22 June 2015, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 15-21

Works to eliminate the aftermath of severe flooding in Tbilisi; decision to raise electricity tariffs in Armenia, causing protests; European Games in Baku at the background of international criticism of the situation in Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 15-21, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Tbilisi eliminates consequences of severe flooding

During the whole week, Tbilisi, which suffered from flooding at night on June 14, was trying to eliminate the aftermath of the disaster. According to official data, the flooding claimed 19 human lives; while the Ministry of Public Health of Georgia registered 457 people, including 119 children, as victims. The Prosecutor's Office of Georgia has launched an inquiry into the reasons of human deaths, believing that they could be caused by violations of safety regulations during the construction of the buildings now destroyed by water.

On June 16, the Deputy Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze said that the damage from the flooding in Tbilisi may amount to 100 million laris (about 45 million US dollars). In total, 80 families consisting of some 400 persons were accommodated in hotels and private houses.

According to Zurab Gurielidze, the director of the Tbilisi Zoo, a tiger and a hyena from among the animals, which left the zoo during the flooding, are still somewhere in streets of the Georgian capital; they are searched by special servicemen and hunters.

Decision to raise electricity tariff in Armenia caused wave of protests

On June 17, Armenian authorities decided to rise, starting August 1, the electricity tariff by 6.93 drams per 1 kW/h. The main reasons for the decision were announced to be in fluctuations of the US dollar exchange rate and low water in rivers. The decision caused public resonance in the country. The sitting of the commission that made the decision was accompanied by a protest action. On June 19, in Yerevan, protesters announced a sit-in strike in Freedom Square and appointed the deadline of June 22 for the authorities to cancel the decision. 200 protesters spent the night in the square. On June 20, about 50 people marched across Yerevan demanding to cancel the tariff increase.

European Games in Baku take place against international criticism of human rights situation in Azerbaijan

The first European Games were opened on June 12 and continue in Baku. Azerbaijani athletes are successful in almost all events; and the national team retains the second place, behind the leading Russia. As of June 22, Azerbaijan brought the count of its medals won at the Games up to 35. The competitions are held against the international criticism of the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Thus, on June 16, Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called a number of post-Soviet countries to stop persecuting NGOs and civil society activists; while Isabel Santos, the head of the Committee for Democracy and Human Rights of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, welcomed the decision of the Azerbaijani authorities to allow the rights defender Emin Guseinov, who had taken refuge in the Swiss Embassy in Baku, to leave the country; and activists of the international coalition of human rights organizations "Sports for Human Rights" urged the well-known pop singer Lady Gaga, who took part in the opening ceremony of the European Games, to donate her remuneration to families of political prisoners.

USE campaign in Northern Caucasus was accompanied by violations and bad marks

The main period of taking the Unified State Examination (USE) in Russia ended on June 18. On that day, school graduates in Southern Russia, like others around the country, took the oral part of their foreign language exams. Also on June 15, pupils took their exams in history, biology, and informatics. Some violations were registered during the exams; in particular, in the Stavropol Territory, on June 15, four graduates were expelled from the USE for using cribs and mobile phones. On June 15, the Ministry of Education of Chechnya said that since the start of the USE, the republic's USE centres registered 14 cases of expelling pupils from the exam for the same reasons. Some outcomes of the campaign are already known: for example, in Dagestan, 2192 graduates failed to pass both mandatory exams – in the Russian language and mathematics; and now they may be left without their diplomas. They will get a chance to re-take their exams in September, should the "Rosobrnadzor" (Russia's Federal Agency for Supervising Education and Sciences) decide accordingly.

Trainee at MIA University in Stavropol dies after injury received in University

On June 15, in the canteen of the Stavropol Branch of the Krasnodar University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), a trainee Ivan Bondarenko was shot in his head. According to investigators, the shot was made by the platoon commander of the first year of the educational institution. The victim was hospitalized in grave condition and was in coma. At night on June 19, the young man died. A criminal case for an attempted murder was opened against the platoon commander, Senior Lieutenant Maxim Timashov; he is under arrest. According to the casualty's father, his son and the commander were friends. The father of Ivan Bondarenko has suggested that the commander wanted to make a joke to the trainee, for the latter to no longer sleep when on duty.

Veniamin Kondratiev, acting head of the Krasnodar Territory, decides to run for governor

Veniamin Kondratiev, who was appointed to be the acting governor of the Krasnodar Territory after the departure of Alexander Tkachov to work for the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia, said that he would participate in the election of the governor scheduled for September 13. Kondratiev declared his decision in his interview to the newspaper "Kuban News". The experts, earlier interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", expressed the viewpoint that Kondratiev has begun his election campaign. This assumption appeared after on June 15 Kondratiev sharply criticized the work of the administration of the city of Goryachiy Klyuch, after which on June 17 the city Mayor Nikolai Schwartzman decided to leave his post.

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