17 October 2011, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 10-16


Capture off the coast of Nigeria of an oil tanker with Russian and Georgian sailors on board, ending in release of the crew; intention of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili to get involved in political processes in Georgia; census in Armenia; trial in Essentuki on complaint of rights defender against inaction of law enforcers in kidnapping committed in Chechnya; election battles in South Ossetia, where given the population of less than 100,000, 17 presidential candidates have been registered, - look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of October 10-16, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Russian and Georgian seamen in captivity of Nigerian pirates

On October 11, it became known that the vessel "Cape Bird", sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands and having 12 sailors from Georgia and three from Novorossiysk (Krasnodar Territory, Russia) in its crew, was captured by pirates near the coast of Nigeria. On that very day, the ship-owning company said about the start of negotiations with the pirates about return of seamen to their homelands.

On October 14 in the morning, the crew of the tanker was released, as declared by Giorgi Karbelashvili, Georgian Deputy Minister of Economy. According to his story, all the sailors were in safety. Until now, there was no official information on the conditions of release of the vessel; however, on October 11, Irakli Sharabidze, Deputy Director of the National Marine Agency of Georgia, said, referring to the ship-owner, that a deal had been reached with the pirates: they agreed to release the crew in exchange for 40 tons of petrol available on board the tanker.

According to Mr Sharabidze, soon they hope to decide on the fate of other 15 Georgian sailors, who were captured by pirates in Somalia in last September. Somalia pirates had claimed a million-dollar ransom from the Greek ship-owner; however, within a year the company either refused to pay or said that it had no money. In April 2011, when the claimed sum was available with the owner, the information appeared that already the pirates began changing the conditions. All this time, according to sailors' relatives, who maintained permanent communication with the crew, the captives were treated very badly.

Georgia: billionaire Ivanishvili to engage in politics

Last week, the Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, who declaring on October 7 his intention to create a new oppositional party in Georgia for taking part in the 2012 parliamentary elections, named the parties, with whom he is ready to cooperate. The billionaire's list includes the Republican Party of Georgia and the Party "Our Georgia - Free Democrats".

According to his version, Ivanishvili was forced to enter the political sphere by the "total monopolization of power by Mikhail Saakashvili, and by conducted constitutional changes." He also wants to buy any Georgian TV Channel, licensed to broadcast news programmes. Erosi Kitsmarishvili, co-owner of the Georgian TV Company "Maestro" and one of the leaders of the "Georgian Party", has already expressed his readiness to pass the rights to manage the channel over to Ivanishvili.

Besides, on October 11, it became known that Ivanishvili would not be able to run for parliamentary elections in Georgia, since he is no longer a Georgian citizen. However, as reported by Eka Beseliya, Mr Ivanishvili's advocate, the special order issued by the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili about deprivation of the billionaire of Georgian citizenship will be appealed against in the court.

Armenia to register its inhabitants

On October 12, Armenia began its census, which will last until October 21 and is the second one conducted in the independent Republic of Armenia.

In total, the new census questionnaire contains 33 questions, detailing also the socio-economic status. For the first time, the section on available modern conveniences includes a question about a PC and possibility to use the Internet. Also, the questionnaire included questions about any received overseas transfers, the presence of invalids in the family, their disability degree, possession of agricultural animals in private ownership, the size of the owned land estate, and so on.

Chechnya: rights defender, although losing lawsuit, still hopes for more efficient kidnapping inquiry

On October 12-13, the court in the city of Essentuki (Stavropol Territory) considered the complaint lodged by Igor Kalyapin, Chairman of the Interregional Committee against Torture, against the inaction of the officials from the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) in charge of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) in relation to the kidnapping of Islam Umarpashaev, committed in Chechnya on December 11, 2009.

Umarpashaev was released on April 8, 2010. According to his story, for four months he was kept in the basement of a building located in the territory of the OMON (riot police) of the Chechen MIA, and tortured. From the viewpoint of local rights defenders, the investigation of this crime is still sabotaged, while the case itself is unique to Chechnya, as the victim does not recall his application about the crime against him and insists on the inquiry.

The judge took six hours to write the reasoning for rejection of Mr Kalyapin's complaint. According to Igor Sobol, who runs the Umarpashaev's case, currently, there are no problems with execution of his investigatory prescriptions. Despite the fact that Igor Kalyapin has lost the case, he is quite satisfied and hopes that the investigation into the kidnapping of the resident of Chechnya will go faster now.

South Ossetia: confrontation before presidential election continues

As of on Monday, October 17, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of South Ossetia, where the population does not exceed 90,000, had registered 17 candidates for the election to be held on November 13. Eleven would-be candidates were rejected, and the decision on two more is still pending.

The list of those rejected includes virtually all the oppositional politicians. Thus, on October 14, registration was rejected of Roland Kelekhsaev, the leader of the "People's Party", and Vyacheslav Gobozov, the leader of the Party "Homeland". Earlier, on September 30, the same decision was made in relation to Djambolat Tedeev, the head coach of the Russian national team in freestyle wrestling.

Unlike Kelekhsaev and Gobozov, who said that they would not appeal against the decision of the CEC, in spite of their disagreement with it, on October 12, Tedeev tried to challenge the refusal at the Supreme Court of South Ossetia, but failed, and on October 13 he was expelled from South Ossetia.


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