31 December 2012, 15:18

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 24-30

Several earthquakes in different regions of the Caucasus; murders near Vladikavkaz of Deputy Mufti of North Ossetia and Nalchik and rector of local agrarian university; pardoning by President of Azerbaijan of 87 prisoners; start of presidential race in Armenia; statement of the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) about possible deprivation of deputy's immunity of two Russian MPs elected from the Krasnodar Territory and Volgograd Region, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the review of the week of December 24-30, 2012, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Several earthquakes in different regions of the Caucasus

Within the last week, several regions of South of Russia and countries of Southern Caucasus were affected by earthquakes; some of them brought certain damage.

In the afternoon on December 29, an earthquake with magnitude of up to 4.5 points was registered nine kilometres to south-west from the city of Zagatala in Azerbaijan.

Residents of Abkhazia and Georgia felt several underground shocks at night on December 26. The epicentre of the earthquake was in the Black Sea, some 35 km off the shoreline of Georgia. Later, the administration of the city of Kobuleti in Adzharia stated that 23 structures in the city and about 90 in total in the region were damaged. This earthquake was the third one within the last four days; and its shocks were felt by residents of Georgia. The first one took place on December 23 in the Black Sea; its magnitude was 5.9 points. As a result, several houses were damaged.

On the same days underground shocks were felt by residents of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Dagestan, cities of the Black Sea shore of the Krasnodar Territory. In Sochi, the magnitude of the earthquake made 5.5 points. After the accident, the city began installing a centralized notification system for the population in case of emergencies. As noted by the local seismic station, the previous earthquake of such power was registered in Sochi more than 50 years ago. There is no data about any victims or damages caused by these earthquakes in other regions, except Georgia; however, the natural calamity worried local residents quite a lot.

North Ossetia: Deputy Mufti Ibragim Dudarov shot dead

On December 26, Ibragim Dudarov, Deputy Mufti of North Ossetia, was shot dead. His body with numerous gunshot wounds was found in a car left on the road from Vladikavkaz to the village of Chmi. The versions of the murder include the criminal and the everyday ones, and the one associated with his professional activities. The Muftiate notes that Dudarov had higher spiritual education and was a conflict-free person.

Under calculations of the "Caucasian Knot", Ibragim Dudarov was the tenth religious figure since the start of 2012 assassinated in Northern Caucasus.

Azerbaijan: state leader pardons 87 persons, 17 political prisoners among them

On December 26, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev signed an order on pardoning of 87 persons. 79 persons are released from further imprisonment, 4 – from corrective works, and 4 – from paying fines. The list also includes the 14 inmates, whose names were mentioned in the report of Christoph Strasser, the Rapporteur of the PACE on political prisoners. The report is on the agenda of the winter session of the Assembly on January 21-25 in Strasbourg.

The pardoning order in relation to 87 prisoners was perceived by the Monitoring Group of Human Rights Organizations of Azerbaijan as an important step towards solving the problem of political prisoners; however, the Institute for Peace and Democracy has noted that the pardoning covered only a small group of political prisoners. According to Leila Yunus, Director of the Institute, currently, even with account of the above pardoning, the country still has at least 54 political prisoners.

Armenia: nine candidates are ready to run for presidency

On December 25, Armenia gave a start to nomination of presidential candidates; the stage will last till January 4; and the voting at the election of President of Armenia will take part on February 18, 2013.

By the end of last week, the Central Election Commission received ten applications from the candidates for the post of the head of the state. These are: Serzh Sargsyan, the incumbent President of Armenia; Paruir Airikyan, the leader of the Association "National Self-Determination"; Vardan Sedrakyan, an epos specialist; Mger Airapetyan, a physicist; Andreas Gukasyan, a political scientist; Aram Arutyunyan, Chair of the Party "National Accord"; Arman Melikyan, ex-head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Nagorno-Karabakh; Narine Mkrtchyan, the chair of the National Press Club and editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Ambion" (Tribune); Grant Bagratyan, the former Prime Minister of Armenia and chair of the Party "Azatutyun" (Freedom); and Pavlik Sarkisyan, a non-partisan citizen of Armenia.

Kabardino-Balkaria: Rector of Agrarian University shot dead in Nalchik

On December 25, two unidentified criminals shot dead Boris Zherukov, Rector of the Kabardino-Balkarian Agrarian University. He was attacked at his workplace in Nalchik. Investigators consider several versions of the murder, including Zherukov's professional activities, and do not rule out members of illegal armed formations (IAFs) as the culprits. Inspectors assert that suspects have been identified.

According to the edition named "Kommersant", the video cameras installed at the university managed to record a person looking like Zeitun Boziev, already searched as a suspect of murdering Kazbek Gekkiev, a journalist of the local GTRK (State TV and Radio Company). However, there was no official confirmation of this information.

Krasnodar Territory and Volgograd Region: State Duma Deputies under threat of losing immunity

On December 25, the spokesman of the Investigatory Committee of the Russian Federation (ICFR), stated that the Committee had petitioned on deprivation of the parliamentary immunity of Konstantin Shirshov, a State Duma Deputy from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) elected in the Krasnodar Territory, and the Volgograd MP from the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party Oleg Mikheev. The materials on submitting the petitions to the State Duma have been directed to the General Prosecutor's Office.

Investigators believe that Konstantin Shirshov was involved in claiming 7.5 million euros for the mandate of the State Duma Deputy. According to the ICRF, Mikheev was involved in taking possession of 14 real estate objects of the Volgograd Engine Factory in the sum of over 500 million roubles, and in attempt of embezzling 2.1 billion roubles from the "Promsvyazbank".

Shirshov's party comrades do not believe in the trustworthiness of presented charges and cannot exclude provocations. In his turn, Oleg Mikheev denied the charges against him and asked law enforcement bodies to check the investigators for exceeding of their powers.

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