21 May 2012, 12:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 14-20

Days of Ingushetia in the State Duma; approval of Prime Minister of South Ossetia; new phase of considering Oleg Shein's lawsuit in Astrakhan court; attack on a Muslim activist and the formation by new governor of government of the Stavropol Territory; murder of administration head and injuring of two civilians in shelling in Kabardino-Balkaria; start of "Eurovision" and hunger strike of political prisoners in Azerbaijan; special operation in Makhachkala, which caused protests, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of May 14-20, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Ingushetia: during days of the republic at State Duma, oppositionists held pickets in defence of human rights

On May 15-17, the Russian State Duma hosted the Days of Ingushetia  in Moscow, during which the republic presented its best investment projects, including the resorts "Tsori" and "Armkhi" an enterprise for processing fish skins and local mineral waters. The three-day celebrations dated to the 20th anniversary of the republic also included the presentation of the programme of socio-economic development of Ingushetia and meetings of the Ingush delegation with different Duma committees.

The Days of Ingushetia passed not without incident. On May 16, in front of the State Duma, the members of the Ingush regional social movement "Mekhk-Khel" (People's Parliament) held solo pickets under the slogan "Stop extrajudicial killings and kidnappings in Ingushetia!" and "Evkurov, resign!" One of the protesters, Yusuf Khamkhoev, Director General of the Open Joint-Stock Company (OJSC) "Magas" Car Trailer Factory, said that the Days of Ingushetia in the Duma were just a "window dressing", arranged by the head of the republic in order "to wash himself before the State Duma and delay the moment of critical evaluation of his activities." Yunus-Bek Evkurov himself said in his comment on the protests that the Ingush authorities are holding a great job to show the republic to the country; and for the first time the event of this scale was held in the State Duma of Russia, while the picketers have harmed their people.

South Ossetia: Russian businessman becomes Prime Minister

On May 15, a session of the Parliament of South Ossetia approved by majority vote Rostislav Khugaev, a Russian businessman, as Prime Minister. The session was preceded by consultation and consideration of his candidacy, as well as a sitting of the presidium of the parliament, where his nomination was unanimously supported. The newly approved by Prime Minister has already said that he intended to settle in South Ossetia.

On May 19, first appointments in the government of South Ossetia became known. The consideration of ministerial candidates and cadre selection are conducted by Premier Khugaev and the president of the republic Leonid Tibilov.

Astrakhan: trial on Shein's lawsuit finished questioning witnesses and starts watching videos from polling stations

At the sessions on May 15, the Kirov District Court of Astrakhan, where supporters of Oleg Shein, the local leader of the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" Party, had held a hunger strike for more than a month in protest against the outcomes of the March 4 municipal elections, finished listening to evidences of witnesses about the work of election commissions of the Kirov District, and on May 17 began watching videos from polling stations.

According to Oleg Shein, the typical violations recorded on the videos include the ban of video and photo filming; non-admission of observers to the distance, allowing to monitor the procedures of sorting and counting the ballot papers; sorting of ballot papers without showing and announcing the voters' marks; and counting of ballot papers by bending papers' corners. During the session, the judge also said that the unpreparedness for the litigation by the defendant and the interested parties is artificially protracting the consideration of the lawsuit within the statutory period.

Stavropol Territory: attack on Muslim activist and formation of government

On May 15, Valery Zerenkov, the new governor of the Stavropol Territory, announced the first appointments and institutional changes in the territorial government – out of seven new Vice-Premiers two preserved their posts; he approved the heads of several ministries and agencies of his territory. One of the most resonant dismissals was the resignation of Victor Osipov, the Minister for Physical Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs. Another striking appointment was the transition of the State Duma Deputy Yuri Em to work in the regional government.

On May 17, in the evening, in the city of Neftekumsk, an attempt was committed by unidentified persons on Aslan Rizvanov, the informal leader of the city Muslim community. The attackers waited for Aslan in an ambush near his house; and when the man came out of the car, opened point blank fire at him from a Makarov pistol and fled in a car. The victim who received injuries, including in his head and neck, is in the city hospital; and doctors assess his condition as extremely grave. As reported by the spokesman of the MIA for the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), this crime may be linked with the murder in February of Kurman Ismailov, the Deputy Mufti of the Stavropol Territory, who was blown up by unidentified persons in his car.

Kabardino-Balkaria: murder of the head of administration of Tyrnyauz and shelling in Atazhukino

On May 18, policemen detected – on the highway Baksan-Azau between the villages of Bedyk and Zhankhoteko – a car, containing the body of the 37-year-old head of the administration of the city of Tyrnyauz Jamal Gemuev with gunshot wounds. Inspectors consider several versions of the murder; one of the main ones is his service activities; at the same time the domestic version of the murder is not ruled out.

Another armed incident occurred in the republic on May 17 in the village of Atazhukino, Baksan District. Two strangers in masks opened fire at a former policeman who was on the village street and wounded him. Also, a car driven by a local woman, who was also injured, came under the fire.

Azerbaijan: start of song contest "Eurovision" and hunger strike of political prisoners

On May 19, Baku officially opened the 57th international "Eurovision Song Contest", which was awarded to Azerbaijan after the victory of the Azerbaijani duo Ell/Nikki at the similar last year's contest in Dusseldorf. Delegations from all 42 countries participating in the contest were invited to the official opening ceremony of "Eurovision-2012". The main events of the contest will be held next week; semi-finals will take place on May 22 and 24, and the final – on May 26.

On May 15, twelve oppositionists recognized by the Amnesty International as "prisoner of conscience" and convicted in connection with rallies in spring of 2011 went on a hunger strike. On the same day, at the headquarters of the oppositional party "Musavat" in Baku the convicts' protest was strengthened by four activists of the Civil Movement for Democracy "Public Chamber" (CMDPC); and as of May 18, the hunger strike demanding the release political prisoners was 19 persons strong.

Dagestan: special operation in Makhachkala causes citizens' protests

On May 18, in Makhachkala, power agents blocked a house in Yubileinaya Street with Makhmud Mansur, suspected of organizing the terror act on May 3, and six other persons inside. In the morning on May 19, a fight burst out in the house. Mansur was killed after he threw, according to the official version, a grenade at power agents. Makhmud Mansur had stated that he had nothing to do with the terror act. In the course of the special operation, Angela Dalgatova (Makhmud's wife), Abdurakhman Magomedov and Fatima Nurmagomedova (Magomedov's wife) surrendered to law enforcers.

On the same day in the evening, relatives and friends of the detainees came to the building of the Kirov ROVD (District Interior Division). Policemen dispersed the rally and arrested over a dozen protesters. Also at night on May 19, about 300 people blocked the motor traffic in Akushinsky Avenue with a demand to let all the blocked persons out of the house. Upon completion of the special operation, all the protesters went home.

Aisha Selimkhanova, Chair of the Daghestani organization "Pravozaschita" (Advocacy), had told earlier that the people inside the blocked house were ready to surrender, but they were not allowed to. Employees of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" also reported that the FSB agents were extremely reluctant to contact human rights activists during the special operation, and, according to the relatives of the blocked people, did not participate in negotiations with them. However later, Rizvan Kurbanov, the head of the commission for adaptation of militants, told about the details of the negotiations, noting that the casualty was not going to surrender.

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