15 August 2011, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 8-14

Third anniversary of August 2008 events in South Ossetia; wildfires in southern Russia; mass brawls in Dagestan with casualties and dozens of detainees; trials of oppositionists in Azerbaijan, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of August 8-14, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

South Ossetia: three years after August 2008

On August 8, Vladimir Markin, the spokesman of the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), said that copies of the materials of the criminal case on the events in South Ossetia in August 2008 were sent to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The Russian party demands to bring the Georgian state officials, guilty of committing crimes against Russian citizens, to criminal responsibility.

According to the materials of the case, during the war in South Ossetia many residents of this republic were killed and suffered; 655 dwellings houses were completely destroyed and burnt down; and 2139 dwellings houses were partially ruined. Materials have also been attached to the case files about the shelling of the Russian peacekeeping battalion in the south-western outskirt of Tskhinvali, which killed 10 and wounded 40 servicemen.

On the same day, the organization named "International Crisis Group" published a report entitled "Georgia-Russia: Learning to Live as Neighbours". According to the authors of the document, the authorities of Russia and Georgia should start direct negotiations without preconditions on a range of issues and reduce the activity of accusations of organizing bombings and support of terrorism. The report also notes that the situation with refugees from South Ossetia in Georgia is still complicated.

Let us remind you that on August 8, 2008, warfare broke out between Georgia and South Ossetia. Soon Russia stepped in. The war lasted for five days; and on August 12 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a decision "to end the operation on compelling Georgia to peace" by putting forward the conditions for the final settlement of the conflict in South Ossetia. After the August 2008 conflict, the Russian President signed decrees on recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili treated the decision of Russian leadership as "lawlessness", and Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia.

Dagestan: mass brawls result in casualties and dozens of detainees

At night on August 9, a mass brawl with use of firearms burst out in the village of Gimry, Untsukul District of Dagestan. The mass conflict occurred after two bodies with gunshot wounds were found near one of the fuelling stations two kilometres away from the village of Gimry.

It also became known about a few more victims who were hospitalized. Local residents gathered in front of a hospital in the village of Untsukul, where a gunfight broke out. As a result of mass conflict three persons, including a child born in 2008, perished. Two more victims died in hospital. In total, seven persons died.

In the afternoon on August 12, a brawl occurred in the village of Shushanovka, Kizilyurt District. There, several persons also suffered. According to villagers, 37 persons were detained. The victims with different injuries were delivered to the city hospital of Kizilyurt. Their condition is assessed as moderate gravity; many received brain concussion and severe bruises.

Shushanovka is inhabited by natives of the Tsuntin District, refugees from the village of Borozdinovskaya, Chechen Republic, and Tsuntin refugees, who had earlier lived in Georgia; from time to time conflicts happen among them. As reported by Ravzanat Uvaisova, a resident of Shushanovka, on August 11 a crowd of people stopped the bus with former residents of Borozdinovskaya inside and ordered them to get out for a showdown. They managed to avoid a fight in the place, where bus stopped. On the following day, an armistice was concluded between the conflicting parties. However later, several refugees from Borozdinovskaya were beaten.

South Russia: raging wildfires again

Rostov Region

On August 9, a fire started on the left-hand bank of the Don River in Rostov-on-Don; there, grass and reeds were on fire. Fire fighters managed to localize the fire, but later there a new source of fire appeared. In total, the fire destroyed 30 hectares of grass and reeds before it was extinguished on August 10.

In the Morozov District of the Rostov Region a landscape fire burnt down 10 hectares of grass and about 7.5 hectares of forest. A fire began on August 9 in the afternoon in the Uryupinsk Ravine, 12 kilometres off the farm of Gruzinov. As a result of a grass fire in the area of 10 hectares forest plantations began burning. At 5:45 p.m. Moscow time fire fighters and rescue workers managed to localize the fire, and at 7:10 p.m. it was extinguished.

On August 12 near the town of Konstantinovsk, Rostov Region, fire fighters and rescuers were suppressing the burning grass in the area of 15 hectares; there exists a danger of spreading the fire to the territory of the Konstantinovsk Forestry.

Volgograd Region

On August 9 it was reported about fires near the memorial complex "Mamaev Kurgan" and in the Dzerzhinsk District of Volgograd. Dry grass was on fire near summer cottage areas and a cemetery; however, there was no threat for these objects.

On August 10, a message about ignition of dry vegetation on the steppe was received by the control centre of the on duty officer of the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) of the Frolovsky District. Subsequently, the fire moved into separate sections of the Archedin Forestry. On August 11, the area of the fire made more than 1600 hectares. Aircrafts of the MfE took part in fire fighting. Finally, this natural fire was fully extinguished in the morning on August 12.
In the neighbouring Ilovlin District, on August 11 six outbuildings and two houses were burnt down by a wildfire in the farm of Kamensky.

Krasnodar Territory

On August 10 a fire broke out in a forest massif near the village of Dolzhanskaya, Yeisk District of the Krasnodar Territory. The information about it arrived between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. The area of the fire was 6.5 hectares of forest located in the nature conservation area. More than 100 fire fighters were involved in suppressing it. Finally, the fire was extinguished on August 11.
Azerbaijan: trials of participants of April 2 oppositional rally

On August 12 the Sabail District Court of Baku held a preparatory session on the case of four oppositionists, including Arif Gadjily, the head of the central office of the "Musavat" Party, and Fuad Gakhramanly, deputy chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), who were brought to criminal liability for participating in the unsanctioned rally on April 2 in central Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

They are accused under Article 233 (organization of and participation in actions aimed at disturbing the public order) of the Criminal Code, but the defendants insist that accusations are politically motivated.

The rally on April 2 was organized by the Civil Movement for Democracy" Public Chamber" (CMDPC) with a demand of democratic reforms, but the police dispersed the rally, explaining that it was not sanctioned by city authorities. All in all, 15 activists saw criminal charges in connection with the April 2 rally.

Two of them – Shakhin Gasanli, a board member of the PFPA, and rights defender Vidadi Iskenderov – are accused of under the articles of "illegal possession of ammunition" and "obstruction to demonstration of voters' free will". Gasanli has been already sentenced to two years of imprisonment by the Shamkir District Court.

Six activists are still tried by the Sabail District Court; four others – by the Nasimin District Court of Baku. All of them are also charged under Article 233. On August 9 the session at the Nasimin District Court of Baku was held under strengthened security measures, since about 200 persons from the group of public support of the defendants came to the courthouse.

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