04 July 2011, 22:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 27-July 3

Tragedy instead of feast – victims of gas explosion at wedding party in Vladikavkaz die; first nominations for presidential election in Abkhazia; adoption of the law on distant pastures in Kabardino-Balkaria, which caused disputes among local indigenous nations; sentence to persons guilty of children's death in the Sea of Azov; transformation of oppositional "octet" into "sextet" after negotiations on electoral legislation in Georgia, – look these and other events in the review of the week of June 27-July 3, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

North Ossetia: new casualties of gas explosion in Vladikavkaz

Last weekend, on June 25 an explosion of gas cylinder occurred at a wedding party in a private house No. 13 in Zaterechnaya Street in Vladikavkaz. The total number of victims of the blast was 55 persons, including 6 children. Most of the victims got burning injuries; the condition of 20 of them was rated as grave. On June 26, an aircraft of the Russian Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) of brought 12 victims to Moscow best hospitals. On June 27, another special flight of the MfE brought 12 victims from the airport of Vladikavkaz to St Petersburg. On the following day, 9 more injured persons were brought from North Ossetia to Moscow. Their relatives came together with them.

On June 29, the first victim, a 49-year-old woman, died. Her condition was rated by doctors as the gravest among the rest. Then, on June 30, a 74-year-old man died. At night on July 1, Fatima Baeva-Sabanova, born in 1958, died in Vladikavkaz. On the following night, Bella Kadzasova, born in 1965, died; in the afternoon on July 2, Marat Dzagkoev, born in 1976, died; and at night on July 3 Alina Khitieva, 24, also died.

The Prosecutor's Office of North Ossetia started an inquiry into the fact of the explosion of the gas cylinder. Experts suppose that the tragedy could be caused either by improper use or by a defective gas cylinder. On July 1, the case on gas explosion in Vladikavkaz was handed over to the Investigatory Committee.

Abkhazia: initiative groups nominate presidential candidates

On June 27, the nomination campaign of candidates for presidency started in Abkhazia. Experts mention the three presidential candidates in Abkhazia. They are: Vice President Alexander Ankvab, who is acting leader of the republic after the death of Sergey Bagapsh, Prime Minister Sergey Shamba, and oppositional candidate Raul Khadjimba, who lost the presidential election of 2004 to Sergey Bagapsh.

On June 28, the Central Election Committee has registered the first initiative group to nominate Raul Khajimba, the chairman of the oppositional party "Forum of National Unity of Abkhazia", as a presidential candidate. Together with him Svetlana Djergeniya, a widow of the first Abkhazian President Vladislav Ardzinba, is nominated as a candidate for the position of vice president. On June 29 the initiative group, nominating Alexander Ankvab, has been registered.

The Russian State Duma deputy Konstantin Zatulin, the director of the Institute of CIS, believes that there is a significant risk of acute political conflicts associated with early pre-election campaign and presidential election, which comes from the candidates. However, Mr Zatulin is confident that each and all political leaders in Abkhazia are interested in maintaining the Russian-Abkhazian relations and Russia has no reason to interfere in the presidential election procedure in Abkhazia.

Early presidential election in Abkhazia, appointed in connection with the death of Sergey Bagapsh, is to be held on August 26.

Kabardino-Balkaria: law causing disputes of republic's indigenous nations adopted

On June 28 majority of MPs of the Parliament of Kabardino-Balkaria voted and adopted the Law "On order of determining the territories of lands for the purpose of distant pasture cattle breeding". The society was not aware of the ultimate version of the Law. The Balkar and Kabardin public activists treat the issue from the different points of view, and this presents the difficulty for the MPs: The Balkar side believes that the lands for distant pasture cattle breeding should be determined within the borders of the adjacent villages, which are primarily the Balkar ones, and the Kabardin side suggests to leave them in the traditional general usage.

To reach a consensus, the Conciliatory Commission was established at the Parliament of the republic with equal representation of the Kabardins, Balkars and Russians. The Commission worked for a long time, but reached no compromise.

According to Zalim Kashirokov, the deputy head of the presidential administration of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic (KBR), the adopted version of the Law is the most compromising one.

According to the Law, the distant pastures in Zolskoe, Chegem, Cherek and Baksan Districts of the republic are classified to the category of republican property and not subject to privatization. Pastures will be leased to businesses and individuals, and the tasks of the KBR's government include establishing relevant infrastructure on the pasture territories. Up to 2014 the government commission with the participation of public activists will be correcting the boundaries of distant pastures.

Krasnodar Territory: court announces verdict of guilty on case of Moscow schoolchildren's death in the Sea of Azov

On July 1 the Yeysk City Court of the Krasnodar Territory has pronounced the sentenced in respect of Irina Ryabova and Alexei Bagryantsev, two employees of the Moscow school, accused in the case on the deaths of six schoolchildren in the health camp "Azov" last year. They were sentenced to four and 2.5 years of settlement colony imprisonment.

On the same day it became known that the criminal proceeding in respect of Yuri Shein, the head of the Department for Civil Defence and Emergencies of the City Administration of Yeysk, instituted on the fact of deaths of six Moscow schoolchildren from the camp "Azov", was closed due to his active repentance. The official was accused of negligence that resulted in the death of two or more persons.

Six children from the camp "Azov" drowned in the area of Yeysk Spit in the Sea of Azov on July 7, 2010. Their tutor who tried to rescue them had also drowned. According to the investigators, three teachers looking after the children were drunk at the time of the tragedy. Irina Ryabova and Alexei Bagryantsev plead guilty and asked to consider the case in a special order.

Parents of the children drowned in Yeysk demand compensation for material losses and moral harm.

Georgia: negotiations on better electoral environment split the opposition

Several political parties, including two oppositional "Christian Democrats" and "The New Right-Wingers", have signed the agreement on proposals for improvement of electoral legislation, which were presented by the authorities of Georgia on June 26, and left the "oppositional octet" which also included the "National Forum", "The Way of Georgia", "The Conservative Party", "The Republican Party", "Free Democrats", and "The People's Party".

"The New Right-Wingers" explain their signing of the agreement with the ruling party by the necessity to meet the compromises. Among the most important ones they believe to be the increase of seats in the Parliament from 150 to 190 with increase in the proportion of MPs elected on party lists and the compensation of one million laris to each party which will overcome the five-percent barrier in elections to the Parliament. Regarding the first issue, the experts and the negotiating parties themselves disagree whether a referendum should be held on this issue in the country.

Representatives of the political parties from the "octet", which has transformed into the "sextet", condemned their former companions and declared that they would continue struggling to change the electoral legislation of Georgia.

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