15 February 2011, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 7-13

The major last week's newsmaker in the Caucasus was bad weather, which left tens of thousands of people without heat and power, blocked federal highways with landslides and snowfalls, covered with storm and broke ships into parts; "Russian Railways" switch Chechnya and Dagestan over into the daytime operation mode; nationalists and anti-fascists once again held their actions in Moscow, however, the December version of Manege Square failed to repeat, - look these and other events in the review of the week of February 7-13, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

BAD WEATHER IN THE CAUCASUS

The unpleasant weather "gifts" presented throughout the last week to residents of Southern Russia and neighbouring territories of Southern Caucasus often became - by virtue of their magnitude - major news events.

Road blockades

On February 8, a landslide struck the Tuapse District, Krasnodar Territory, and destroyed a road section in the 56th kilometre of the M-27 Federal Highway. As a result, the roadbed was partially damaged. On February 10, after a repeated landslide, the traffic along the highway Dzhubga-Sochi was stopped completely. In the afternoon, the road was a huge jam. Several hundreds of trucks accumulated on both sides of the failed section; and only some of them managed to get out of the deadlock.

To resolve the problem, it was decided to use sea transport: they found three ferries aimed to connect the port of Novorossiysk with the port in the Imereti Valley. However, the sea was violently storming for four days, which means that ferries cannot help; while weather forecasts are disappointing: in the next few days the weather will only worsen. According to the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE), 13 parking camps for heavy trucks were set up in the district: drivers may get warm meals, dry rations, hot tea and coffee. Militiamen are guarding freights and drivers on the round-the-clock basis.

It has been estimated that restoration of the damaged road section will take about a month and will cost 150-160 million roubles. However, the landslide continues moving at 20 cm per hour.

A snowfall and strong wind led to restriction of traffic also along the Federal Highway "Kavkaz" at the approach to Stavropol. Due to heavy snowfalls and gusty winds, the territorial road utility services fail to cope with snow removal and road treatment. As of the morning on February 13, the traffic of buses and trucks is at the entrance to Stavropol in both directions of the "Kavkaz" Federal Highway. The traffic on other roads of the territory was not restricted.

In darkness

Electricity transmission lines broke and at night on February 13 left almost 20,000 residents of the Volgograd Region without electricity. During the day, over 100 repair teams of electricians worked in the areas affected by the disaster. Power supply failures were fixed in 19 districts of the Volgograd Region.

By late evening on February 13, power engineers completely restored electricity supplies in the Volgograd Region, which had been broken by snowfalls and strong winds. However, the emergency repair crews are still on high alert, because weather forecasts threaten worsening.

Strong winds and rain also caused disconnection of electricity from about 30,000 consumers in the Krasnodar Region. Accidents were registered in dwelling settlements of the Anapa, Timashevsk, Korenovsk, Vyselkovkiy, Krasnoarmeyskiy and Slavyansk Districts. Wire overlapping and short circuits in consumer-grade networks began on Saturday, February 12. Repairs were on during the night. There were no disconnections of social objects; however, electricity has not yet been completely restored over the whole Territory.

In South Ossetia, on February 13, because of complicated weather conditions, electricity supplies were broken to the settlement of Nizhny Zaramag of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. Power line goes from North Ossetia to South Ossetia across the Roksk Pass along the Transcaucasian Highway. The situation was complicated by the fact that many residential areas and governmental institutions in South Ossetia are heated by electricity.

By the evening of the same day, South Ossetia was again connected to the power transmission line "Nizhny Zaramag - North Portal". Supply of electricity from North Ossetia was resumed. However, given the weather conditions, experts do not exclude new outages.

Shipwreck

In the morning on February 13, the Turkish cargo ship sailing under the guise of Tanzania was broken by a storm in the Black Sea off the coast of Sochi. The crew was on the stern and the detached prow began sinking. The crew of the ship was 12 persons: citizens of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Rescuers of the Russian MfE from Sochi managed to evacuate 10 crew members. The search for two more members is underway. However, they failed to extract ship's papers from the captain's cabin, because it was flooded.

The ship "Besektazh" made a flight from Turkey to Russia; it was just a few miles from its destination. The ship was carrying basalt for the Olympic construction. The captain could have saved the ship, only by driving it as far as possible from the shore. But for some reason he failed to do it. The cause of the tragedy - either weather, or the error of the crew, or the condition of the cargo - will be found out by the investigation. Presently, they decide what to do with the dry-cargo ship, which can present an environmental hazard: it contains 17 tons of fuel. Earlier, rescuers had stated that there was no threat of diesel fuel spillage.

At the same time, the storm at sea has not yet calmed down. In the Krasnodar Territory, strong winds and rains are observed along the whole coastal line.

In Kalmykia, a storm warning was also announced on February 12-13 because of strong wind and blowing snow. The forecast predicted gain of southern wind with a switchover to the northwest one to 15-20 m/s. In some districts gusts up to 25 m/s were possible, accompanied by rainfall, sometimes very strong, blizzards and wet snow build-up.

MOSCOW: RELAPSE OF MANEGE RIOTS FAILED

The action of nationalists, which was scheduled for February 11 in Manege Square in Moscow, was prevented by large forces of militia and Interior Troops of the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, about 1000 persons could gather in the neighbouring territories.

A group of nationalist-minded youngsters went out of the Okhotny Ryad metro station and popped in the direction of Lubyanka. There, they held an impromptu march of nationalists with participation of about 300 persons.

As reported by the Internet resources supporting the action (in particular, the website of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration), about 100 persons were detained during the action. Up to 20 detainees were taken to the OVD (Interior Division) "Basmanny", more than 20 persons - to the OVD "Arbat", several dozens more were brought to the OVD "Kitai-Gorod" and other OVDs of the city.

The Moscow GUVD (Chief Interior Department) reports about suppression of unauthorized actions and detention of about 20 persons, including the organizers.

Since February 9, in the forums and pages on social networks, members of the radical movement "December 11", founded after the murder in December last year in the north of Moscow of Yegor Sviridov, a fan of the Moscow "Spartak" Football Club, and activists of the nationalist-minded youth had been urging people to come today to Manege Square. The 11th day of the month was chosen because exactly two months ago, on December 11, 2010, mass riots burst out in Manege Square on the occasion of Yegor Sviridov's killing.

Those willing to take part in "Action-11" were invited by nationalist websites to gather at 6:50 p.m. in Okhotny Ryad metro station. A few hours before this time, columns of cars and trucks with servicemen of internal troops, militiamen and OMON fighters were deployed in Manege Square and surrounding streets.

Strengthened militia units were deployed in metro stations adjacent to Okhotny Ryad. The building of the State Duma was surrounded by Internal Troops. Several dozen of special cars of the Internal Troops and militia were parked from the side of the monument to Karl Marx. The adjacent territory was patrolled by dog handlers and horse-mounted militiamen.

In central Moscow the action was held "We say 'No!' to Fascism on Russian land". The participants laid flowers at the Unknown Soldier's Tomb of the. The event was attended by about 50 persons, including activists of the Russian Congress of Caucasian Nations (RCCN), the Club "Multinational Russia", public organization "Union of Students' Affinities" and the National Council of Children's and Youth Associations in Russia. Members of the Inter-Regional Patriotic Movement "Heirs of the Victory", as they said, refused to take part in the action.

MOSCOW: ATTACK ON KHAZBIEV

Magomed Khazbiev, a member of the Expert Board under the Russian Ombudsman and the editor of the website "Ingushetia.ru" was hospitalized on February 12 in Moscow with intestinal bleeding. On the previous day he had a meeting with journalists in a Moscow café. The oppositionist suspects that he was poisoned.

At the press conference "Tension in Ingushetia as result of authorities' blunders", scheduled for February 16, Khazbiev was going to tell about abductions of civilians in Ingushetia and the situation with disappearance of Zalina Elkhoroeva. Besides, according to the oppositionist, he had planned to hold, along with the human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov, a series of pickets in Moscow against the tyranny of law enforcers in his republic.

Now, the state of health of the Ingush opposition leader and human rights defender Magomed Khazbiev, who arrived in Moscow to attend the press conference on situation in Ingushetia, but was suddenly hospitalized in grave condition, got stabilized. There is no danger to his life.

A source at hospital No. 31 of Moscow, where Magomed Khazbiev was hospitalized, confirmed to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that Khazbiev was hospitalized in serious condition and did not rule out poisoning; however, so far doctors, as he said, find it difficult to accurately diagnose the oppositionist.

Today, Magomed Khazbiev is better, but doctors recommend him to have rest and stay in bed. He is in hospital under guard and takes his medical procedures.

A professional, earlier involved in investigating cases of poisoning, told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent in his comments on Khazbiev's symptoms that intestinal bleeding and, consequently, loss of consciousness, may be caused by cobalt or bismuth. According to his story, it is quite easy to add these substances into one's food unnoticed. They do not change its taste and are invisible to the eye.

DAGESTAN AND CHECHNYA: NIGHT WITHOUT TRAINS

From now on, passenger trains will not move in the territory of Chechnya during night hours. This decision was made by the top management of the Open Joint-Stock Company (OJSC) "Russian Railways" for security considerations. The ban also applies Dagestan.

The decision to suspend night passenger trains in Chechnya came into force on February 9. A sort of "curfew" for passenger trains will last from six in the evening till six in the morning. The train, arriving at the territories of the two republics at night will stay at stations till morning.

"The ban was introduced not only for our republic but also for Dagestan. The reason is primarily in citizens' safety. So far, it's difficult to say how long it will last," the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent was told at the local Ministry of Transports and Communication.

The source from the ministry noted that in recent years Chechnya, in contrast to Dagestan, had no serious acts on railroads.

At present, passenger trains from Chechnya go to Moscow, Astrakhan, Volgograd, Stavropol, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria. There are also several commuter trains. Besides, passenger trains from Azerbaijan to Moscow and back crossed the republic's territory.

After the terror act committed on January 24 at the Moscow "Domodedovo" Airport, where 36 persons were killed and over 120 were hospitalized, security measures were strengthened at railway stations in Grozny and Gudermes. Adjacent territories are patrolled by reinforced militia patrol units; suspicious persons are asked to show their IDs and luggage. Also, rules of passengers' stay in the area of the airport and bus terminals were toughened.

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