28 September 2015, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 21-27

Celebration of Eid al-Adha by Muslims of the Caucasus; new cases of escalation of the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone; continuation of the hunger strike in Akhtubinsk despite the start of the debt repayments, see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 21-27, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Caucasus enjoys days off to celebrate Eid al-Adha

On September 24, Muslims of the Caucasus celebrated Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice. It falls on the 10th day of the holy month of Dhu al-Hijjah. The celebration lasts for three days and marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca. The day of celebration of Eid al-Adha was declared a day off in Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan, and Adygea. Chechnya has declared the days of September 24 and 25 two additional days off on the occasion of the holiday.

In the morning of September 24, the mosques held holiday prayers, and then Muslims started performing the ritual of sacrifice of sheep and cattle. The sacrificial meat was distributed to needy residents. In Kabardino-Balkaria, Syrian Circassians found themselves among those who received the meat. Residents of Chechnya have said that on the days of the holiday, they visit graves of their relatives and meet their family members and friends. Besides, they have also reported the increase in the cost for performance of the ritual sacrifice.

In Moscow, Muslims also celebrated the Feast of Sacrifice. The new Cathedral Mosque with its area of almost 19,000 square meters has become the centre of the celebration in the Russian capital. The new Mosque can hold up to 10,000 people at once; however, according to the mosque-goers, it has appeared to be unable to solve the problem of the Muslims, when they have to perform prayers in the streets of the Russian capital.

New cases of escalation of situation in Karabakh conflict zone

During the past week, the sharp deterioration of the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone has been reported. On September 25, Azerbaijan shelled a military unit in Nagorno-Karabakh from a rocket launcher. As a result, four soldiers were killed and 16 others were wounded. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence (MoD) has called the shelling an adequate response to the enemy's attack, in which one Azerbaijani soldier was killed and three others were wounded. On September 24, three residents of the near-border villages of the Tavush Region of Armenia were killed during the attacks from the Azerbaijani side, and four other local residents got shrapnel wounds. According to local residents, in the near-border village of Berdavan of the Tavush Region, missiles damaged seven residential houses and three administrative buildings. The Azerbaijani side does not deny delivering fire strikes on the Armenian territory; however, according to Azerbaijan, the fire was opened in response to the attacks of the Armenian armed forces, and as a result of one of the Armenian attacks, a woman from the Azerbaijani village of Kemerli was wounded on September 23. It should be noted that in the period of September 1-5, it was reported about at least four persons killed and eleven wounded, including eight civilians, in the conflict zone.

The new escalation of the situation in the Karabakh conflict zone has been strongly condemned by the OSCE Minsk Group; and its co-Chairs have urged the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to accept the OSCE mechanism to investigate the ceasefire violations.

In Akhtubinsk, hunger-strikers start receiving money; however, they continue their protest action

In the city of Akhtubinsk of the Astrakhan Region, employees of the local enterprise "Akhtuba ATP" (auto transport company) continue their hunger strike. On September 19, they started their protest action with the demand to pay wage arrears and other benefits. On September 21, officials of the local and regional administrations signed the protocol to allocate 5.5 million roubles to pay off the debts. The deputies of the City Assembly of Akhtubinsk adopted amendments to the budget to allocate the necessary funds, and on September 23, the first payments were made. According to the hunger-strikers, on September 24, they were visited by Akhtubinsk Mayor Amanga Naruzbaev, who reported that the additional amount of 1.5 million roubles would be paid during the day. However, on that day, the employees of the "Akhtuba ATP" received no money. The city administration has reported that the funds to settle the debts up to and including June have been already transferred to court marshals and will be credited to the enterprise's account within the next several days. However, the hunger-strikers do not want to stop their protest action and promise to continue it until the full repayment of the wage arrears. Meanwhile, the health state of the hunger-strikers is deteriorating. So, on September 25, emergency doctors offered to bring to hospital four hunger-strikers. However, they refused to be hospitalized and continued their protest action. On September 26, the hunger-strikers had to call an ambulance again because of the deterioration of their health state. Protestor Vladimir Luschikov has stopped participating in the hunger strike for health reasons, and he is replaced by new hunger-striker Sergey Ostapov.

Krasnodar elects new City Mayor; new Governor takes office

On September 22, Veniamin Kondratiev, who won the election held on September 13, officially took office as the Governor of the Krasnodar Territory. After the inauguration, Veniamin Kondratiev has announced his intention to form a new structure of the regional administration within a month.

On September 24, in Krasnodar, deputies of the City Duma of the sixth convocation, who were also elected on September 13, gathered for the first session. They have unanimously elected their Speaker Vera Galushko, who held the post, and approved Vladimir Evlanov, who won the appropriate contest, at the post of the City Mayor.

Rostov Region starts trial in case against Nadezhda Savchenko

On September 22, the Donetsk City Court of the Rostov Region began the consideration on the merits in the case against Ukrainian aviator Nadezhda Savchenko, accused of the murder of Russian journalists. The trial was held under enhanced security measures. No journalists were allowed entering the courtroom. The defence of Nadezhda Savchenko asked the Court to return the case to the Prosecutor's Office; however, the motion was dismissed. Nadezhda Savchenko was recognized by the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" as a political prisoner. At the trial, the defendant herself did not admit the accusations against her and announced her willingness to be questioned on lie detector. The next court hearing is scheduled for September 29.

Georgian opposition starts collecting signatures to change electoral system

On September 21, in Georgia, the opposition started collecting signatures in support of its demand to abolish the majoritarian election system in the country. According to the oppositionists' demand, already in 2016, 75 MPs are to be elected by proportional system and 75 MPs by regional-proportional system. The opposition does not agree with the intention of the ruling coalition "Georgian Dream" to hold the next parliamentary elections under the current electoral system and start the reform thereafter. 200,000 signatures are needed to submit to the Parliament the initiative to change the electoral system. According to the political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", the Georgian opposition is able to collect the necessary number of signatures. However, according to the political analysts, the actual change in the law requires the political will of the current authorities; however, the MPs of the majority, who are members of the "Georgian Dream", do not intend to support the initiative, since they fear to lose their privileges.

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