06 February 2012, 23:00
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 30 to February 5
Rallies within the all-Russian campaign "For Fair Elections" in the cities of Southern Russia; hunger strike of women-prisoners in Georgia; proposal to rename Azerbaijan; approval of Sergey Bozhenov as Governor of Volgograd Region; arrest of Igor Bestuzhij, Stavropol City Manager; Dokku Umarov orders militants to stop attacking civilian targets, - look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of January 30-February 5, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
South of Russia supports all-Russian action "For Fair Elections"
On February 4, rallies within the all-Russian campaign "For Fair Elections" were held in many cities in Southern Russia and in Moscow. They were held on the eve of the presidential election scheduled for March 4; activists and organizers of the rallies in many cities coordinated their actions in groups created in social networks.
In Rostov-on-Don, the action "For Fair Elections" gathered about one thousand people. Starting two in the afternoon, the pre-election rally of the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) was held in Theatre Square, which gathered no more than 20 persons; however, already in 30 minutes people began arriving; some of them unfolded homemade banners; and later flags of the "Yabloko" Party, then of the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia), and finally, of the CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) appeared in the square.
In Krasnodar, the action "For Fair Elections" was attended by OSCE observers; the organizing committee announced 600-700 participants.
In Sochi, the rally attracted about three hundred people; about 15 speakers addressed them, urging citizens to be vigilant, exhibit their civil stand and vote at the presidential election for any candidate other than Putin.
In Volgograd, the opposition rally "For Fair Elections" and a picket of supporters of the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took place in Lenin Square at the same time. The participants were separated by a metal fencing. About 300 people gathered at the improvised podium of the opposition. To the right of the monument to Lenin their opponents could be seen in the amount of no more than 200.
In Astrakhan, the oppositional rally "For Fair Elections", sanctioned by city authorities, gathered about 150 activists of the "Spraveldivaya Rossiya", CPRF, "The Other Russia" and other political movements and parties.
The rally "For Fair Elections" in Elista (Kalmykia) was attended by about 50 people.
On February 4, the city of Vladikavkaz held two rallies under the slogan "For Fair Elections", where proposals were moved aimed to promote, according to protesters, the utmost openness of the electoral process. The first one, organized by supporters of the LDPR, was attended by 40 persons; while the other one, initiated by Anatoly Sidakov, a resident of the North-Ossetian capital, attracted less than half that.
Two rallies "For Fair Elections" with a time gap of one hour took place on February 4 in the Square of 200 Years of Stavropol; each of them was 400 persons strong.
In Cherkessk, the action "For Fair Elections" was held by six activists of the regional branch of the LDPR.
Georgia: women-prisoners go on hunger strike against transfer of their babies to orphanages
A hunger strike with a demand to leave small children with their mothers-prisoners was announced on January 30 in Georgia by seven women serving long sentences for various crimes. Then, later on the same day they stopped their protest action, after David Bakradze, Speaker of the Parliament, agreed to consider their case and promised to respond, in the coming days, whether it is possible to leave children with their mothers in prison.
According to Nana Kakabadze, the chair of the NGO "Former Political Prisoners for Human Rights", even in prison children will feel better than in an orphanage. Psychologists stick to this opinion either and warn about the danger for babies' psyche of a radical break of their relations with mothers.
Azerbaijan: MPs offer to rename the country
On February 1, at the session of the Azerbaijani Parliament, a number of deputies offered to rename the Republic of Azerbaijan into the Republic of Northern Azerbaijan.
The MP Gudrat Gasanguliev has justified the idea by the fact that, in his words, "two-thirds of the territory of Azerbaijan is in today's Iran," and his colleague Fazail Agamali proposed to hold a referendum to amend Article 11 of the Constitution and state that Azerbaijan consists of the Northern, Southern and Western Azerbaijan.
Volgograd Region: Sergey Bozhenov inaugurated as Governor
On January 31, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed the candidacy of Sergey Bozhenov for the post of Governor of Volgograd Region. On February 2, the deputies of the Regional Duma approved - at their extraordinary session - Mr Bozhenov in office: 31 local MPs voted for him, one abstained, while six deputies from the faction of the CPRF refused to vote, claiming that the events in honour of the anniversary of defeating fascists in Stalingrad took place at that time, and that they wanted to see the Volgograd Region the first one among the regions, where a direct election of the Governor could be restored.
The Bozhenov's powers began immediately after his inauguration, which took place also on February 2. In his speech, the new Governor said that the industrial and human potentials of the region are great; and his top priority he saw in "a thorough analysis of the socio-economic situation in the region in order to develop particular steps towards dynamic and progressive development of the region."
Stavropol Territory: City Manager of the territorial capital arrested
On February 2, Igor Bestuzhij, City Manager (Head of the City Administration) of Stavropol, was detained on suspicion of an attempted bribe-taking in the amount of 50 million roubles for granting into lease of a 5-hectare land plot, which was in municipal ownership. Later, he was arrested for two months.
On February 3, the Stavropol City Duma decided to define the Acting Head of the Administration at its next sitting on February 7. While the sitting was in progress, a spontaneous and unsanctioned rally was held outside the building, where protesters led by Sergey Popov, the head of the City Public Chamber, supported the decision of the investigatory bodies to detain Bestuzhij.
Northern Caucasus: Umarov orders his militants to avoid attacking civilian targets
On February 3, Dokku Umarov, the leader of the "Imarat Kavkaz" declared the change of status of the civilian population of Russia, whom he earlier regarded as his enemies for the non-resistance to the course of the current Russian leadership, and ordered his subordinates to avoid attacking civilian targets. Umarov explained that Russia had waged civil protests; and the population, according to his story, was no longer accepting Putin's policies, which may mean that the population not longer supported the methods of waging war in the Caucasus, which Putin had authorized.
In February 2010, Umarov expanded the notion of "enemy", stating that since then militants' fight would be directed against civilian population. At the same time, the militants' leader said that from the Caucasus the warfare zone would be expanded to the entire territory of Russia, and the war would come back to Russians' homes. Umarov reiterated that Russian civilians were treated by him as enemies soon after the terror act in the Moscow "Domodedovo" Airport on January 24, 2011, when he took responsibility for it. He said that the terror act in "Domodedovo" was "a response to Russia's crimes in the Caucasus."