23 February 2015, 08:55

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 16-22

Collapse of political oppositional troika in Armenia; beating up of Dagestani leader of "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" in Makhachkala; sharp devaluation of national currency by Azerbaijani Central Bank; emigration from Russia of Mikhail Savva, conditionally convicted in Krasnodar; election of a new head of Astrakhan; entry into force of four ECtHR's decision on complaints of residents of Chechnya, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of February 16-22, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Collapse of political opposition trio in Armenia

Last week, Armenia saw a collapse of the political opposition trio, which included the "Prosperous Armenia" Party (PAP), the "Heritage" and the Armenian National Congress (ANC). This happened after the refusal of the PAP to take part in the rally in Yerevan, which had been scheduled for February 20 by all the three political forces. In its turn, the refusal followed the February 17 meeting of the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and the PAP leader Gagik Tsarukyan. There was no detailed information about the meeting, but Armenian media reported that the parties managed to reach some agreement after a political scandal, when Sargsyan accused Tsarukyan of failure to perform his duties of a member of the Security Council and non-payment of "billions of tax debts," while Tsarukyan called to a nationwide mobilization towards resignation of the country's president.

Following the Gagik Tsarukyan's statement about the need for a peaceful settlement of political problems in Armenia, the "Heritage" Party did not rule out its departure from the coalition of the non-power troika; and the ANC, which also decided not to go out with protest on February 20, announced its rally on March 1. The fact that the opposition trio in Armenia does not exist was announced on February 20 at a rally in Yerevan by the head of the "Heritage" Party Raffi Ovannisyan. He said that his party is ready to cooperate with all those "who are willing to fight for their country, and who want early parliamentary and presidential elections." Armenian political analysts believe that the opposition will now need a new leader.

Leader of Dagestani branch of "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" party beaten up in Makhachkala

Gadjimurad Omarov, the chairman of the Dagestani regional branch of the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party, was beaten up on February 21 in Makhachkala after the conference of his branch. After beating, Omarov was hospitalized, said one of the party activists; while Gadjimurad himself said that after the incident, he decided to go to Moscow for treatment. He noted that during the beating, none of the 30 attending policemen tried to stop the attackers, and that he "would write complaints about the beating," but he "did not believe in any effectiveness thereof." The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Dagestan asserts that nobody has filed an application to the police after the incident. The attack on Omarov is an attempt to intimidate the opposition, said the Dagestani journalist Milrad Fatullaev. It is noteworthy that the above party branch conference was interrupted by policemen – they came to the venue and drove all the people out of the building, claiming that a bomb had been planted there. The MIA confirmed it, adding that the alarm was false.

In Azerbaijan, Central Bank sharply devaluates national currency

On February 21, the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) made a sharp devaluation of the national currency and set the official exchange rate at 1.05 manats per 1 US dollar, against 0.78 manats as on February 20. On the same day, the purchase and sale of dollars and euros at exchange offices and banks was suspended, but later resumed. The purchase of manats was conducted at the rate of 1 US dollar per 1.04 manats, and the sale – for 1.055 manats; the euro was at 1.18 and 1.20 manats, accordingly. According to local experts, the devaluation in Azerbaijan will lead to bankruptcy of banks and collapse of small businesses. The "Musavat" Party has stated that the CBA's decision evidences an economic crisis in the country. The government should develop a crisis plan or resign, said Natig Djafarly from the "Republican Alternative".

Conditionally convicted Mikhail Savva leaves Russia for fear of further prosecution

During the last week, it became known that on February 16 the criminal-executive inspectorate appealed to the court of Krasnodar, demanding to send Professor Mikhail Savva, the director of Grant Programmes of the Southern Regional Resource Centre (SRRC), who had been sentenced to three years of conditional imprisonment on charges of embezzling the budget funds allocated to the SRRC as a grant by the administration of the Krasnodar Territory, as well as for receiving payment for fictitious lectures at the Kuban State University, to the colony, because of the fact that he had violated the regime of serving his conditional sentence and went abroad. On February 19, Mikhail Savva, who had completely denied his guilt and unsuccessfully tried to appeal against his verdict, confirmed his departure from Russia. According to his version, he took his decision out of fear of further prosecution. He was put on the federal wanted list. The international organizations "Amnesty International" and "Human Rights Watch" declared their readiness to help Professor Savva in his emigration.

New City Head elected in Astrakhan

On February 18, the members of the Astrakhan City Duma elected Elena Simeonova, the chair of the City Duma, to be the new City Head. The election was by secret ballot – 27 out of 28 Duma members present at the session voted for Elena Simeonova. Before the procedure, she was dismissed from the post of the Duma Speaker; and after the vote, she said that she would run for the City Duma of Astrakhan later this September. Another nominee for the post of the City Head was Ilya Zhiterev, a deputy from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). Out of total 34 members of the City Duma, 31 represent the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party; therefore, local experts expressed confidence that the election outcome would be no surprise. The election took place after adoption of amendments to the City Charter, which abolished the post of the Mayor and established the posts of the City Head and the City Administration Head (City Manager), and after the conviction on charges of bribery of the former Mayor Mikhail Stolyarov, who was elected to the post by direct elections in March 2012. The contest for the City Manager is appointed for March 11. Till then, the city administration will be headed by Irina Egorova, who had been the Acting Mayor until February 19.

Four ECtHR's decisions oblige Russia to pay 2.6 million euros to residents of Chechnya

On February 16, the Collegium of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decided to enact four decisions of the ECtHR, where the applicants were residents of Chechnya. According to these decisions, Russia should pay the applicants a total of 2,651,000 euros of compensation. One of the decisions that entered into force relates to the death of Raisa Kosumova in 2003 under shelling. According to the decision, Russia shall pay 24,000 euros compensation to Kosumova's relatives. Besides, the decisions on the cases "Petimat Ismailova et al vs. Russia", "Sultygov et al vs. Russia" and "Makaeva vs. Russia" have entered into force. The first of them concerns the disappearance in 2001-2006 of 16 residents of Chechnya' and the ECtHR has awarded the 43 applicants in this case with 1,251,000 euros of compensation. The Sultygov's case concerns the disappearance in 2000-2006 of 18 residents of Chechnya – Russia shall pay a total of 1,314,900 euros to their relatives. Alma Makaeva, who had stated violations of her rights in connection with the disappearance of her son Apti Zainalov, was awarded 62,450 euros.

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