12 October 2015, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 5-11

Russian stage of the Formula One race in Sochi; adoption of the draft of the constitutional reform by the Armenian Parliament; demand for resignation of the Georgian government and the Tbilisi Mayor voiced by the "United National Movement" (UNM) Party in Georgia; court's decision on the reconsideration of the claim for commutation of the sentence of Krasnodar ecologist Vitishko; special operations in Grozny and the Dagestani village of Gimry, which killed seven persons, see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 5-11, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Sochi hosts Russian stage of Formula One race

On October 8-11, the Sochi Autodrom hosted the second Russian stage in the history of the Formula One races. All tickets for the Russian stage of the Formula One in Sochi have been sold prior to the start of the race. According to the organizers of the Russian stage, the income from ticket sales has covered the operating costs of the event. The Russian Grand Prix went to British athlete Lewis Davidson, a member of the Mercedes team, and Russian driver Daniil Kvyat took the sixth place. In total, out of 20 racing drivers representing 10 teams, who took part in the Formula One race in Sochi, 14 drivers reached the finish on October 11. Three drivers were involved in accidents (without consequences), and three other drivers quitted the race because of mechanical problems.

On October 10, during a training run, Spanish driver Carlos Sainz from the team "Toro Rosso" lost control of his car and hit a bumpstop. On the same day, two accidents occurred during another race: British driver Jordan King went off-road and hit a bumpstop, and the second accident involved Russian driver Artyom Markelov, whose car lost a wheel when hitting a wall, and Spanish driver Sergio Kanamasas, whose car crashed into the Artyom Markelov's car. Besides, after the accident involving Carlos Sainz, an agent of the owner of the team "Toro Rosso" criticized the safety system on the Sochi Autodrom track, and the Advisor to the President of the Russian Automobile Federation noted that diesel fuel had been spilled on the track prior to the accident and that fact could affect the safety of the races.

Armenian Parliament approves draft of constitutional reform on transition to parliamentary system of government

On October 5, the Armenian Parliament supported the draft of the constitutional reform stipulating transition to a parliamentary system of government. The adoption of the constitutional reform draft was supported by MPs from the ruling "Republican Party of Armenia" (RPA), the "Prosperous Armenia" Party, and the "ARF" Party, and MPs from the factions of the ANC and the "Heritage" Party voted against the draft. According to the draft, during the transition to the parliamentary system of government, the President will be elected by the Armenian Parliament for seven years, and he will not be denied the right to be re-elected. The referendum on the draft amendments to the Armenian Constitution is scheduled for December 6, 2015.

It should be noted that, according to Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, the concept of the reform opens up wide opportunities for the development of democracy. Experts of the Venice Commission have approved the sections of the draft of the constitutional reform submitted to them. However, Arthur Sakunts, the head of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office, has stated that the draft does not comply with the standards of democracy. About 30 political parties and activists of public society were united in the single group "No!", and on September 13, they spoke against the reform. On October 8, a group of Armenian lawyers prepared a negative opinion on the draft of the constitutional reform and revealed in it a threat to administration of government. And on the day of the parliamentary hearings on the issue, more than 70 activists took part in a march against the reform.

In Georgia, UNM demands resignation of Georgian government and Tbilisi Mayor

On October 6, members of the Georgian opposition "United National Movement" (UNM) Party initiated consultations with the opposition political forces on the issues of the government's resignation and the early parliamentary elections in Georgia. Members of the UNM believe that the policy of the Georgian authorities has become the cause of the "political, economic, and institutional crisis in the country". On October 7, members of the UNM held an action demanding the resignation of David Narmaniya, Mayor of Tbilisi, a member of the coalition "Georgian Dream", and the early elections in the Georgian capital. The protestors have justified their demand by the failure of the Mayor's Office to fulfill its functions and the inability to solve the city problems. David Narmaniya himself has stated that the demand for his resignation is not within the competence of the UNM and that it has no solid grounds.

Till present, members of the "Free Democrats", the "Kartuli Dasi", the "Democratic Movement-United Georgia", and the "New Right-Wing" Parties have announced their refusal to consult with the UNM on the government's resignation and the early parliamentary elections. However, the authorities should not underestimate the "United National Movement" Party. This opinion was expressed by Georgian political analysts. According to them, in the nearest future, the opposition parties with low ratings will have to consolidate around the UNM.

Court decides to re-consider commutation of sentence for Krasnodar ecologist Evgeny Vitishko

On October 8, the Tambov Regional Court granted the complaint filed by the defence of Krasnodar ecologist Evgeny Vitishko about the refusal to replace the remaining term of his sentence to be served in the penal colony with the restraint of liberty. The Court has pronounced the decision that the issue of mitigation of sentence for Evgeny Vitishko, an activist of the "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus" (EcoWatch), who is serving his sentence for damaging the fence around the territory well-known as a "summer cottage" of Alexander Tkachov, the former Governor of the Krasnodar Territory, should be re-considered by the court of first instance. Besides, the court has also cancelled the decision of the court of first instance to refuse Evgeny Vitishko in amnesty. According to an advocate of Evgeny Vitishko, a new trial in the Evgeny Vitishko's case should be expected not earlier than in a month. Members of the "EcoWatch", who treated as a "half-measure" the decision pronounced by the Tambov Regional Court, expressed their concern that the issue of release of Evgeny Vitishko from the penal colony could be again delayed. Meanwhile, on October 5, the advocate of Evgeny Vitishko declared that since September 29, his client himself was on an indefinite hunger strike in protest against the court's refusal to mitigate his sentence.

Three suspected militants killed in CTO in Grozny

On October 8, a regime of counterterrorist operation (CTO) was introduced in the Staropromyslovsky District of Grozny. In the course of the special operation, according to the official information, three members of the armed underground were killed and three law enforcers were wounded. On the same day, the CTO regime was cancelled. The killed militants were identified as 26-year-old Zelimkhan Bashanaev, 33-year-old Magomed Mazaev, and Shamil Chergizov. According to the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), Zelimkhan Bashanaev and Shamil Chergizov were on the federal wanted list. On October 8, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced that the killed militants were trained in camps of the "Islamic State" (IS) in Syria and that they were plotting a series of major terror acts. The bodies of the deceased militants will be buried in unmarked graves in accordance with the Law "On terrorism". This was reported by an official from the law enforcement agencies for the region on October 11.

It should be noted that parents of children from the kindergarten, located near the nine-storey building, where the special operation was conducted, stated that law enforcers did not evacuate the children.

Four persons killed in CTO in Dagestani village of Gimry

In the morning of October 10, a regime of the counterterrorist operation (CTO) was introduced in the village Gimry of the Untsukul District of Dagestan. Law enforcers reported on the blocking of armed men in one of the houses. During the combat action, three suspected militants and a fighter of the FSB special forces were killed. According to the law enforcers, the killed suspects - 24-year-old Ruslan Ibragimov, Akhmed Abdurakhmanov, and Shamil Shamilov, both 27 years old, were members of the local grouping of militants and were involved in a number of crimes, including attempts on law enforcers and acts of extortion of large amounts of money from entrepreneurs. It should be noted that this August, in the vicinity of Gimry, in the framework of the CTO regime introduced in the Untsukul District, six suspected militants were killed, including Magomed Suleimanov, the leader of the "Imarat Kavkaz", an organization recognized as terrorist.

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