02 January 2012, 08:13

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 26-January 1

About 200 Circassians from Syria, where riots are on since March 2011, appeal to Russian leadership and government of Adygea asking for help in their resettlement to Russia; Governor of Stavropol Territory takes control over situation in the city of Lermontov, where the mayor and city manager are in open conflict; first sentence on mass slaughter in Kuschevskaya; exchange of prisoners between Georgia and South Ossetia; actions in defence of political prisoners, supported in Southern Russia, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of December 26, 2011, to January 1, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Adygs (Circassians) from Southern Russia urge Russian authorities to accept compatriots from Syria

On December 25, 115 Circassian nationals living in Syria, where thousands have already died as a result of anti-government protests, sent an appeal to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the head of Adygea Aslan Tkhakushinov, the State Council-Khase of Adygea, the public movement "Adyge-Khase" and the people of Adygea "calling to stretch a helping hand and save them from imminent tragedy." On December 28, 57 more Syrian Circassians asked the leadership of the Russian Federation and the government of Adygea to help them to move to Russia.

In Adygea, residents and public leaders have responded to these appeals.

On December 29, the State Council-Khase of Adygea addressed the leadership of the Russian Federation and the leaders of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia asking for help in resettlement of their compatriots from Syria to Russian. Also on December 29, in Karachay-Cherkessia, Circassian public organizations set up a commission on repatriation of Circassians from Syria. Mr Tkhakushinov has also supported the desire of his compatriots from Syria to move to Russia.

Governor of Stavropol Territory takes control over situation in Lermontov

On December 27, Governor Valery Gaevskiy announced establishment of a working group to secure the public order in the city of Lermontov, where Mayor Alexander Dunaev and head of administration Evgeniy Pechorin and in open conflict for several months; and on December 26 an attack was committed on the former city manager Oleg Melnikov, who received 15 stab wounds. Among the versions, investigators consider a conflict of the victim with the team of the new head of Lermontov.

The working group has decided that the first deputy Viktor Vasiliev will be the acting head of the city administration until appearance of the legitimate authority in the municipality. The re-election of the council of the city of Lermontov, which has been recognized as illegitimate, may be held on March 4, the Territorial Election Commission (TEC) has reported.

Krasnodar Territory: first sentence on Kuschevskaya massacre announced

On December 27, the Krasnodar Territorial Court passed its first verdict on the massacre in the village of Kuschevskaya committed in November 2010. Andrei Bykov, accused of complicity in this and other crimes, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, as required by the public prosecutor on December 12. The court also upheld all the claims of victims, totalling to more than two billion roubles.

Bykov, who had concluded a pre-trial agreement with the investigation (therefore, his case was considered under a special procedure), will spend the first 15 years of his term in prison, and the remaining 5 years – in colony.

Georgia and South Ossetia exchange prisoners

On December 30, the border village of Ergneti saw an exchange of prisoners between South Ossetia and Georgia. In total, 26 people were transferred, 13 persons on each party. The arrangements for the exchange of prisoners were achieved at the meeting on December 21 within the format of the Mechanism for Incident Warning and Prevention.

Apart from power agents, at the border point, the returning inmates were welcomed by their relatives. Among the released citizens of South Ossetia, there were persons, who had occasionally entered the Georgian territory, not knowing the area and the location of the border line, and were detained there. The Georgian citizens transferred by the South-Ossetian party had been serving their sentences in the Tskhinvali prison.

New Year pardons of convicts in Azerbaijan and Georgia

On the eve of New Year, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili pardoned 114 prisoners, convicted for various offences. 75 pardoned prisoners were supposed to see the holiday in at home; 13 more inmates had their terms halved; and 26 persons had their conditional sentences lifted.

On December 26 in the evening, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev signed a decree to pardon 92 prisoners. 75 persons were exempt from further serving their terms in jail; one person was relieved from his conditional sentence; two – from correctional works; and 14 – from fines.

Those pardoned include three persons earlier recognized by human rights defenders as political prisoners: a member of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan Jabbar Savalan, a former commander of the OPON (riot police) Nizami Shakhmuradov and the driver of the ex-public prosecutor of Baku Mekhman Mamedov.

Actions in defence of political prisoners supported in Southern Russia

On December 29, in Moscow, in Pushkin Square, within the All-Russian action in defence of political prisoners, a meeting was held by Ilya Ponomaryov, a Russian Duma Deputy from the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party, with supporters of the arrested coordinator of the "Left-Wing Front" Sergey Udaltsov. Pickets, dedicated to the issue, also took place on that day in other cities, in particular, in Sochi and Krasnodar, and on December 30, actions were held in Rostov-on-Don and Novocherkassk.

In Krasnodar, a picket was held by ecologist Suren Gazaryan, dressed as Santa Claus. An administrative protocol was drawn up against him under Part 1, Article 20.2 (violation of rules for holding rallies, marches or pickets) of the Administrative Code. The court ruled to fine him by 2000 roubles. Mr Gazaryan himself was not present at the court session.

In Sochi, several members of the Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus went out with their solo pickets to the city administration. A bit later, the activists moved to the building of the Sochi UVD (Interior Department), where the human rights activist Sergey Basmanov, who was arrested on December 23 for 10 days is kept.

In Rostov-on-Don, during the action demanding release of political prisoners, Vladislav Makshanov, an activist of the "Left-Wing Front", and Sergey Rusakov, and activist of the movement "Civil Committee", were detained. One of the participants of the flash mob (this was the format of the action) was standing with a poster "Freedom to Udaltsov, Tolmachov and Zhuravlyov!" while others stood silently holding lit candles. The detainees were released from the UVD two hours later after they wrote explanations.

In Novocherkassk, activists stuck photos of Sergey Udaltsov in central city with the caption "We wait to see you at large!"

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