, France, USA, Germany, Argentina, Denmark, Czechia, Iran, Holland, Canada, Slovakia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Maurice Bonneau, former special envoy of the OSCE in the Caucasus and now an employee of the Paris-based office of Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, was among the first to arrive for observation.
Azerbaijan treats elections as illegal. Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has stated that the international observers will be announced non grata persons in its country.
The statement of the Turkish MFA runs that "Ankara is resolutely supporting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, does not recognize the so-called 'elections' in Nagorno-Karabakh and believes they were contradictory to the international law."
The European Union is not going to recognize the parliamentary elections in Karabakh either.
However, Sergey Nasibyan, Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission of Nagorno-Karabakh, said that he pays no attention to such statements.
Human rights activist tell President Medvedev about Caucasus' problems
On May 19 in the Kremlin, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met activists of public-political organizations engaged in the problems of Northern Caucasus. The meeting heard reports of the human rights defenders involved in monitoring human rights violations in the region. NGO activists presented their vision of the situation in Northern Caucasus.
The event was prepared by the Board under Russian President for Promoting Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights headed by Ella Pamfilova. In the course of the meeting President Medvedev promised that all the presentations would be documented and placed in the website of Russian President, while the report about the joint work will be made public.
However, after the meeting NGO activists diverged in their estimates both of the event and its consequences.
"Mr Medvedev said that he got convinced that the human rights movement in the territory of Northern Caucasus exists, develops, lives and not in the underground," said Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the "Civil Assistance" Committee, member of the Board and head of the "Migration and Law" network of the Human Rights Centre "Memorial", and a member of the above Board under Russian President.
According to her story, "it's nice by itself that President already understands the seriousness of the problems" present in Northern Caucasus in relation to human rights, economy and corruption. She had an impression that in solving them President relies on his new Plenipotentiary in the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) Alexander Khloponin.
Magomed Mutsolgov, head of the Ingush human rights organization "Mashr", was "almost completely satisfied" with the meeting, although he was not given the floor. He explained that three minutes were allocated for each report; some of the speakers failed to cope, and - finally - half of the participants were not given the floor.
"It was an open frank and rather tough dialogue. President was very adequate in his reactions. In my opinion, Mr Medvedev who had chosen this democratic format of conversation is positively different from Soviet-type bureaucrats. He reasonably treats criticism and presented arguments. He gave a number of instructions, in particular, to Alexander Khloponin, his Plenipotentiary in the NCFD, about new meetings and setting up of public boards," the human rights activist told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent.
The meeting with Dmitri Medvedev was not "brushed", Maxim Shevchenko, a member of the Public Chamber, believes. "The working group of Public Chamber has highlighted the most important problems, in our opinion: closing schools and medical aid stations in the countryside, inefficiency of block-posts in antiterrorist activity, and the problem of Russian population in Zelenchuk District of Karachai-Circassia. All our proposals found support of Dmitri Medvedev," said Mr about the meeting in the Kremlin.
Vladimir Sukhov, a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, believes that the meeting of the leaders of human rights organizations with the President and Plenipotentiary failed to hit its target. In his opinion, the presentations of public leaders should have included particular recommendations and offers on mechanisms of addressing the first-order problems. But most of them were just enumerating regional problems, as Mr Sukhov notes, not proposals on "technologies of solving the existing problems."
At the same time, some NGO activists in the regions criticize the participants of the meeting for their "accent on minor issues and complimenting local authorities instead of telling about the real situation in Chechnya and continued violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms."
Northern Caucasus: explosions, skirmishes, kidnappings
It seems that the past week has finally awarded Kabardino-Balkaria with the fame of a restless region. Messages about diversions and murders came from there almost same often as from Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Thus, on May 22 three employees of the Department of the Federal Corrective Service (known as "FSIN") for Kabardino-Balkaria were shot dead and one more wounded, after fire was opened on them from a passing car.
A similar situation is observed in Ingushetia, where on May 22 two employees of the investigatory department for the Sunzha District were wounded, and in Chechnya, where on May 17 two passenger cars were shelled: the drivers - a militiaman and a local resident - perished.
Similar attacks resulted in casualties among employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Dagestan.
On May 17, unidentified persons shelled a car with militiamen in the Novolak District, where the head of the investigatory department was shot dead, while his colleague from the investigatory-criminal militia of the local OVD (Militia Division) was wounded. On the following day - May 18 - a militia patrol unit was shelled, and one of them was wounded in the city of Kaspiisk.
Another militiaman was lost on May 20, when in Makhachkala employees of the Road Patrol Service (known as "DPS") stopped a car to check documents, but its passengers opened fire from inside and then disappeared from the place of the incident.
The last week's casualties in Northern Caucasus also included entrepreneurs and prosecutors.
On May 23 in Makhachkala, unidentified persons shelled a BMW X-5 car, driven by one of the owners of a large local media holding. He died in situ. At night on May 17, in the village of Sagopshi, Malgobek District of Ingushetia, unidentified persons opened fire from sub-machine guns on the house of a local entrepreneur, who was hospitalized.
On May 20, unidentified persons shot dead Ruslan Makhov, deputy public prosecutor of the Baksan District of Kabardino-Balkaria.
Besides, on May 22 in Rutul village, Rutul District of Dagestan an attempt was made on Davud Suleimanov, head of the municipal formation.
Last week, four persons were lost in armed clashes in the region.
At night on May 23, law enforcers who conducted a special operation in the vicinity of Serzhen-Yurt village, Shali District of Chechnya, liquidated two suspected militants - Yusuphadjiev brothers. On May 18, in the course of night special actions near Derbent (Dagestan) a suspected militant was liquidated. Another one was liquidated early in the morning in Derbent.
Explosions in three North Caucasian republics took away three more lives.
In the evening on May 22 in Makhachkala and Kasumkent village, Suleimanstal District, a series of explosions killed a suspected militant and wounded three militiamen.
On May 19, in the Lenin District of Makhachkala an explosive item was triggered in the Industrial Highway, when a patrol car was moving along; fortunately, nobody was injured or killed.
There were no victims also in Nalchik, where a bomb of about 5 kilos in trotyl equivalent was triggered near a militia station. Nobody suffered, but eyewitnesses said that the explosion was so strong that School No. 25, located nearby, lost its windows in all three levels. People were in panic.
On that very day, a contract soldier from internal troops of Russian MIA was killed by a blown up land mine in the foothill Urus-Martan District of Chechnya. On May 17, in Achkhoi-Martan District of the same republic another land mine wounded a federal soldier.
On that very day, Lom-Ali Khadzhiev, head of Operative-Search Unit No. 2, was killed by explosion triggered in Saikhanova Street, Oktiabrskiy District of Grozny. Two more militia officers and an occasional passer-by were wounded.
Last week also saw kidnappings of Caucasian residents.
At night on May 19, in Plievo village (Ingushetia), power agents inspected two households. A local woman told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that over 100 agents surrounded her household and, with no explanations, made a pogrom in her house and took her elder son Khamzat Tsechoev, 33, away to some unknown place.