07 June 2010, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events on May 31-June 6

Elections in Georgia and totals thereof; clashes of the opposition with police in Armenia and Azerbaijan; kidnappings in Northern Caucasus; murders in zones of Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zones; Jehovah's Witnesses' complaint to the ECtHR; and outcomes of Circassians' Congress, - look these and other events in the review of the week from May 31 to June 6, 2010, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Post-election processes in Georgia

Since Monday, May 31, Georgia was summing up the local elections held in the country on May 30.

On June 3 the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of Georgia placed in its official website the complete preliminary voting totals. According to them, the overwhelming majority of votes were cast for the party in power - the "United National Movement" - over 65 percent, while the greatest poll at election of Tbilisi Mayor was gathered by the incumbent Mayor Gigi Ugulava - over 55 percent of votes.

By the outcomes of elections to the Sakrebulo (legislative body) of Tbilisi, held under proportional system, 14 mandates went to the "United National Movement", 5 - to the "Alliance for Georgia", 3 - to the Christian-Democrat Movement, 2 - to the "National Council", and 1 - to "Topadze - Industrialists".

Elections were not so smooth. The district, constituency commissions and the CEC received in total 232 complaints. According to Zurab Kharatishvili, head of the CEC, the consideration of complaints resulted in complete cancellation of elections in six polling stations, and in three more - under the proportional system. Repeated elections to be held there.

Activists of the oppositional movement "National Council of Georgia", which includes the Conservative Party, the People's Party and the "Movement for Fair Georgia", dissatisfied with the election totals and with violations in hand, threatened the government with protest actions, which, however, never took place.

Ideas to unite oppositional forces were announced. Members of the opposition parties, which boycotted the elections, welcome, as a whole, creation of a united oppositional front; however, they are sure that it will fail without a particular action plan. Political scientists believe that the opposition is not ready for consolidation.

At the same time, the parliamentary majority is ready to constructively cooperate with the opposition, in particular, concerning improvement of the electoral environment. This was stated by Piotr Tsiskarishvili, leader of the parliamentary majority.

Kidnappings continue in Northern Caucasus

On Monday, May 31, it became known that back on May 13 Magomed Musaevich Garbakov, a resident of Sagopshi village, Malgobek District of the republic, was kidnapped by unidentified power agents. A neighbour of the Garbakovs was an eyewitness of the kidnapping. On that very day their house was searched; the agents broke furniture, windows and doors, partially destroyed the house and stole valuables.

On the same day it became known that on May 28 in central Grozny, certain Dudaev, 18, a resident of Pervomaiskaya village, Grozny District and a student of one of Chechen higher schools, was detained by employees of one of republic's power agencies. His relatives couldn't establish his whereabouts for more than a day; they addressed various bodies and looked for the boy in a mortuary and hospitals. In a day, the severely beaten young man was found near the 3rd City Hospital of Grozny in the Staropromyslovskiy District of the city, by local residents, who contacted his relatives. Dudaev could not tell what the agency of his kidnappers was, but they were in black uniform, which is worn by servicemen of the Ahmad Kadyrov special regiment of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, President's security service and OMON (special-purpose militia) fighters.

On June 1, 2010, in the centre of Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, in the Journalists' Mini-Park, Square of journalists, a picket of women was held, whose relatives had disappeared in 2000-2010. The action was dated to the International Children's Day. More than 50 women held photos of their sons, brothers and fathers. The regional organization "Mother's Alarm" was the organizer of the action.

On June 2, the President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov refuted his involvement in kidnappings and murders happening in his republic and said that "the only enemies, whom he recognizes and wants to liquidate," are the enemies of Islam, as he treats the Wahhabites-rebels hiding in forests. Also Kadyrov is convinced that Shariat is above the laws of the Russian Federation.

Protest actions in Southern Caucasus

On May 31st, the police of Armenia prevented a sit-in protest action of activists of the Armenian National Congress (ANC) in the Freedom Square of Yerevan. The participants of the action demand to guarantee the right of free travel, release political prisoners and enforce the decision of the ECtHR on the "A1+" TV Company.

Policemen, accompanied by "red berets" (servicemen of special interior units), drove out of the square and brought to the police station not only opposition activists, but also journalists. Fights between ANC activists and policemen burst out then near the monument to Saryan. Policemen tried not to let people into the mini-park. The total count of detainees was 15. Activists of the opposition were kept at the police station for about three hours. The police explained their actions by the activists' attempt to hold a non-sanctioned rally.

According to Levon Zurabyan, coordinator of the ANC, arrests were politically motivated.

Public excitements took place in the Armenian neighbour - Azerbaijan. On June 2, a group of activists of the Organization of Liberation of Karabakh (OLK) tried to hold a protest action in front of the embassy of Israel in protest against the attack of Israeli militaries on May 31 on a humanitarian convoy with goods intended for Gaza Sector. However, strengthened police units prevented the OLK activists from approaching the Hyatte Park Hotel, where the embassy of Israel is located.

On June 5, in the capital of Azerbaijan, the police dispersed the participants of the protest action of the oppositional block "Azadlyg" (Freedom) near the metro station "Icheri Shekher". The participants of the action demanded the freedom of assembly and fair parliamentary elections. As reported by Gasan Kerimov, head of the Supreme Majlis of the People's Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, in total some 30 persons were detained, some of them were injured.

The Sabail District Police Department confirmed that "several persons were detained for organization of a non-sanctioned action." However, the police denied any bodily injuries caused to the detainees. Five participants of the protest action were punished in the administrative procedure.

Incidents in Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zones

On June 1, an employee of the State Customs Committee (SCC) of Abkhazia was killed and two more wounded as a result of shelling that happened in the Abkhazian Gali District, which borders on Georgia, as reported by Laurens Kogoniya, head of the Gali ROVD (District Interior Unit).

The head of the Abkhazian SCC regards the incident to be "a subversive act committed by Georgian special services against employees of Abkhazian customs." The Georgian party accused Russian frontier guards of shelling. The Frontier Department of the FSB of Russia in the Republic of Abkhazia treated this version as provocative.

On June 1, a Russian soldier was found dead in the Georgian-South-Ossetian border in the Akhalgori District. The body was found in Karchokhi village. It was initially reported that the soldier's body had a gunshot wound in the temple. However, according to service investigation, as reported later by a high-ranking source in the Russian power agencies deployed in the territory of the republic, the Russian frontier guard committed suicide. The Georgian party reports, in the meantime, about a fire skirmish among Russian soldiers.

Jehovah's Witnesses challenge liquidation of their Taganrog community at the ECtHR

On June 1, 2010, the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia appealed at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which had recognized 34 printed editions of the organization as extremist and ruled to liquidate the community of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city of Taganrog. This was announced at a press conference of the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses, where Russian human rights defenders also took part.

Congress of Circassian People votes for autonomy

On June 5, the Congress of Circassian People held in Karachai-Circassia passed a resolution demanding to restore the Circassian autonomy in the Russian Federation in the status of a republic. About 700 persons, including delegations from Adygea and Kabardino-Balkaria, take part in the congress.

Point one of the adopted resolution runs: "To confirm the earlier adopted decision on restoration of the Circassian Autonomous Region in the status of a republic of the Russian Federation."

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