27 February 2012, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 20-26

Protest hunger strike in Lermontov, Stavropol Territory; attempt on President of Abkhazia Alexander Ankvab; mass brawl with fatal outcome in the Astrakhan Region; events related to the 68th anniversary of Stalin's deportation of Chechens and Ingushes; statement of Armenian performers about possible boycott of "Eurovision-2012" in Baku, - look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of February 20-26, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Stavropol Territory: protest hunger strike demanding to cancel elections in Lermontov

On February 21, in the town of Lermontov, Stavropol Territory, a hunger strike was announced by 14 persons. One of the main demands of the protesters is to cancel the elections to the City Council, scheduled for March 4, and hold inquiry of the actions of the city election commission, which had refused to register 32 candidates out of 122 applicants. The dismissed Mayor Alexander Dunaev, who is also among the hunger-strikers, was also not admitted to the elections, and, thus, has lost his chance to regain his post, since the City Mayor is appointed by the City Council.

The situation in the small town with population of about 22 thousand, located in the Stavropol Territory, got aggravated in September 2011, when 6 out of 15 Deputies of the City Council voluntarily refused from their mandates in protest against the cadre and financial policies of the Mayor Alexander Dunaev. The Stavropol Territorial Court satisfied the lawsuit on illegitimacy of the City Council; later this decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. On their part, the hunger-strikers assert that the City Council of Lermontov was dismissed deliberately. As of the evening on February 26, there were 15 protesters; some of them had complained about deterioration of their health even before that.

Abkhazia: attempt on President Ankvab

On February 22, an attempt on the President of Abkhazia Alexander Ankvab was undertaken. A remotely controlled bomb was triggered en route of the presidential motorcade in the Gudauta District. After the explosion, the motorcade was shelled by grenade launchers, machine guns and automatic rifles. Mr Ankvab's bodyguards covered him with their bodies. As a result, Remzik Tsugba, one of the bodyguards was killed; two others - Tengiz Pandariya and Nodar Silagava - were wounded. The latter's condition causes no concern; while Pandariya received severe head wounds and is in coma.

This was the sixth attempt on Alexander Ankvab, who earlier was Prime Minister, then, Vice-President of Abkhazia. Some residents of the republic believe that perpetrators were "the enemies of Abkhazia and embezzlers," against whom the President is fighting. Mr Ankvab himself said that the attempt could be organized by criminal groupings and did not rule out that direct blasters could be invited from abroad.

Astrakhan Region: brawl ended in a casualty

In the evening on February 22, in the village of Enotaevka, Astrakhan Region, a mass brawl burst out in the cafe "Sapphire" with participation of 10 persons, one of whom perished. The fight occurred between Kazakhs and Chechens; the latter party suffered - and two Chechens are in hospital, as traumatic firearms were used.

After the incident, the Investigatory Committee of the Astrakhan Region announced detention of six fighters and that its reason was domestic - "drunken men quarrelled in the cafe"; however, the pretext of the brawl was not specified.

Northern Caucasus: people commemorate victims of deportation of Ingushes and Chechens to Kazakhstan and Middle Asia

On February 23, the republics of Northern Caucasus and Moscow marked the 68th anniversary of deportation of Ingushes and Chechens to Kazakhstan and Middle Asia, as a result of which, according to the International Society "Memorial", 485,000 people were deported out of Chechnya and Ingushetia. In Ingushetia, on that day sacrificial meat was distributed; prayers were held in mosques in memory of those who died in exile; and a mourning rally was held in Nazran.

A picket in memory of the Vainakhs, deported in 1944, was also held in Moscow, at the monument to Griboyedov in Chistoprudny Boulevard. The Russian capital also hosted a roundtable to the topic: "Deportation: How not to erase historical memory" and a conference "68th anniversary of deportation of the Ingush people to Kazakhstan and Middle Asia".

Earlier, Chechnya had also used to hold large-scale ceremonies and religious rites on February 23; however, now the authorities have refused from them, by establishing a single Day of Memory and Grieve of the republic's nations - May 10.

Armenia: country's singers are ready to boycott "Eurovision-2012" in Baku

Twenty-two popular Armenian pop singers have issued a statement, in which they treated the Armenia's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest "Eurovision-2012" to be held in Baku as unacceptable, because of the anti-Armenian policy pursued by this country. The possibility of boycott was announced by Armenian singers after it was reported that on February 23, according to the Armenian party, that Albert Adibekyan, a soldier of the Armenian Armed Forces, who was on his combat duty near the village of Chinari, Tavush Region of Armenia, received a fatal gunshot wound from an Azerbaijani sniper.

After that, Goar Gasparyan, the head of Armenian delegation to the contest, said that the Public Television of Armenia will decide on March 18 about participation of the country's contester in the international song contest "Eurovision 2012" in Baku to be held on May 22-26. The Azerbaijani government had earlier submitted a letter to the European Broadcasting Union with guarantees for the "Eurovision-2012", which outlined the safety of all the guests who would arrive to the contest.

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