30 August 2011, 09:30

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 22-28

Abkhazia elects Alexander Ankvab to be its new president; however, the international community is not in a hurry to recognize the legality of the election; Azerbaijani court convicts six more oppositionist for taking part in April rally; dam failure in Grozny becomes a tragedy for 2500 citizens; in Krasnodar Territory another "raid" of ecological activists to "Tkachov's summer house" ends in arrests again, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of August 22-28, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Abkhazia elects Ankvab

The early presidential election in Abkhazia were held on August 26 after a sudden death of former president Sergey Bagapsh in his 63rd year. There were three candidates for the post of the president – Vice-President Alexander Ankvab, leader of the opposition Raul Khadjimba and Prime Minister Sergey Shamba. The victory went to Alexander Ankvab, who gathered in the first round 54.86 percent of votes.

The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Abkhazia did not fix any violations of public order and recognized the validity of the presidential election. The voter turnout was 71.92 percent.

However, the international community refuses, referring to Georgia, to recognize the legitimacy of the election. In particular, the European Union refused to recognize the outcome of the presidential election in Abkhazia; the same was done by the NATO. The Alliance believes that holding such elections does not contribute to any peaceful and long-term settlement of situation in Georgia. Earlier, Georgia had called the international community to condemn the election in Abkhazia.

Rally grows into verdict

On August 25, the Sabail District Court found six oppositionists guilty under Articles 233 (organization of or participation in actions violating the public order) and 186.1 (deliberate causing damage to or destruction of one's property) and sentenced Sabikh Kerimov, Vice-Chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), to 2.5 years of imprisonment; Elshen Gasanov, an activist of the "Musavat" Party, to 2 years in prison; activists of the PFPA Zulfugar Eivazov and Babak Gasanov – to 1.5 years in prison each; Arif Alyshly – to 3 years, and non-partisan Elnur Isrefilov – to 2.5 years of imprisonment.

The Azerbaijani opposition criticised the accusatory verdict passed by the Sabail District Court to the above six activists. The Baku OSCE Office has also expressed its concern of the verdict, which deprived the above six of liberty for their participation in the rally on April 2.

On August 27, the representative office of the European Union in Baku made a statement, in coordination with the heads of diplomatic missions of the EU countries, which also condemned the verdict of the six activists of the opposition, arrested at the rally on April 2.

In total, in the context of the April 2 rally, criminal accusations were presented to 15 activists.

Grozny: 660 houses under water

Last week, downpours in Chechnya turned into a serious calamity.

As a result of torrential rains, the level of the Sunzha River went up above dangerous marks, namely, above 3.8 meters; on August 27, water smashed the dam and flooded the Voikov township, located in the Oktiabrskiy District of Grozny, which stretches along the river. In a couple of hours water flooded over 660 houses; 2573 persons, including 770 children, were evacuated.

Besides, the downpours that fell on Grozny on August 26 and 27 practically completely flooded the tunnel in the reconstructed central street of the city – Akhmat Kadyrov Avenue.

The main consequences of the flood were eliminated on the following day – August 28. As reported by the local Ministry for Emergencies (MfE), the calamity did not bring any casualties or victims.

Kuban: another group of "eco-prisoners"

Last week, another scandal around another detention of ecologists burst out in the Krasnodar Territory (also known as "Kuban" by the name of the main river).

Three public activists were detained on Saturday, August 27, at 5 p.m., when the "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus" held a marine protest action opposite the summer cottage of the governor of the Territory Tkachov in the Blue Bay. According to the Watch, the detainees did not take part in the action. The activists were accused of "disobeying a legitimate demand of a policeman".

The trial of the detained activists Victor Chirikov, Valery Semergei and Alexander Onufrienko took place late on that very day. Under unofficial data, the trial ended at 11:10 p.m. on August 27. It was run by the Magistrate Judge Sergey Bondarev from Judicial Precinct No. 216 of the Tuapse District, who was deliberately called in the off-hour.

The judge sentenced Victor Chirikov, an activist of the "Solidarity" Movement, to 15 days of administrative arrest. Two activists from Gelendzhik – Valery Semergei and Alexander Onufrienko – were sentenced to 5 days of arrest each. The convicts were taken to the isolation facility of the Tuapse ROVD (District Interior Division). When leaving the courtroom, they declared that they would go on hunger strike in protest against their illegal detention and arrest.

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