01 September 2014, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 25-31

Reports of involvement of Russian militaries, including soldiers from southern regions of the country, in combat operations in the territory of Ukraine; recognition of independence of Nagorno-Karabakh by the US State of California; abolition of the direct election of the Makhachkala Mayor and withdrawal of the banking license of the Dagestani "Mesed" Bank; several false reports on bombs in public places of Stavropol, Volgograd, and Rostov-on-Don; music festival "KaZantip" in Georgia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 25-31, 2014, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Russian Federation: rights defenders express their concern over reports on involvement of Russian servicemen, including soldiers from southern regions of country, in combat operations in the territory of Ukraine

Last week, Russian rights defenders have expressed their concern over incoming reports on the involvement of Russian military men in combat operations in Donbas, where the Ukrainian authorities carry out so-called anti-terrorist operation against the armed forces of self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. The war zone is located in close proximity to the Rostov Region of the Russian Federation.

On August 25, Sergey Krivenko and Ella Polyakova, members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights, appealed to the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) with a request to check the information about the deaths in the military training ground located in the Rostov Region of nine contract soldiers of the 18th Motorized Rifle Brigade deployed in the Cossack village of Kalynovskaya of the Naur District of the Chechen Republic. According to Lyudmila Bogatenkova, the head of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers "Mothers from Kuma River Area", those contract soldiers fought in the territory of Ukraine, and most of them were natives of Dagestan. According to Sergey Krivenko and Ella Polyakova, only on August 13, more than one thousand soldiers of the Russian army were sent to the territory of Ukraine. Human rights organizations start to receive appeals from different regions from parents of soldiers, whose sons were sent to the Rostov Region and stopped to get in touch. In particular, the appeals come from the KrasnodarTerritory, Dagestan, Astrakhan, Chechnya, and the StavropolTerritory. According to the human right defenders, they receive appeals from parents of regular and contract soldiers. The international organization "Memorial" has urged the Russian authorities to stop the military aggression against Ukraine.

Kiev officials also claim that soldiers from the Russian   Federation fight against the Ukrainian army. On August 28, the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) of Ukraine announced that the city of Novoazovsk and a number of villages in the Donetsk Region were seized by Russian military men, who arrived from the Rostov Region. On August 25, the NSDC also claimed the invasion of a military convoy from the Rostov Region. On August 26, the Security Service of Ukraine announced the detention of 10 Russian paratroopers, who, according to the Ukrainian side, entered the Ukrainian territory through the border in the Rostov Region. The Russian authorities deny their involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. They state that some Russian citizens are fighting in Ukraine as volunteers and that the Russian paratroopers have crossed the border accidentally.

Nagorno-Karabakh: independence recognized by US State of California

On August 27, the Senate of the US State of California adopted a resolution recognizing the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) and urged the US President also to recognize the self-proclaimed NKR as a sovereign state. This happened after on May 8, the resolution recognizing the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh was adopted by the state legislature of California. Nagorno-Karabakh treats the resolution adopted by the California State Senate as a great victory. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Armenia has also welcomed the resolution of the California State Senate. Baku officials believe that the resolution adopted by the California State Senate has no legal force, since the State Senate does not have the right to make decisions relating to the competence of the federal government of the United   States. The American Embassy in Azerbaijan has also reported that the resolution of the California State Senate does not reflect the Washington's foreign policy and does not change the US position on the Karabakh conflict.

Dagestan: abolition of direct election of Makhachkala Mayor and withdrawal of banking license of "Mesed" Bank

On August 26, Deputies of the Makhachkala City Assembly adopted amendments to the charter of the Dagestani capital to change the procedure for election of the City Mayor. Starting from the present, the Mayor of Makhachkala will be elected by Deputies of the City Assembly. The meeting of the City Assembly, at which the decision was made, had been preceded by the public hearing, and the participants spoke in support for the changes proposed. It should be noted that at present, Said Amirov, the Mayor of Makhachkala, who had been elected by the direct election, is accused of organizing the assassination of the investigator, terrorism, and arms trafficking, and is suspended from office by the court's decision. On July 9, he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony on charges of plotting a terror act; however, his advocates appealed against the verdict.

On August 28, the Central Bank of Russia made a decision to withdraw the banking license of the "Mesed" Bank located in Makhachkala. While listing the reasons for the above decision, the Central Bank of Russia mentions high-risk credit policy of the "Mesed" Bank related to the placement of funds in low-quality assets and failure to comply with legal requirements in the field of money laundering and financing of terrorism in terms of failure to take appropriate measures to identify customers. Since the beginning of the year, "Mesed" Bank is the sixth bank in Dagestan deprived of the banking license.

Stavropol Territory and Volgograd and Rostov Regions: several false reports on bombs planted in public places

Last week, three regions of southern Russia had to evacuate citizens from public places. In the evening of August 28, policemen checked a report on a bomb planted near the Upper Market in the centre of Stavropol. Dog specialists called to the place of emergency found a suspicious object at the entrance to the police station located near the Upper Market. The object was sent for examination. However, no explosives were detected inside it. On the same day, law enforcers cordoned off the railway station building in Volgograd because of a bomb threat. No bomb was found, and the railway station was reopened after inspection. Besides, on August 28, staff and passengers were evacuated from the buildings of the main bus and railway stations located close to each other in Rostov-on-Don, because of suspicious bags. After law enforcers checked the bags, the stations were reopened. On August 30, people were evacuated from the airport in Rostov-on-Don because of a phone call about a bomb planted; however, nothing suspicious was detected during the inspection.

Georgia: Anaklia says good-bye to music festival "KaZantip"

Last week, Georgia said good-bye to the electronic music festival "KaZantip", which aroused a variety of responses throughout the country. On August 20, the festival was opened in the village of Anaklia in the region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti. In Georgia, the "KaZantip" festival was attended by more than 10,000 people. The closing ceremony was held on August 30. According to Nikita Marshunok, the president of the festival, in Georgia, the "KaZantip" festival suffers loses because of lack of tourists, high prices for housing and foodstuffs. However, according to the office of the regional governor, the music festival has attracted tourists to the region, since this year, their number increased by 20,000 people. Despite the above problems, the festival organizers have announced their willingness to hold the "KaZantip" festival in Georgia once again. The festival took place against the background of the protests of the Orthodox clergy. They believe that the event, which has moved to Georgia after Crimea, where the "KaZantip" festival used to take place originally, was incorporated into Russia, promotes use of drugs and pornography.

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