31 October 2011, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 24-30

Devastating earthquake in Turkey, echoed in Southern Caucasus; Georgian-Russian negotiations of the latter's accession to the WTO; verdicts to natives of Northern Caucasus, participants of fight in Moscow, where Spartak FC fan Yegor Sviridov was killed, and to mass rioters that followed it; attempt to demolish a house of a Roma family in Volgograd Region, - look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of October 24-30, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Southern Caucasus: earthquake in Turkey echoed in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia

An earthquake measuring 7.2 points occurred on October 23 in the Turkish province of Van, killing at least 523 people and injuring over 1600 more. The earthquake had some echo shocks in the countries of Southern Caucasus: within that day, residents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia felt several shocks from three to five points strong. No casualties or destructions in these countries were reported.

On October 25, a new 5.5-magnitude earthquake occurred in Turkey, 45 km north-east of the city of Van; and 3-4-point shocks were registered in the territory of Armenia, particularly in Yerevan.

Back on October 23, 145 Azerbaijani rescuers with the necessary equipment flew to Van to help the earthquake victims. Altogether, in the course of the rescue operation, the team of the Azerbaijani Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) managed to take 10 survivors and 44 dead bodies from under the ruins. Besides, several MfE's aircrafts were sent to Turkey and delivered more than 1200 tents, 5000 blankets, 700 sets of field beds, 2000 sleeping kits, 2 mobile kitchens, 40 generators, kitchen sets and other essentials.

Armenia has also rendered help to Turkey. On October 28, an aircraft of the MfE of Armenia arrived in the Turkish city of Erzurum with 40 tons of humanitarian cargoes. Back on October 25, Armenia expressed its readiness to help Turkey in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, should Turkey officially turn to Yerevan. The Turkey's official request for help was received on October 27 through the Euro-Atlantic Coordination Centre for Reacting to Calamities and the Turkish Red Crescent Society.

Georgia: negotiations on Russia's accession to WTO are near completion

On October 27, Georgia agreed to the proposal of Swiss mediators, which will allow Russia to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). The internationally recognized borders of Georgia will be monitored by observers from Switzerland or the European Union, said Tornike Gordadze, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, in his comment on this agreement.

It is also known that the proposal of mediators assumes an electronic data interchange and international monitoring of the trade between Georgia and Russia in the Abkhazian and South-Ossetian sections of the state border between the two countries. Now Russia has to decide whether it will accept the new proposal. It is expected that during this week the Georgian-Russian talks on WTO will continue. Both Russian and Georgian experts believe that the above talks are of purely political nature, while a possible compromise still does not ensure Russia's rapid entry to this organization.

Let us remind you that Russia is trying to become a member of the WTO for 17 years - since 1993. To do so, they need consent of all 153 members of the organization. In late April 2008, Georgia blocked Russia's accession to the WTO in protest against the order of the President of Russia to lift economic sanctions against Abkhazia and South Ossetia. WTO talks between Georgia and Russia were resumed in March this year in Switzerland.

Moscow: native of Nalchik who killed Spartak fan Sviridov convicted

On October 28, the Moscow City Court, which considered the case of the mass brawl in Moscow in 2010, found Aslan Cherkesov, a native of Nalchik, guilty of killing Yegor Sviridov, and sentenced him to 20 years of imprisonment in a high security colony. The other figurants of the case, residents of Chechnya and Dagestan Akai Akaev, Arthur Arsibiev, Khasan Ibragimov, Nariman Ismailov and Ramadan Utarbiev, were found guilty under various articles and received 5 years of imprisonment each in a minimum security colony. Prior to announcement of the sentence, the defendants' advocates stated that they would appeal against it.

The severity of the verdict imposed on the Moscow City Court was affected by the actions held by nationalistically-minded people and organizations, Russian experts assert.

Thus, Sulieta Kusova, the co-chair the "Caucasian House" public fund for development of the cultures of the nations of Northern Caucasus, believes that the sentence to Cherkesov is brutal and bloodthirsty; it has an obvious nationalistic dimension; and the reason is in "the mediocre national policy, which crushes the fates of Russians and Caucasians both." In the opinion of Ruslan Kurbanov, the head of the expert council of the Working Group under the Russian Public Chamber for development of social dialogue and civil society institutions in the Caucasus, the sentence to Cherkesov indicates that the executive and judicial powers of Moscow have become hostages of the public opinion, which is formed by nationalistic organizations.

Special attention to the case was caused by the fact that the murder of Yegor Sviridov had provoked mass demonstrations of nationalists in late 2010 and early 2011. These actions were held in Moscow, St Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Volgograd and other cities of Russia.

Also on October 28, at the trial on one of such actions - the mass riots in Manege Square in Moscow in December 2010 - a sentence was passed. The prisoner's dock contained Igor Berezyuk, Kirill Unchuk, Ruslan Khubaev, Leonid Panin and Alexander Kozevin, who were accused of organizing the riots. The court sentenced Berezyuk to 5.5 years, Unchuk to 3 years and Panin to 2 years of the minimum security colony; and Khubaev to 4 years and Kozevin to 2.5 years of the high security colony.

Volgograd Region: attempt to demolish house of Gypsy family

On October 26, in the township of Verkhnyaya Elshanka, located within the territory of Volgograd, unidentified persons tried to destroy the house of a Roma family named Goganov. The local Roma community came to the defence of their relatives and turned to the police.

The above Roma community has been living in Verkhnyaya Elshanka since 1990. A few years ago they sold their houses and went for permanent residence in the Arkhangelsk Region; however, locals burned down their houses there, and the community came back and built a new settlement in the wasteland. Since then, for seven years they have tried to legalize their right to possess the land. Special problems began in autumn 2011, when an entrepreneur took the land, where the houses of the Roma community are located, into lease. The Goganovs' house was seriously damaged after the demolition attempt.

On October 27, the community members had planned to discuss their conflict situation at the Mayoralty and Prosecutor's Office of the city. The members of the Roma community of Verkhnyaya Elshanka were explained at the Mayoralty's reception that their houses were under threat of demolition because the leaseholder believed that they occupied his territory, and promised to make a new study of the disputed territory.

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