20 April 2011, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 11-17

Provocative leaflets in Ingushetia forced law enforcers to strengthen; avalanche blocks communication between Russia and Georgia over "Verkhni Lars"; police disperses another protest action of opposition in Azerbaijan, - look these and other events in the review of the week of April 11-17, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Ingushetia: call or provocation?

On April 16, power agents blocked the centre of the city of Nazran in Ingushetia. According to the regional GUVD (Chief Interior Department), on the previous day "a leaflet with scandalous content" was spread over the republic on behalf of the organization named "Bart", calling to come to a rally on April 16 against the republic's and federal authorities to the Concord Square in Nazran. In order to prevent chaotic actions and disorders, the police intensified security measures in the city.

Ilez Gazdiev, a district policeman of the Nazran GOVD (City Interior Division), said that the Ingush oppositionist Magomed Khazbiev had to do with the leaflets and organization of the rally. Khazbiev himself said that he had no relation to the leaflets and the street action in Concord Square.

The cordon around the above square in Nazran was cancelled at about 4 p.m. on the same day; the law enforcement bodies returned to their normal service regime. The rally, where people were called by the leaflet of the little-known organization "Bart" did not take place.

In the opinion of Magomed Mutsolgov, head of the human rights organization named "Mashr", the leaflets distributed in Nazran on behalf of the little-known organization "Bart" with a call to come to a rally on April 16 against the federal and local authorities were just a provocation.

South Ossetia: rally and threats to human rights defenders

In Tskhinvali, at 11:00 a.m. on April 16, a non-sanctioned rally began with a demand to accelerate housing construction. The protesters planned to continue the action during the next 10 days. The action brought together about 20 persons, mostly women.

Nevertheless, the protest of the people who lost their homes in August 2008 and demanded from the authorities to build new houses for them or give out money for construction was dispersed. According to the participants, they were first surrounded the power agents; then militaries came into play.

Two days earlier, on April 14, three men, who introduced themselves as employees of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), threatened to Inara Gabaraeva, a local human rights defender and the founder of the "Committee of Fire Victims". However, under the statement of the press service of the MoD of South Ossetia, there were no facts proving that the officers of the Ministry of Defence threatened Gabaraeva.

Meanwhile, during the rally on April 16, as claimed by eyewitnesses, an attack was committed on human rights defender Vissarion Aseev. It was reported that he was attacked by the nephew of the deputy minister, who had earlier threatened Gabaraeva.

Azerbaijan: opposition vs. police

Last week, the Azerbaijani opposition again moved in the forefront. Against the offer of the Mayoralty to hold their protest action in the remote outskirt of Baku, oppositionists decided to hold their rally scheduled for 4:00 p.m. local time on March 17 rally with a demand of democratic reforms in the Baku Park named "Sakhil".

Half an hour before the action, the police surrounded the park and let nobody in. At the same time, policemen began a cleansing of the park, squeezing everybody out, including visitors, pensioners and families with children. As a result, the multiple forces of the police, the quick-response regiment of the MIA and agents in plainclothes managed to thwart the attempts of Azerbaijani opposition to hold a protest rally in the Park "Sakhil". The first detainees were two women-journalists from the national television of Sweden (Channel 1). Several other oppositionists were also detained in the park. According to the Civil Movement for Democracy "Public Chamber" (CMDPC), in total 55 activists of the opposition were detained in different parts of Baku.

The organizers of the opposition rally, which was dispersed by the police in central Baku, have distributed a resolution with a demand to hold real political, social and economic reforms in Azerbaijan.

Earlier, the human rights organization Amnesty International urged the Azerbaijani authorities, on the eve of the rally in Baku, appointed by the Azerbaijani opposition on April 17 with a demand of democratic reforms, not to admit an attack of the police on peaceful demonstrators. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani authorities reject the international criticism of the problems with democracy and regard it as interference into the country's home affairs.

Georgia-Russia: complexities of communication

Another difficulty in road communication was brought last week by the weather in the Caucasus region, which is unstable at this season. Since April 12, the checkpoint "Verkhni Lars" in North Ossetia was closed because of the danger of avalanches and snow jams on the highway. The border with Georgia sees more than two dozen of motor vehicles gathered there with over 170 persons inside.

In the morning on April 17, the Georgian party opened the traffic along the Georgian Military Road through the "Verkhni Lars" checkpoint for five hours - from 7:00 to 12:00 a.m. Moscow time to pass the transit transport, accumulated near the border from the Russian side. The Ministry for Emergencies (MfE), in its turn, asked to refrain from travelling along this road.

In the afternoon, the weather returned to normal; the snowfall stopped; and by the evening of April 17 the road services of Georgia completely cleared the highway from snow jams. It allowed resuming safe traffic across the Russian-Georgian border through the checkpoint "Verkhni Lars" in North Ossetia.

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