10 December 2012, 15:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 3-9

Murder of TV journalist in Nalchik at the background of threats addressed by North-Caucasian militants to mass media people; election of the head of the Krymsk District of the Krasnodar Territory; appointment of the date of presidential election in Armenia; winning by Baku of the right to organize the first European Olympic Games; approval of a new ombudsperson and pardoning of over 300 prisoners in Georgia; recall of licenses from three banks within two months, and blocking by power agents of a mountain village in Dagestan, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of December 3-9, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Kabardino-Balkaria: murder of TV journalist in Nalchik at the background of threats to mass media people from militants

On December 5, in Nalchik, Kazbek Gekkiev, 28, a presenter of the TV Channel of the State TV and Radio Company (GTRK) "Kabardino-Balkaria" . Two unidentified persons came up to him, asked his name and place of work; and then shot him dead. Now, investigators are considering different alternatives, but the main version is the journalist's professional activities. Inspectors assume that the murder of Kazbek Gekkiev is a threat to other journalists, who tell stories about the war on the armed underground, active in the territory of the republic.

It became known after this crime that in the beginning of the year employees of the TV Company received threats, and in October one of the websites that covers the views of the Kabardino-Balkarian armed underground posted an article with threats addressed to the participants of online forums and editors of the Internet editions, where users' comments with criticism of Islam are published. Similar threats were stated by militants from other republics of Northern Caucasus; thus, one of the websites supporting the armed underground of South of Russia posted an appeal to journalists on behalf of members of the armed underground of Dagestan, which claimed the existence of the so-called "execution list" including local journalists.

The murder of Gekkiev caused the public to recollect other unsolved murders of journalists in Russia. The international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed concern about the murder of Gekkiev and called the authorities not to leave those guilty of crimes against journalists unpunished. The Public Chamber of Russia asked Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman of the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), to take the murder under his personal supervision. Alexander Khloponin, the plenipotentiary representative of Russian president for the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), has stated that the inquiry into the murder is supervised by President Putin and conducted by experts from the central office of the ICFR.

Krasnodar Territory: Krymsk District elects its head

On December 9, the Krasnodar Territory held voting at seven local early election campaigns, including election of the head of the Krymsk District, where the post became vacant after the Kuban Governor Alexander Tkachov dismissed Vasily Krutsko after the flood at night of July 7. There were four candidates to the post of the head of the municipal formation – the acting head of the district Anatoly Razumeev, who represents the "Edinaya Rossiya" Party, Dmitry Pechinskiy, a nominee of the "Communists of Russia" Party, Gennady Frizorger from the Party "Grazhdanskaya Sila" (Civil Power), and Alexander Gomalitskiy, a self-nominee.

One more candidate – Evgeniy Vitishko, an ecologist from the "Yabloko" Party – on December 3 was removed from the race for bribery. According to the court, on behalf of this candidate local residents were given out food parcels. Mr Vitishko himself called it a provocation. Earlier, in November, Dmitry Tsymbal, a candidate from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation CPRF, was denied registration for his alleged "technical mistake" when submitting documents.

Armenia: presidential election appointed for February 18

On December 8, Tigran Manucharyan, Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Armenia, announced that the presidential election in Armenia would take place on February 18, 2013. The day will be a day-off. The official nomination of presidential candidates will start on December 25 and last till January 4; then, the candidates will get registered on January 4-14. According to the approved schedule, the pre-election campaign will start on January 21.

The ruling Republican Party of Armenia has already stated its participation in the election and nominated the incumbent Serzh Sargsyan. Also, their intention to run for the presidency was expressed by Raffi Ovannisyan, Chairman of the "Heritage" Party and a former head of the Foreign Office, and Paruir Airikyan, the leader of the Association "National Self-Determination". The leaders of the People's Party of Armenia and of the "New Times" Party Tigran Karapetyan and Aram Karapetyan, accordingly, have announced that they would not take part in the election as candidates.

Azerbaijan: Baku gets the right to organize the first European Olympic Games

On December 8, the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee decided to hold the first European Olympic Games in Baku in 2015. The events will be held in 15 sports, not only Olympic ones, and will bring together about 15,000 athletes. The Games are expected for June-July 2015; the exact dates to be defined later.

Georgia: approval of new ombudsperson and pardoning of over 300 prisoners

At its plenary session on December 7, the Parliament Georgia approved Ucha Nanuashvili, the head of the Human Rights Centre, as the new people's defender (the ombudsperson) of the country. The candidacy of Nanuashvili was supported by 82 MPs, while 18 voted against. A number of human rights NGOs of Georgia, who had nominated Nanuashvili to the post of the ombudsperson along with a number of other candidates, wanted that the ombudsperson were elected on the alternative basis. Finally, the "Georgian Dream" Party, which had initially nominated Nino Khotiskatsi, an ex-employee of the NGO "International Transparency – Georgia", to the post, supported the candidacy of Nanuashvili.

On December 8, President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili pardoned 92 heavily sick prisoners out of the 137, whose liberation was requested by Sozar Subari, the Minister for Punishment and Legal Aid. On December 6, a presidential decree also pardoned 251 more prisoners out of the 500 applicants, who had served half of their terms and had been positively characterized by prison administrations.

Dagestan: license recall from the third local bank and blockage of Balakhani by power agents

On December 7, the Russia's Central Bank recalled the banking license from the commercial "Trust Bank", registered in Makhachkala. The bank will get under external management, while law enforcers will hold their own inquiry into the operation of the bank that has caused the license withdrawal. This is the third Dagestani bank to lose its license in November: on November 26, this measure was applied by the Russia's Central Bank to the "Derbent Credit" Bank, while on November 2, the banking license was recalled from the Dagestani "Transenergobank"; the clients of both banks are already receiving their insurance indemnities.

This week, residents of the village of Balakhani, Untsukul District, have reported that their village had been blocked for several days. Locals tell about shooting and arrival of military equipment; and that militaries began burning out the forest in the vicinity of the village. The fire covers some 2-2.5 hectares of the territory, the villagers assert and express their concern that should the wind change, the fire will quickly reach the village. In their turn, power agents report about search of members and helpers of illegal armed formations (IAFs) and confiscation of arms from villagers' houses.

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