29 June 2010, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 21-27

Nature continues to inflict damage on the residents of North Caucasus; new unrest in the Karabakh conflict zone; new evidence in the case of murder of human rights activist Estemirova; Abkhazia walks out of Geneva discussions, South Ossetia threatens to follow suit - read all this in the "Caucasian Knot" review of main events in the Caucasus during the week of June 21 - 27, 2010.

Bad weather persists in South and North Caucasus

Showers pounced upon Georgia causing floods in a number of districts. The country's northern and western parts have suffered most. A specially formed commission has started to assess the damage. According to its data as of the beginning of the week starting from June 21, it amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Floods have inflicted considerable damage on Pankisi Gorge. Four villages have been flooded, electric lines and roads have been damaged. Patrol police units have been dispatched to help evacuate population. About 80 families have suffered.

In South Ossetia, the republic's authorities have sent equipment and workforce to liquidate the consequences of the flood in Dzhava district. There were no casualties but the flood has damaged households and warehouses of private businessmen. Storm floods have destroyed vegetable gardens, residents are afraid they may loose their harvest. The authorities promise to compensate the damage to the local population.

On Thursday, June 25, a hurricane swept across Terter, Bardin and Agdam districts of Azerbaijan, and a hail showered in the eastern parts of Georgia. As a result, most residents of the districts were left without electricity supply. The hail brought considerable damage to agriculture of Kakhetin district in Georgia. Crops have been fully damaged in a number of villages, fruit gardens and vineyards suffered, summer cottages and village households have been damaged.

Having swept across the Caucasian ridge, the storms have pounced upon North Caucasus, in particular, Dagestan. There, on the territory of Gumbetov district, durable showers in the course of June 19-23 have inflicted considerable damage on national and district highways.

New shooting in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone

On the night of June 21, the ceasefire regime was violated 284 times in Nagorno-Karabakh. This has been reported by the press-service of the Ministry of Defense of the self-proclaimed republic.

According to the Karabakh data, Azeri military units "have shot at Karabakh defense army positions virtually in all directions", reports the Karabakh defense authorities. The shooting stopped after response actions of Karabakh.

The Azeri Ministry of Defense confirms the information on an armed clash. However, according to the press-service of the Azeri Ministry of Defense, "on June 21, about 01.45 a.m., Armenian troops attacked the positions of the National Army of Azerbaijan".

Two days earlier, during the night of June 19, a combat action took place along the contact line between Armenian and Azeri forces, in which there were five casualties: Karabakh lost four soldiers and Azerbaijan one. The parties place the responsibility for the combat action on each other.

On June 22, the co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk Group Igor Popov (Russia), Bernard Facier (France) and Robert Bradke (USA) made a statement in which they sharply criticize the use of force and express regret for senseless casualties.

On the same day, when meeting Armenian President Serge Sargsian in Berlin, German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her intention to facilitate the search for settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Investigation prepared to announce dead militant as murderer of Estemirova, reports our source

The investigation may soon declare militant recruiter Alkhazur Bashaev as murderer of Natalia Estemirova, employee of the human rights center "Memorial". He was killed in November 2009. The human rights report mentioning Bashaev seems to be the motif of the murder, reports an informed source of the "Caucasian Knot" in Chechnya. The "Memorial" HRC expresses its concern that this theory may relieve the orderers of the murder from responsibility.

A photo of Natalia Estemirova has been found in the hiding place of Bashaev discovered by special forces after the completion of a secret operation, relays the anonymous source of the "Caucasian Knot". The source thinks that the investigating officers may link the photo with the murder of the human rights activist, ostensibly in revenge for making public the name of the militant recruiter.

The "Caucasian Knot" in its review "Chronicle of violence in North Caucasus. May 2009" notes that the HRC "Memorial" mentioned that, in April 2009, Alkhazur Bashaev, resident of the village of Shalazhi, Achkhoi-Martan district, Chechnya, and his second cousin Rizvan Bashaev, aged 19, joined militants. Later, he recruited young people to armed underground units.

On November 13, 2009, a secret operation was conducted in Achkhoi-Martan district by military units, in the course of which, according to the data of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, up to 20 militants were killed, including Alkhazur Bashaev. "Up to 20 militants have been killed. Three bodies have been identified. These are Islam Uspakhadzhiev, a close companion in arms of Umarov, Rustam Akuev and Alkhazur Bashaev", stated Kadyrov at the time.

No official response of the law enforcement agencies to the information on the implication of Bashaev, killed in November, in the murder of the human rights activist, has been given yet. The HRC "Memorial" stresses that the report on events in North Caucasus for May 2009 was prepared collectively at the human rights center in Chechnya, rather than by Natalia Estemirova.

The human rights activists are concerned that, if Alkhazur Bashaev is announced organizer of the murder of Estemirova, the investigation along other lines will be stopped and the orderer of the murder may escape responsibility.

Abkhazia walks out of Geneva talks, South Ossetia intends to follow suit

On June 23, Abkhazia announced its temporary suspension of talks with Georgia on security in Transcaucasia. This happened after the eleventh round of Geneva talks on security in Transcaucasia held on June 8.

The decision to suspend the discussion is explained by Suchumi by the fact that the talks with Tbilisi in Geneva, in the opinion of Abkhazia, yield no results.

The Abkhazian party states that the dialogue creates an impression that Georgia is not going to sign a document on non-recommencement of the war, while international mediators are not going to persist on signing such document.

South Ossetia is prepared to leave Geneva consultations following Abkhazia. This has been announced by Boris Chochiev, president's representative on the issues of post-conflict settlement.

According to Chochiev, if the co-chairmen of Geneva consultation fail to submit a document on the non-use of force before July 12 at the meeting planned in Tskhinval, South Ossetia will refuse to take part in the next round of Geneva talks.

In its turn, the Georgian party claims that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia walk out of the negotiation process upon an instruction from Moscow. Grigol Vashadze, Georgian minister of foreign affairs thinks that Russia has decided to hamper the only peace-making format within the conflict zone.

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