11 August 2014, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 4-10

Events to mark six years after the August 2008 warfare in South Ossetia; meeting of presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Sochi; search of IRFS office and arrest of rights defender Intigam Aliev in Baku; fire that burnt down the marketplace in central Cherkessk; murder of deputy head of Makhachkala GIBDD; deadline for registration of candidates for the heads of the Stavropol Territory and Kalmykia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 4-10, 2014, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

South Ossetia: six years after August 2008

On August 7, South Ossetia began commemorating its victims of the August 2008 conflict, mentioned now in the history of the republic as "Five-Day War" that ended with Russia's recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In this context, the South-Ossetian authorities imposed a temporary, from August 6 to 11, ban on any movement across the border with Georgia. The participants of mourning events laid wreaths and flowers at the Memorial Cross erected next to the barracks of the Russia's peacekeeping battalion, which were burnt down in August 2008; to the monument to the Russian officer Denis Vetchinov in Tskhinvali; and the "Museum of Burnt Souls" in the village of Tbet. The republic also held a sacred procession, a mourning liturgy and the action "Memory Is Stronger than Time". The casualties of the conflict were also commemorated in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia; here, in the evening on August 8, near the Saint George Church, an action "Candle of Memory" was held, where about 300 were lit; inside the church funeral dirge was held; and visitors could watch a film about the conflict on the big screen.

Karabakh conflict zone: presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan meet in Sochi

In Sochi, on August 10, a trilateral summit was held of presidents of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Vladimir Putin, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliev stated that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be resolved by peaceful means. In doing so, presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged accusations of failing to fulfil four Resolution of the UN Security Council on Nagorno-Karabakh. The Resolutions are ignored by Armenia for more than 20 years, said President Ilham Aliev. His counterpart – Serzh Sargsyan – objected, saying that Armenia is the only party in conflict, which had fulfilled the provisions of the UN Resolutions.

On August 9, on the eve of the summit, in the course of individual negotiations with Putin, the parties exchanged their views in absentia on the situation in the region. Aliev said that the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh lasts too long and demands solution; while Sargsyan accused the Azerbaijani party of the "deliberate escalation of the situation."

The above meetings took place against the background of an alarming situation on the contact line in the conflict zone. Over the past week, reports arrived from there about shootings, casualties and wounded people.

Azerbaijan: search of the IRFS office and the arrest of rights defender Intigam Aliev

Last week, attack on the Azerbaijani civil society continued. On August 8, Intigam Aliev, the head of the Legal Education Society, was arrested. Initially, he was summoned to the Investigating Department for Grave Crimes of the General Prosecutor's Office (GPO) of Azerbaijan as a witness in a criminal case against a number of local and foreign NGOs. Later, he was detained; and his house and office of his organization were searched. At the end of the working day a Baku court arrested Aliev for three months on charges of a large-scale tax evasion or non-payment of mandatory social insurance depositions; of abuse of power that entailed grave consequences; and of illegal entrepreneurship that brought large-scale incomes. Local civil society activists recognized Intigam Aliev to be a political prisoner.

On August 8, law enforcers came with a search warrant to the office of the Institute of Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS) in Baku. The search lasted for six hours; and policemen confiscated all the electronic data carries, photographic equipment, and financial documents and materials relating to the human rights organization. IRFS employees have stated that the search was conducted in violation of the law; and the confiscation of equipment deprived the IRFS of any chances to continue the work. The IRFS, which is headed by the rights defender Emin Guseinov, was among the six local non-profit organizations (NPOs), whose bank accounts were arrested on August 6 at the demand of the Azerbaijani GPO.

Karachay-Cherkessia: fire that destroyed marketplace in central Cherkessk

On August 7, several outlets located in the territory of the marketplace "Turgenevskiy" in Cherkessk, selling clothes, caught fire. About 200 people were evacuated from the marketplace, which has the area of 7000 square meters. As a result of the fire, which was fought with by 122 emergency employees and covered the area of 5000 square meters, the marketplace burnt down almost completely. There were victims: seven persons were hospitalized and ten others received out-patient treatment. Eyewitnesses say that an ignition of electric wires in a nearby cafe caused the fire.

Dagestan: murder of deputy head of Makhachkala GIBDD

Temirkhan Salikhov, the deputy head of the traffic police (known as GIBDD) of Makhachkala was shot dead in the morning on August 8 in Makhachkala in Akushinsky Avenue. The gunmen were waiting for their victim at the entrance of the house. As soon as Salikhov went out into the yard, they opened automatic fire at him. Investigators associate the murder with the casualty's official duties. As stated by the Investigating Department (ID) for Dagestan of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), the crime could be committed by members of illegal armed formations (IAFs), namely, by members of the so-called "Makhachkala" grouping, said a source from the above ID.

Stavropol Territory and Kalmykia: CECs complete registering candidates

In the course of the last week, the Central Election Commissions (CECs) of Kalmykia and Stavropol Territory, which will hold direct elections of governors on September 14, completed the registration of candidates. The CEC of the Stavropol Territory has registered five candidates: the Communist Viktor Goncharov; Konstantin Nartov, a representative of "The Party of Free Citizens"; Vladimir Vladimirov, the Acting Head of the Territory; Olga Drozdova, the candidate of the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR); and Alexander Kuzmin, the nominee of the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party. In Kalmykia, the right to campaign for the election was granted to four candidates: Alexei Orlov, the acting head of Kalmykia, nominated by the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party, who is recognized by experts as the favourite in the race; the Communist Nikolai Nurov; Pyotr Vyshkvarok from the LDPR; and Khongor Marilov, the nominee of the "Green" Party and director of the regional broadcasting company "Khamdan".

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