17 November 2014, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 10-16

Incident with a military helicopter shot down in the Karabakh conflict zone; road traffic accident involving a motorcade of the Dagestani leader; law passed in the Astrakhan Region abolishing the direct election of the Mayor of Astrakhan; awarding Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to political prisoners of Azerbaijan; launch of the third power unit of Rostov NPP; attack on the Prime Minister of Abkhazia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of November 10-16, 2014, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Azerbaijan shoots down military helicopter in Karabakh conflict zone

On November 12, a military helicopter was shot down in the contact area of the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Three members of the crew were reported perished. According to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Nagorno-Karabakh, the craft got under fire while performing a training flight. According to the Azerbaijani MoD, the helicopter was shot down when it was attacking Azerbaijani positions. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has declared that the airspace above the "occupied territories" of the country was closed several years ago. And thus, Azerbaijan has the right to stop any invasion into this airspace. The Armenian MFA categorically condemned the Azerbaijan's actions in the situation with the helicopter. According to the Armenian MFA, Baku officials are attempting to hinder efforts for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Nagorno-Karabakh has appealed for assistance to the local mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to clarify the issues on the whereabouts and return of the crew of the helicopter shot down by Azerbaijani militaries.

Military experts and political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" have expressed different opinions regarding how the helicopter incident will affect the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone. The Baku experts believe that the incident will not lead to an escalation of the conflict, while the Armenian experts do not deny such a possibility. The members of the OSCE Minsk Group from the USA, EU and OSCE made statements calling for restraint and prevention of escalation of the conflict.

In Dagestan, road traffic accident involving motorcade of republic's leader occurs

In the evening of November 10, a road traffic accident occurred on the highway near Makhachkala. According to the preliminary information, the accident involved a car of the motorcade of the Dagestani leader Ramazan Abdulatipov. Six persons were injured, and four of them were hospitalized. The Dagestani leader did not suffer. Following the media reports on the road traffic accident, Valery Gromov, the Chief of the Department of Road Police (known as GIBDD) of the Department for Dagestan of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), announced that the cars of the Ramazan Abdulatipov's motorcade were not involved in the accident. According to Valery Gromov, it involved an Opel, a BMW, and a Lada Priora cars belonging to individuals and a Toyota Land Cruiser 200 car registered as owned by the transport sector of the administration of the leader and the government of Dagestan, which "was not accompanying the motorcade of the Dagestani leader." In their turn, officials from the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service (known as FSIN) have reported that the road traffic accident involved a Toyota off-road vehicle from special motorcade with switched-on rotating beacons. Ramazan Abdulatipov himself wrote on his Facebook page that the road traffic accident was caused by a driver, who drove into the wrong lane, and who, according to witnesses, was in a state of alcoholic intoxication. According to officials from the Dagestani MIA, the investigation into the road traffic accident is underway.

Astrakhan Region passes law abolishing direct election of Astrakhan Mayor

On November 11, the MPs of the Astrakhan Regional Duma approved, by majority of votes, in the final reading, the law prescribing the procedure of formation of regional local authorities. Under the new law, the Mayor of Astrakhan is to be elected from among the number of the above MPs. On October 27, the MPs of the Astrakhan Regional Duma formulated and brought the amendments abolishing the direct election of the Mayor of Astrakhan into to the Regional Duma. As a result of the voting, 35 MPs supported the bill, and 8 of them, namely, the members of the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) voted against. Oppositional leaders believe that the abolition of the direct election of the Astrakhan Mayor will inevitably decay the democratic component in the system of local self-government and boost corruption there. On the day when the law was passed, Astrakhan hosted a series of solo pickets in protest against it.

Relatives of political prisoners in Azerbaijan receive Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

On November 13, inOslo, relatives of Azerbaijani political prisoners were awarded the 2014 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The Prize was awarded by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), which explained the awarding of 98 rights defenders, journalists and social activists from the list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan by the fact that they showed great courage in carrying out their huge work of promoting democratic values and human rights in the country. The award diplomas were handed over to a daughter of Leyla and Arif Yunus, the leaders of the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPD), a daughter of Intigam Aliev, the leader of the NGO "Legal Education Society", and a brother of Rasul Djafarov, an activist of the human rights campaign "Sing for Democracy", who arrived in Oslo on behalf of all the laureates.

Rostov Region starts third unit of NPP near Volgodonsk

On November 14, the Rostov Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) located near the city of Volgodonsk in the Rostov Region launched its third power unit; and the first cassettes with nuclear fuel were loaded into the reactor. During this process, specialists defined characteristics of the nuclear reactor active core necessary for its operation. After the above process is completed, the specialists will launch the primary stage of the start-up operations, including power start-up of the unit and electricity supply to the power grid. According to the "Rosatom" State Atomic Energy Corporation, the above loading of heat-generating cassettes was successful. It is expected that the new unit of the Rostov NPP will start generating electric power by the end of this year; and it will cover the Southern Russia's needs for electricity.

Prime Minister Beslan Butba beaten up in Abkhazia

In the evening of November 15, Beslan Butba, the Abkhazian Premier, was attacked and beaten up. His car was blocked by an off-road vehicle. Two men jumped out of it and attacked the high-ranking official. Doctors diagnosed brain concussion in Beslan Butba and sent him home after examination. On the same day, law enforcers detained the attackers' car with an employee of the Customs Committee and two other persons inside. The Abkhazian President Raul Khadjimba has demanded to strictly punish the persons who attacked the Prime Minister Beslan Butba and "restore the order within the republic's agencies." Beslan Butba himself said that the men who attacked him acted spontaneously and the incident was "a banal brawl."

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