01 June 2015, 09:00
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 25-31
USE passed not without incidents and violations in North-Caucasian republics; rains and hail resulted in state of emergency in Southern Russia; ex-president of Georgia awarded Ukrainian citizenship and appointed governor of Odessa Region; All-Armenian against rise of electricity tariffs; four Georgian MPs quit oppositional "United National Movement"; FC "Krasnodar" wins bronze in Russian Premier League, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 25-31, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
USE passed in Southern Russia with incidents and violations
Graduates of Russia's general educational institutions have started taking their Unified State Exams (USE). On May 25, the exam was in literature and geography; and on May 28 this year's graduates took their mandatory USE in the Russian language. The Ministry of Education of Chechnya stated that no violations were revealed during the examination. In Dagestan, on 25 May, four graduates were removed from the exam for an attempt to use their mobile phones. As reported by the Ministry of Education of Kabardino-Balkaria, several school graduates were removed from the USE in the Russian language; however, no exact number was specified. Let us add here that federal public observers are present at all USE centres in the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD). In 2013 and 2014, because of violations during the USE, three regions of Southern Russia – Kalmykia, Adygea and Stavropol Territory – got under special scrutiny of the Russian Federal Ministry of Education.
Some incidents were reported: in Chechnya, power agents on duty at a USE centre beat up a 16-year-old boy; in Dagestan, because of stone-fall that blocked the road and cut the mountain Tlyaratin District of Dagestan off from the rest of the territory, schoolchildren of local dwelling settlements could not take their exam in the Russian language on May 28; it was rescheduled for June 23.
Showers and hail cause state of emergency in Southern Russia
At the end of last week, several regions of Southern Russia were struck by hailstorms. On May 31, in the hamlet of Privolnoe and the village of Vladimirovskaya of the Labinsk District of the Krasnodar Territory, 143 households were flooded by a heavy rainfall; by the evening the water went down. In the Stavropol Territory, on May 30, a heavy rain caused a rise in the river level and flooding of the village of Zolskaya. Road traffic along a stretch in the Kirov District was closed because of mudslides. In the evening of the same day, the Zolsky District of Kabardino-Balkaria was struck by strong thunderstorms with hail, resulting in river overbanking and flooding the villages of Shordakovo and Kichmalka; two road bridges were closed. Besides, in the Adyge-Khabl District of Karachay-Cherkessia, a hailstorm caused flooding of private households, and damaged roofs of several houses. On May 29, a heavy hailstorm flooded households in two dwelling settlements of the Otradnoe District of the Krasnodar Territory. The settlement of Urupskiy, where hail damaged 2500 hectares of crops, was put under the state of emergency.
Former Georgian president receives Ukrainian citizenship and becomes governor of Odessa Region
Mikhail Saakashvili, a former Georgian president, who has been accused in his homeland of several crimes, including embezzlement of budget funds and abuse of office, has been appointed the head of the Odessa Regional State Administration in Ukraine. This was announced on May 29; and on the following day Saakashvili was presented to his staff. While introducing him in Odessa to local politicians as a new governor, the president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, who had earlier decreed to grant the Ukrainian citizenship to Saakashvili, said that the former Georgian president "has proved that he knows how to implement creative ideas." Mikhail Saakashvili himself said that "he wants to make Odessa the capital of the Black Sea." In their comments on this appointment, experts said that Odessa could be a sort of a springboard for Saakashvili, whose following positions in Ukraine are predicted as the governor in Dnepropetrovsk, or even the head of the Cabinet of Ministers. In their turn, activists of Georgian NGOs said that Mikhail Saakashvili, upon acquiring the Ukrainian citizenship, has lost the right to lead the oppositional party "United National Movement" and participate in political processes in Georgia.
Residents of 15 Armenian cities go out to protest against increase of electricity tariffs
Mass actions against the rise of electricity tariffs were held on May 27 in 15 cities of Armenia, including Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor, Armavir and Ijevan. Their participants gave letters to mayors of their cities demanding "to stop the rise of electricity tariffs." Protesters in Yerevan threatened the authorities to scale up protests if the tariffs are increased. The all-Armenian protest was coordinated by the initiative group "No to robbery!", created on the Facebook, and supported by the Armenian National Congress (ANC) Party. The protest was caused by the intent of the "Electric Grids of Armenia" Company to increase the day-time consumer's tariff from 41.85 drams per 1 kW/h to 58.93 drams, and the night tariff – from 31.85 to 48.93 drams. On May 15, the Company's application was returned by the Commission on Regulating Public Services because of mistakes found in it.
According to organizers of protests, the rally in Yerevan was about 15,000 strong. Former employees of the "Nairit" Factory also joined the protest, saying that because of salary debts they are unable to pay their power bills even at current rates. The organizers of the rally urged Armenians not to obey the decision on possible rise in electricity tariffs, and in case such decision is made, to pass over to actions of public disobedience up to non-payment of electricity bills.
Four Georgian MPs declare exit from UNM and intent to create new political force
On May 25, it was reported by political circles of Georgia that the MPs Zurab Japaridze, Pavle Kublashvili, Giorgi Meladze and Giorgi Khachidze quitted the oppositional "United National Movement" (UNM). All the four were members of the political council of the UNM, while Japaridze was the executive secretary of the party and the secretary of the parliamentary minority. On May 28, the politicians, who had quitted the UNM, announced their intention to create a "new and open political centre" and plan to continue their struggle for the European and democratic future of the united Georgia and removal from power of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the ruling coalition "Georgian Dream", which believes that we see the start of disintegration of the UNM. According to some Georgian experts, the four MPs who left the UNM, may form the basis of a new party that has a good chance of success at elections. However, political analysts believe that the appearance of a new political force is unlikely to shake the position of the existing parties.
FC "Krasnodar" takes third place in Russian football Premier League and gets second chance to play in Europa League
On May 30, the Football Club (FC) "Krasnodar", playing in Khimki, tied (1:1) with "Dynamo" in the final match of the Russian football championship of Russia and won bronze medals for the first time in its history. The 60 points gained by the players give them the right to play in the Europa League. The FC "Krasnodar" will take part in this international tournament for the second time – last year the Krasnodar team was qualified to the Europa League after winning the fifth place in the Premier League. Then, the club could not pass beyond the group round. Let us note here that three other clubs from Southern Russia were quite successful this year – the FC "Kuban" took the tenth place; the FC "Terek" from Grozny took the ninth place; and the FC "Rostov" has qualified the 14th.