03 November 2014, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 27-November 2

Hunger strike of several activists in Makhachkala demanding resignation of head of Dagestan; major power outage in Stavropol; meeting of presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Paris; protests of mothers of many children from Volgograd Region in Moscow; two convoys with Russian humanitarian aid to residents of Donetsk and Lugansk; decision of Chechen SC on Ruslan Kutaev's case, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 27-November 2, 2014, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Hunger strike in Makhachkala with demand of resignation of Dagestani leader

Eight NGO activists from different districts of Dagestan have gone on a hunger strike, stating that they are trying to draw attention to the problem of corruption in the republic and force Ramazan Abdulatipov to resign. The decision to hold a protest hunger strike was made after the local Ministry of Justice refused to sanction an all-Dagestan rally in defence of constitutional rights, which was prepared by public activists and local branches of the "Spravelivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party.

The hunger-strikers, who hold their action in a private house in the garden cooperative "Fregat" in a Makhachkala outskirt, include Magomed Guseinov, a member of the Public Council of the city of Kranoarmeisk; Abdul Yakhiyaev, Zurab Kurbanov and Pasha Gadjiev from the Lak National Council; Kazikhan Kurbanov, a representative of the Anticorruption Council of the Tabasaran District; and Mamatkhan Baisultanov, a resident of Khasavyurt. On October 30, Maksud Gadjiev, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Akhvakh People", joined the hunger strike; while its organizers managed to persuade two women not to join it. On October 31, Magomed Guseinov, 62, had to quit the action because of his health problems.

Major power supply accident in Stavropol

Last week, Stavropol suffered from a major power outage that caused the introduction of the state of emergency in the city. In the evening on October 28, an ignition occurred at the electrical transformer substation "Severnaya" (Northern), located in Kulakov Street. The fire was extinguished, but 49,462 local residents lost their power supply. The total disconnected power made 33 MW. Apart from residential houses, four boilers and 13 educational institutions were switched off. Restoration works lasted for several days; and only in the evening on October 30, the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) reported that all the apartment blocks and private houses were re-connected to power grid; and the city authorities cancelled the state of emergency. The works were complicated by the worn-out equipment of the substation; experts promised to reveal the reason of the ignition later.

Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Paris

On October 27 inParis, on the initiative of the French party, a meeting of the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev and Serzh Sargsyan, took place. They discussed the settlement of the Karabakh conflict, held talks with French President Francois Hollande and had a meeting with the participation of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and the special representative of the OSCE Chairman. To advance in the conflict settlement, Francois Hollande proposed to start drafting a comprehensive peace agreement. Aliev and Sargsyan agreed to exchange information about missing persons under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross. An agreement was also reached to continue summit meetings of the parties, including within the framework of the UN General Assembly in September 2015.

Armenian and Azerbaijani political analysts were quite ambiguous in assessing the outcomes of the Paris summit. Pointing to the lack of real results, they, however, stated the benefits of frequent meetings of the heads of conflicting parties. The political analyst from Yerevan Ervand Bozoyan believes that the meeting in Paris had the goal to balance the role of international mediators, while his colleague from Baku Fikret Sadykhov has treated the achieved agreement on exchange of information about missing persons as progress.

Mothers of many children from Volgograd Region hold protests in Moscow

On October 28 to 31 in Moscow, mothers of many children from the Volgograd Region held protest actions demanding from the authorities to fulfil their due social obligations. Women held pickets near the reception office of Russian President and "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party; at the "Ostankino" TV Centre; at the presidential administration and the nearby Plevna Heroes Monument. The protesters held posters: "Volgograd Region hosts genocide of large families!" According to their story, authorities expressed almost no reaction to their actions.

On October 31, Nadezhda Kireeva, one of the mothers, was detained during her solo picket, but released later on the same day. On November 1, the women went back to Volgograd, stating that they had sent appeals to the MPs of the State Duma and senators of the Federation Council and to the President of the Russian Federation, demanding to address – in the extraordinary manner – the issue of providing large families with housing and increase the amount of benefits.

Russia brings two humanitarian convoys to Donetsk and Lugansk

At night on October 30, the fourth Russian humanitarian convoy of one hundred trucks arrived in the Rostov Region to the border with Ukraine. The Russian Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) said that the convoy was collected in response to numerous requests from residents of Donbas. According to the Russian party, the trucks have brought building materials, foodstuffs, medicines and logistical means for the people to get ready for the upcoming winter. After unloading, the trucks returned to the territory of Russia in the afternoon on October 31 through the checkpoint "Donetsk-Izvarino". Ukrainian border guards carried only a visual inspection of the vehicles and the freights. The Information Centre of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine said that the Russian convoy had brought the equipment for the armed forces of self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. On November 2, Donetsk and Lugansk received a hundred more trucks of the fifth humanitarian convoy, which was sent to Donbas without any Kiev's official consent; and the freights were not exposed to the necessary procedures of border and customs control, said the Ukrainian party.

SC of Chechnya reduced Ruslan Kutaev's prison term by two months

On October 31, the Supreme Court (SC) of Chechnya considered an appeal against the verdict passed to Ruslan Kutaev, the President of the Assembly of North-Caucasian Nations, who was convicted on July 7 to four years on charges of drug possession. The SC did not send the case for a new trial, as demanded by the defence, but just reduced Kutaev's prison term by two months. At the same time, in his last plea, Ruslan Kutaev, who denies his guilt and associates criminal prosecition with his social and political activities, said that he knows the man who had tortured and threatened him.

As reported at the end of the session by Pyotr Zaikin, a Kutaev's advocate, the SC sent a request to the Investigating Committee aiming to check for libel in advocate's statements. Zaikin himself has treated the SC's actions as pressure on the defence. The human rights organization Freedom House has condemned the decision of the Chechen SC, expressed the demand for Kutaev's immediate release, and urged the Russian government to protect advocates from threats and intimidation by local authorities. Earlier, the Amnesty International recognized Kutaev as a "prisoner of conscience"; and the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" put him on its list of political prisoners. In April, the Human Rights Watch demanded to release Kutaev.

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