26 December 2011, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 19-25

Preliminary agreement on exchange of detainees between Georgia and South Ossetia; statement of Azerbaijani MFA about recognition by Mexican parliament of Khojaly events as genocide, which was refuted by Armenian press; rallies for fair elections in Russia, including in the south of Russia, - look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of December 19-25, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Transcaucasia: Georgia and South Ossetia agree to exchange detainees

On December 19, at a meeting within the mechanism for warning and prevention of incidents in the village of Dvani, Georgia and South Ossetia reached a tentative agreement on exchange of the persons, who are under inquiry. During the meeting, also the issues of missing persons and illegal border crossing were raised.

As reported by Merab Chigoev, the deputy plenipotentiary of the president of South Ossetia on post-conflict settlement, in the near future 13 persons would be handed over to the Georgian party; the South-Ossetian party will receive 15 persons. According to Georgian authorities, the exact number of detainees to be exchanged by the parties is not yet known. According to Shota Utiashvili, the head of the analytical department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Georgia, the negotiations on exchange of detainees are not yet over.

Mr Chigoev has expressed hope that after the exchange the citizens of South Ossetia and Georgia, kept in custody in both countries, will be able to celebrate the New Year at home with their families.

Azerbaijan: MFA asserts that the Mexican Senate and House of Deputies have recognized the events in Khojaly as genocide

On December 20, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reported that the Senate, the upper house of the Mexican parliament, had recognized the tragic events that took place on February 25-26, 1992, in the town of Khojaly as genocide. Then, the town in Nagorno-Karabakh populated by Azeris was captured by Armenian armed forces with assistance of the 366th Infantry Regiment of the former Soviet Army. The military operation was accompanied by massacres of civilians.

On the following day, December 21, Armenian media refuted the statement of the Azerbaijani MFA. According to them, the Mexican Senate had not adopted any resolutions in connection with the events in Khojaly, and on November 4, at a plenary session of the Senate, the final two paragraphs of the document were read out, reflecting the opinion of one of the commissions about the Karabakh conflict and supporting the work of the Minsk Group of the OSCE. According to the information agency "News-Armenia", which refers to the refutation of the Mexican Senate, the read-out document mentioned the events in Khojaly and treated them as "massacre."

However, on December 22, the Azerbaijani MFA reported that the House of Deputies of the Mexican legislative body had recognized the events in Khojaly as genocide. After that, no official statements of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have followed.

Southern Russia: rallies for fair elections continue

On December 24, those who disagree with the official results of the elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation held rallies in the South of Russia within the framework of the All-Russian campaign "For Fair Elections". Most active were residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD), where the number of protesters was in hundreds. Protest actions in the regions of Northern Caucasus looked more like a formality.

In Rostov-on-Don, a rally "For Fair Elections" attracted about 500 people. The action was coordinated with the city authorities. The event passed peacefully; none of the speakers and the audience was detained. The rally against the parliamentary election held in Krasnodar was more populous. As estimated by the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, it brought together about one thousand people. According to the UVD (Interior Department) of Krasnodar, the public order at the rally was controlled by 400 policemen. In Sochi, the rally against rigged elections attracted about 200 people, activists of different political parties, civil initiatives and nationalist organizations among them. There were no detention, but participants reported about provocations.

Three actions "For Fair Elections" took place in parallel on December 24 in Volgograd: they were organized by the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), human rights organizations and members of Internet-based social networks. The total number of protesters exceeded 700. In Elista, a protest against the election outcomes was attended by about 50 persons.

Astrakhan also hosted a rally against rigged elections to the State Duma. Opposition activists promised to file lawsuits in the context of numerous violations. After a rally in Lenin Square, the protesters made their way to the building of the Regional Election Commission (REC). At least 300 persons came there. In Maikop, the rally was organized by the regional branch of the LDPR and attracted about 30 party supporters.

In Stavropol, on December 24, two protest actions against election frauds took place - a picket of "Patriots of Stavropol", which brought together some 50 participants, and a rally "For Fair Elections" organized by the regional branch of the "Yabloko" Party, which brought together about 350 participants from different parties and movements. According to the Chief Department of the Russian MIA for the Stavropol Territory, rallies "For Fair Elections" were held in Pyatigorsk and Budyonnovsk.

In Nalchik, the rally against election results, scheduled for December 24, did not take place, because, according to its organizers, the city authorities did not allow to hold the rally in Abkhazia Square, which had been originally scheduled as the venue. In Cherkessk, a rally organized by the LDPR lasted for about 15 minutes and attracted only about 13 persons. When commenting on the nature of the event, activists of the local branch of the party noted that this was an action in defence of the democratic foundations of the state.

In Vladikavkaz, the pro-communist movement had also declared a rally of about 100 persons strong; however, for unknown reasons the event never took place.

On December 24, the largest mass protest action was held in Sakharov Avenue in the Russian capital. According to organizers, that rally in Moscow was attended by more than 130,000 people. However, the police cited a smaller number of participants: according to the Moscow GUVD (Chief Interior Department), the event was attended by 30,000 people; it was covered by more than 700 media professionals. The rally against rigged elections in Moscow ended with adoption of a final resolution. The organizers announced that the venue and time of the next action would be reported after the New Year.

Let us note here that protest actions after the announcement by the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Russia of the election totals continue throughout Russia for the past three weeks already. They began on December 5 in Moscow and St Petersburg. On December 10, Moscow, St Petersburg and other Russian cities, including those in the South of Russia - Krasnodar, Sochi, Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Pyatigorsk and Makhachkala - saw tens of thousands of people who went out to the streets to protest against falsified election outcomes. After that, rallies, pickets and other protest actions were held in Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Makhachkala, Novorossiysk, Stavropol, Astrakhan, Maikop, Sochi and other cities.

Russian authorities believe that the elections to the Russian State Duma were fair and just. Nevertheless, violations at the election were reported by observers and party activists in many Russian cities, including in the regions of the Southern and North-Caucasian Federal Districts (SFD and NCFD).

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