23 March 2011, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 14-20

The Caucasus is not indifferent to the Japanese tragedy, however, while helping Japan, it calls on its countrymen to return home; in Armenia, "Zvartnots" Airport and "Armavia" Airline cannot agree on cooperation; fans wishing to watch the World Cup in Freestyle Wrestling in Dagestan were calmed down by truncheons; in central Yerevan oppositionist is on hunger strike in anticipation of changes in the country, - look these and other events in the review of the week of March 14-20, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Russia wins the World Cup

The World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling was held on March 19-20 in Dagestan with participation of national teams of ten countries. Having defeated all the contenders in their groups, Russia and Iran - traditionally very strong wrestling powers - met in the final. The final match consisted of seven individual fights and aroused a great interest of the audience - the hall was completely packed.

Russia beat Iran in the final 5:2 and won the Cup; the decisive fight was won by Georgi Ketoev by touch?. Bronze medals went to Azerbaijan, which beat Uzbekistan 6:1.

The Cup prize fund was 240,000 US dollars; the sporting event of such a high level was held in Dagestan for the first time.

It is worth noting that law enforcers had to take special security measures near the palace of sports, where the tournament was held: already on the first day, there were so many fans willing to watch the competitions that a hustle burst out; and the police had to use truncheons to calm down and disperse the crowd.

Aviation conflict in Armenia

On March 15, the Yerevan "Zvartnots" Airport suspended servicing flights of the "Armavia" claiming non-payment by the airline of its current debts; then, on March 16, the "Armavia" announced delay of all its flights in protest against high tariffs of the airport in the capital of Armenia. The press service of the airline stated then that service rates in "Zvartnots" are 3 times higher than in Moscow and 2 times higher than the European average ones.

In the version of the "Armavia", the basic country's airline all over in the world has better conditions than others. The "Armavia", being the national carrier, has no preferential conditions, although it operates about 500 flights a month, and up to 700 flights in summer. Moreover, even the fuel that is imported to Armenia by one of shareholders of the "Armavia" is sold back to the airline by the airport at the price, which is higher by 150 US dollars per ton.

On the other hand, according to the company named "Armenia - International Airports", the "Armavia" is continuously breaking the schedule of debt repayment, presented by the airline itself. It was also reported that the current rates on aircraft servicing were established by the Closed Joint-Stock Company (CJSC) "Armenia - International Airports" back in 2005 with account of the "Master Plan" of the airport development and never changed since.

While negotiations between the airline and the airport go on, it was decided to resume the flights of the "Armavia" under the previous schedule until the end of the talks. Meanwhile, for passengers the conflict has already turned into higher ticket prices.

Echo of Japan in the Caucasus

The March 11 earthquake in Japan and the following tsunami and catastrophe at the nuclear power plant (NPP), which resulted in still continuing spread of radiation, did not pass unnoticed in the Caucasian region.

Thus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Azerbaijan has warned its citizens about the complex situation in Japan, urging them to cancel their trips to this country, saying that after the devastating earthquake in Japan on March 11 and the tsunami that followed, the country is in the state of emergency and under the danger of radiation. In this regard, on March 18 the Azerbaijani MFA addressed its citizens with a request to refrain from visiting this country. Those Azerbaijani citizens who had faced problems there were encouraged to seek help at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tokyo. Some Azerbaijanis and residents of other regions of Southern Caucasus and Southern Russia have already left the affected country.

At the same time, the Caucasian regions are trying to render all possible assistance to the Japanese. Georgia will send an aircraft with humanitarian goods to Japan; it will bring back home those Georgian citizens who would like to leave Japan. The Ministries of Internal Affairs and Public Health of Georgia have prepared the cargo of medicines and other first-order essentials, and a rescue team of 40 persons for the flight to Japan.

The Government of Azerbaijan, in its turn, has decided to provide material assistance to Japan and allotted 1 million US dollars from its reserve fund of the 2011 national budget. The decision to help this country in mitigating the consequences of the disaster was made on March 18, 2011.

Meanwhile, seismologists predict a strong earthquake in the near future in Northern Caucasus. According to experts, some areas now see an increase of seismic activity; and there are 3 regions, where the probability of an earthquake is the highest: Dagestan, Krasnaya Polyana (Sochi area) and the area of the Caucasian Mineral Waters (Kavminvody) (Central Caucasus).

Armenia: oppositionist's hunger strike

On March 15, during his speech at an open forum of the "Heritage" Party, Raffi Ovannisyan, the leader of the Party, announced a start of his hunger strike to be held right in Freedom Square in Yerevan. According to his story, it is time to launch civic initiatives; and he can no longer tolerate what is happening in the country. Ovannisyan is going to hold his hunger strike in the square as long as his health permits.

Mr Ovannisyan hopes to achieve "adequate solutions to the current emergency situation." "The society should not sit at home and wait for changes in social life," said the leader of the "Heritage" and added that people "should become owners of their country." He also said that his hunger strike is not aimed at improving the rating of his party at the upcoming parliamentary elections.

On March 16, the hunger-striker was visited by doctors from the 4th Yerevan Policlinics. They examined him and concluded that Raffi Ovannisyan was healthy. The party leader did not complain about his wellbeing, although he is only drinking water since the start of his protest action.

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