08 June 2015, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 1-7

Resignation of the head of North Ossetia Taimuraz Mamsurov; pogrom of rights defenders' office in Grozny; exacerbation of conflict among believers in Ingush Nasyr-Kort; start of consideration by Moscow City Court of the case of Ilya Goryachev, alleged BORN leader; crash of training fighter jet in Astrakhan Region; local elections in Armenia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 1-7, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Taimuraz Mamsurov dismissed from post of North-Ossetian leader due to expiration of his term of office

On June 5, by a decree of the President of Russia, the head of North Ossetia Taimuraz Mamsurov was dismissed due to expiration of his term of office; and Tamerlan Aguzarov, an MP of the Russian State Duma, was appointed as an acting head of the republic. On June 6, Sergey Melikov, the Presidential Envoy for the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) of Russia, presented Aguzarov to the Parliament of North Ossetia. The election of the new head of the republic, who, according to the local Constitution, is elected by the Parliament, will take place not earlier than this autumn; while Tamerlan Aguzarov is considered to be one of the main contenders for the post.

With regard of Taimuraz Mamsurov, his candidacy will not be considered as a possible contender for the post of the head of North Ossetia for the third term in office because of his low rating, said Mikhail Vinogradov, the president of the fund "Petersburg Politics". According to the rating of governors' "survivability", compiled this May on the basis of experts' opinions by his fund and the holding "Minchenko Consulting", Mamsurov was the only one who got the lowest score – a "one".

Rights defenders' office smashed down in Grozny

On June 3, in Grozny, unidentified persons attacked the office of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG), which includes activists of the Committee against Torture (CaT). The unrests arose from an action against the Russia-Chechnya information war, which had been announced by the authorities. According to witnesses and JMG members, the police arrived at the scene only after the pogrom was over; after the attackers smashed down the rights defenders' service car and the JMG's office and apartment. Fortunately, the employees of the JMG managed to escape.

According to the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, the CaT staff has no relation to human rights activities, and they themselves provoked the attack in order to "obtain more US grants". He said that among the protesters under the windows of the JMG office there were relatives of Jambulat Dadaev, who had been killed by Stavropol power agents. Relatives arrived from the Nadterechny District of Chechnya and joined the rally later, after it began. As written by Kadyrov, when rights defenders were asked why they had not defended the rights of Dadaev's mother, the JMG employees "shouted out that they do not defend killers." The CaT has refuted these Kadyrov's allegations.

On June 4, the Russian Human Rights Council discussed the incident with the JMG's office in Grozny and instructed Igor Kalyapin, the head of the CaT, to prepare appeals to the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) and the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) with a request to bring the investigation into the pogrom to the district or federal level. This was the second attack already – in December 2014, unidentified pogromists broke down the door of the office, smashed the furniture, damaged the walls and set a fire. Then, the CaT was granted the victim status, but the inquiry gave no results.

Believers' conflict escalates in Ingush Nasyr-Kort

On June 4, in the Ingush village of Nasyr-Kort, which is located in the territory of the city of Nazran, a conflict broke out among mosque-goers, which was accompanied by indiscriminate automatic gunfire. In the morning on June 5, power agents cordoned off the mosque. According to the Security Council of Ingushetia, there were no casualties and victims. The conflict was triggered by the decision of the local Imam Khamzat Chumakov to abandon the daytime prayer on the day of the Friday juma-namaz; his decision was a follow-up of the recommendations of the theological conference held in the republic; however, it contradicts the position of the Muftiat, said Abo Ganizhev, Doctor of Sharia Sciences. In the opinion of Isa-Hadji Khamkhoev, the Mufti of Ingushetia, the conflict in the mosque of Nasyr-Kort was provoked by supporters of Imam Khamzat Chumakov, and by the Imam himself, because, as stated by the Mufti to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, Chumakov has to give way to Imam Rustam Chakhkiev, appointed by the Spiritual Administration of Muslims (SAM).

Magomed Mutsolgov, the head of the Ingush human rights organization "Mashr", believes that the aggravation of relations with the Muftiat was caused not by Chumakov's statement about the daytime prayer, but by his opponents, who used the moment to settle accounts with him. Chumakov himself sent appeals to the Russian President and bosses of law enforcement bodies, stating that his opponents tried to provoke a mass brawl in the mosque. The experts and members of the local community, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", believe that the confrontation around the mosque in Nasyr-Kort may result in bloodshed. Kharon Torshkhoev, an adviser to the Head of Ingushetia, said that the republic's curator in the Kremlin was informed about the situation in Nasyr-Kort.

MCC starts trying Ilya Goryachev

On June 1, the Moscow City Court (MCC) completed selecting the jurymen for considering the case of the alleged leader of the extremist community "Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists" (known as BORN) Ilya Goryachev. He was detained in Serbia and extradited to Russia on November 8, 2013. The investigation of his case was isolated into separate inquiry; and investigators believe that under Goryachev's command several murders were committed, including Ilya Djaparidze, the leader of the "Antifa" Movement, and the lawyer Stanislav Markelov. Goryachev is charged under Part 1, Article 282.1 (creation of an extremist community), and points "a, g, h and k", Part 2, Article 105 (murder of two or more persons committed by an organized group under the motives of ideological and ethnic hatred, combined with banditry) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

On June 2, the MCC began considering the case on the merits. Goryachev himself refused to plead guilty. On June 3, prosecutors began questioning the witnesses of the prosecution. Olga Koloskova, a sister of the antifascist Fyodor Filatov told the court that Goryachev is known to her as the organizer of the BORN. On the same day, Mikhail Markelov, Stanislav's brother, testified and stated that those persons already convicted for the murder of his brother "were performers, not ideologists." On June 5, the court questioned a witness of the murder of Rasul Khalilov, an alleged member of the "Black Hawks" grouping, a native of Azerbaijan, who confirmed that he saw a man who looked like Goryachev at the scene of the crime.

Training fighter jet crashed in the Astrakhan Region

On June 4, during a training flight near the Ashuluk Range in the Astrakhan Region, a MiG-29 fighter aircraft crashed down. Its pilots were taken to a hospital in Astrakhan with multiple traumas; however, there is no threat to their lives, said the press service of the Regional Ministry of Public Health. The flight was carried out without the combat ammunition; and there were no destructions at the site of the crash. According to preliminary data of the Russia's Ministry of Defence (MoD), the training fighter crashed due to some technical failure. By the order of the Chief Commander of the Russian Air Forces, all the MiG-29 flights are temporarily suspended until finding out the reasons of the accident.

Local elections held in Armenia

On June 7, Armenia held local elections – residents of 32 communities in nine regions, except for the Vayots Dzor Region, elected their heads of administrations and members of their Boards of Elders. In 18 communities, residents elected Mayors and heads of local administrations; 12 communities elected their Boards of Elders; and 2 communities – their Mayors and Boards of Elders. The cities, which held elections, include Abovyan, where five candidates ran for the post of Mayor, Artashat and Alaverdi. Observers from the anti-corruption centre of the Transparency International stated that they fixed violations during voting, including obstructions to journalists' professional activities; absence of sealed ballot boxes; and violations of the confidentiality of the vote. In its turn, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said that violations were of individual character.

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