21 December 2010, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 13-19

Riots with nationalist context continue in the cities of Russia; Geneva discussions on the Caucasus achieve stalemate; Armenian Government sees serious reshuffling, - look these and other events in the review of the week of December 13-19, 2010, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Moscow: second week of "confrontation"

Last week saw massive continuation of the events of December 11, when football fans gathered in Manege Square in Moscow to commemorate Yegor Sviridov, a "Spartak" fan, who was killed as a result of a mass brawl on December 6 (Aslan Cherkesov, a resident of Kabardino-Balkaria, was detained as a suspect of the murder).

On December 15, in St Petersburg, near the metro station "Sennaya Ploschad", a group of young people was detained by the militia. Traumatic and bladed weapons were detected and confiscated from some of them in the course of personal search. There were persons both of Slavic and Caucasian appearance among the detainees. On that day Moscow was the venue of unauthorized actions of football fans, which resulted in detention of more than 1300 persons. In the course of investigation into the recent riots in Moscow, four natives of Northern Caucasus were arrested.

In the context of disseminated information about new possible rioting of nationalists and Caucasians in Moscow and St Petersburg, on the last weekend security measures were again tightened in both cities.

On Saturday, December 18, a picket of the National Democratic Alliance, sanctioned by the Moscow Mayoralty, was held near the Ostankino Television Centre; a resolution was read out during the event with a demand to stop the "incorrect" coverage of latest events in Manege Square and near the "Evropeiskiy" Shopping Centre the European, as well as to separate Caucasian republics from Russia and change the current leadership of the country. After the end of the official part of the action in Ostankino, the militia began detaining the young people who moved to the Ostankino Park, where they stuck together and kept shouting out nationalistic slogans. As a whole, on December 18, with the aim to prevent non-sanctioned street protests, over a thousand persons were detained in Moscow; about 800 persons were detained in Moscow suburbs.

Mass actions, accompanied by riots and detentions took place last week also in some other Russian cities, in particular, in Krasnodar and Volgograd.

Stumbled upon militants

Last week, the tense situation in Northern Caucasus went on aggravating through shelling and explosions. However, the most resonant incident of the week was the murder of seven hunters in Kabardino-Balkaria.

Initially it was reported that on December 18 in the afternoon in the forest near the city of Baksan eight bodies with gunshot wounds were found in a dugout. Today, it became known that there were seven casualties and all of them were from the Stavropol Territory. The list of assassinated hunters has been already published.

The hunters died from gunshot wounds delivered by 5.45, 7.62 and 9 mm firearms. Forensic experts are studying the venue from the evening of December 18. According to preliminary data, a group of hunters accidentally stumbled on a forest shelter of militants in the Baksan District of Kabardino-Balkaria, located just 3 km off the Federal Highway "Kavkaz". The persons met by the hunters introduce themselves as FSB officers; they ordered the hunters to put their rifles on the ground and assassinated them. The attackers were armed with two submachine guns, a machine gun and a pistol. The bodies were found in the dugout by local residents. Two hunters managed to escape. According to their story, the gunmen fled from the scene in two cars that had belonged to the hunters. According to unofficial information, the criminals took a hostage with them - a local huntsman, who accompanied the hunters.

The employees of the central office of the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation were sent to Kabardino-Balkaria to investigate the hunters' murder. Valery Gayewskiy, Governor of the Stavropol Territory, ordered the head of the territorial GUVD (Chief Interior Department) to strengthen security at the administrative border of the territory. Mr Gayewskiy also ordered to collaborate with militia officers from Kabardino-Balkaria in investigating into this crime. In his turn, Arsen Kanokov, President of Kabardino-Balkaria, ordered to allocate 500,000 roubles to casualties' families.

Deadlock at Geneva talks

Another round of Geneva consultations on the situation in the Caucasus, held last week, once again ended almost in vain.

The official Tbilisi has already expressed their disappointment with the 14th round of Geneva talks. In particular, Giga Bokeriya, head of the Georgian delegation, was dissatisfied that Russia "failed to fix its clear position, whether the Agreement of 12 exists is general, and whether Russia has the general obligation not to use force, as stated in the Agreement."

Dissatisfaction with the outcomes of Geneva talks was expressed not only by the Georgian party, but also by the Russian and Abkhazian counterparts. In particular, as stated by Vyacheslav Chirikba, head of the delegation of Abkhazia, the 14th round of Geneva talks gave "absolutely no results".

Mamuka Areshidze, a political scientist and an expert on the Caucasus, treats the situation that has emerged in the course of Geneva debates as a stalemate. Nevertheless, in his opinion, the format of talks should be preserved.

In his turn, the conflictologist Paata Zakareishvili believes that the only news from the talks was the Giga Bokeriya's dissatisfaction with the position of the co-chairs of the Geneva discussions.

Armenia: cadre reshufflings in power

Within the last week Armenia witnessed a number of serious political reshuffles: the place of the retired Mayor of Yerevan Gagik Beglaryan was taken by Karen Karapetyan, now the ex-head of the Closed Joint-Stock Company (CJSC) "ArmRosgazprom"; instead of sacked Minister of Justice Gevorg Danielyan, the well-known lawyer Grayr Tovmasyan was appointed; the new Minister of Economy is now Tigran Davtyan, instead of Nerses Yeritsyan, who previously held the post of the Minister of Finance; while his post is now occupied by Vache Gabrielyan, earlier Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank. Besides, the decision of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia dismissed Vazgen Khachikyan, head of the State Social Service at the Ministry of Social Welfare and Labour and a member of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia.

Armenian experts express the opinion that such massive cadre reshuffles have to do with the parliamentary and presidential elections upcoming in 2012 and 2013: the Republican Party of Armenia makes new appointments trying to give a new image to the ruling party.

Meanwhile, Armenian mass media continue publishing materials about new, still upcoming resignations and appointments.

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