26 January 2015, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 19-25

Death of the baby – the only survivor in the attack on family in Gyumri, and interrogation of soldier Permyakov accused of the massacre by Armenian investigators; actions against caricatures on Prophet Muhammad in Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia and Azerbaijan; verdict in Rostov-on-Don to journalist Sergey Reznik; mass brawl in a Minvody cafe with fatality; construction of railway in Southern Russia, bypassing Ukraine; revocation of license from "Adam International" Bank of Makhachkala, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 19-25, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Only surviving baby in attack on family in Gyumri dies; Armenian investigators join Permyakov's case

In Armenia, on January 19, Sergey Avetisyan, a six-month-old baby, the only survivor of the attack on his family in Gyumri, died in hospital. During a week, doctors in Yerevan fought for his life, but they failed to save the baby. His funeral took place on January 21. On the same day, at the Russian military base, Armenian investigators questioned Valery Permyakov, a Russian soldier, who is accused of assaulting the Avetisyan family. According to the Investigating Committee (IC) of Armenia, Permyakov officially admitted the charges of the massacre against him. Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), who came to Armenia on January 19, said that the Armenian and Russian investigators had concluded an agreement on cooperation in the inquiry into this case.

According to Bastrykin, the judicial investigation of the case will be held in Armenia and will be public. However, activists in Gyumri began collecting signatures to the demand to give Valery Permyakov out to law enforcement bodies of Armenia. Narek Aivazyan, an activist and one of the initiators of collecting signatures, said that the organizers had set a goal to collect 10,000 signatures in order to make the issue loudly public. According to his story, the protesters' demands "can be considered partially satisfied," because "the inquiry is already in hands of Armenian law enforcers." However, Aivazyan has added that the suspect was not handed over to the Armenia's National Security Service, although it is provided for by the Armenian legislation and international treaties with Russia.

Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia and Azerbaijan held actions against caricatures on Prophet Muhammad

Last week, several regions of Southern Russia, as well as Azerbaijan and Georgia, held protests against caricatures on Prophet Muhammad. In Grozny, the action "We love Muhammad" was initiated by the clergy of Chechnya after the publication of caricatures on Prophet Muhammad in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. According to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), the protest on January 19 gathered over 800,000 people, while the MIA of Chechnya claimed over a million participants. In their turn, eyewitnesses and participants reported conflicting data on the strength of the rally. In Makhachkala, on January 24, the Juma (Grand) Mosque held a nationwide Mawlid (prayer) against caricatures on Prophet Muhammad. The Dagestani Republic's Committee on Freedom of Conscience and Interaction with Religious Organizations had announced the participation in the event of about 15,000 people; and after the Mawlid, regional authorities reported that the audience was 20,000 strong. On January 19 it became known about the rally in the village of Duisi in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, which also condemned the caricatures on Prophet Muhammad. On January 21, a protest action was held by residents of Nardaran near Baku. They condemned the publication of caricatures on Prophet Muhammad and manifestations of Islamophobia in the West; in the course of the action they burned down the flags of France, Israel, United States and Armenia.

In Rostov-on-Don, journalist Sergey Reznik convicted for insulting officials

On January 22, the Leninsky Court of Rostov-on-Don recognized journalist and blogger Sergey Reznik guilty of false denunciation and insulting the authorities, and sentenced him to three years in a general security colony with account of his already served punishment imposed in November 2013. Also, the journalist will have no right for two years to be engaged in his professional activities. Sergey, known for his critical publications, was charged with posting in his blog in the "LiveJournal" of the information that insulted the authorities and contained false denunciation. The suffered parties in the case were law enforcers. Reznik denied the charges completely. His defence stated the intention to appeal against the verdict, claiming a violation of his right to the freedom of expression as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and promised, if necessary, appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg. On January 23, the journalists, who gathered at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow, expressed their bewilderment with the sentence to Reznik, stressing that criminal prosecution of journalists is unacceptable.

Serviceman falls victim to mass brawl in Minvody cafe

At night on January 21, in the city of Mineralnye Vody (Minvody), a soldier, who was stabbed, died after a mass brawl in a cafe. Ten persons, including eyewitnesses, were taken to the police. According to the MIA, the brawl broke out of a domestic conflict. Subsequently, a participant of the fight and the main suspect of the murder were declared wanted; and six other participants were detained. On January 22, the detention of the main suspect of the murder – Mikhail Grigoryan – was announced. On January 23, the court in Minvody arrested him for two months. This incident was the second resonant one in Minvody after a mass brawl in hospital at night on September 21, 2014, which became a continuation of a conflict in a cafe, as a result of which one man was seriously injured and later died. After the September incident, the governor of the region Vladimir Vladimirov demanded "to restore the order" in drinking establishments and threatened to close the bars and restaurants, where fights and murders occur. Commenting on the other incident in Minvody, Vladimirov promised to take its investigation under his personal control. On January 24, the residents, outraged with the other murder, blocked the Highway "Kavkaz", demanding from the authorities to report about the course of the inquiry into the incident.

Russia starts building railway in Southern Russia to bypass Ukraine

On January 21, Vladimir Yakunin, the head of the "Russian Railways" (known as RZhD), announced the start of the construction of the railway in the direction of the KrasnodarTerritory and bypassing Ukraine. According to his version, the builders will lay a new route of 60 km instead of the 26 km running across Ukraine, where the warfare continues between the country's armed forces and supporters of the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics. For the first time the need to build a bypass was announced last November by the Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, who noted that the decision was embodied in Russia's draft budget of Russia for 2015-2017. The point is to build a railway line Prokhorovka-Zhuravka-Chertkovo-Bataisk, said the Minister. According to Sokolov, the construction of the railway section, bypassing Ukraine, will be completed by 2018.

License revoked from Dagestani "Adam International" Bank

On January 20, the "Bank of Russia" revoked the license on conducting banking operations of the Makhachkala-based "Adam International" Bank. The reason was in the bank's failure to comply with legal demands on the counteraction to legalization (laundering) of criminally obtained proceeds, financing terrorism and questionable cash transactions. The interim administration was appointed to the bank; and the clients will start receiving their insured deposits starting from February 3, the Deposit Insurance Agency has reported. In 2015, this is the first license revocation from a Dagestani bank, while in 2014, within the readjustment policy, the Russia's Central Bank revoked licenses from a number of Dagestani banks, including the "Caspian" Bank; the "Dagestan" Bank for Social Development, the "Esidbank", the "Imbank", the "New Commercial Bank", the "Mesed" and the "PrestizhKreditBank." Some of them have been declared bankrupt already.

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