02 November 2015, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 26 to November 1

Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan; elections of Mayors of Makhachkala and Derbent; funeral in the Krasnodar Territory of contract soldier who perished in Syria; trial in Grozny of Ukrainian citizens accused of involvement in warfare in Chechnya; counterterrorist operation in Nazran; announcement for search and arrest in absentia of State Duma MP Vladimir Bessonov, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 26-November 1, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan

Elections of Deputies of the National Assembly of Azerbaijan took place on November 1. More than 5500 polling stations were opened for voting. In total, 1246 candidates for MP seats were registered; 479 of them withdrew from the race; thus, in total, 767 candidates were put into the ballots. 286 of them were nominated by 15 political parties and one bloc of parties named "Freedom-2015"; 481 others were self-nominees or nominees of voters' initiative groups. Members of the ruling party "Yeni Azerbaijan" have already announced that its candidates have confidently won the elections.

According to the authorities, the elections passed in a democratic atmosphere; the voter turnout was 55%. Members of the Russian delegation, who monitored the elections, said that the elections were held in accordance with the legislation. However, as stated by activists of the non-governmental organization (NGO) "Institute for Democratic Initiatives" (IDI), the voter turnout nationwide was 25.52%; and by 5:30 p.m. local time, at least 45 violations had been fixed. According to the NGO, at four stations the so-called "election carousels" were fixed. Panakh Gusein, a candidate from the "Freedom-2015" bloc, and Azer Gasymly, a member of the movement ReAl, have stated facts of ballot throw-in and illegal actions of members of election commissions. Gyulaga Aslanly, the head of the electoral office of the "Musavat" Party, stated that observers were removed from polling stations; they also documented cases of massive ballot throw-in, as well as "election carousels".

According to the IDI, campaigning for Azerbaijani parliamentary elections was accompanied by pressure on opposition candidates, use of administrative resources, and violations of the principle of candidates' equality. On the eve of the voting, local political analysts stated that the oppositional candidates for the National Assembly were unable to compete with those, who were supported by the authorities of Azerbaijan. This was caused by restriction of democratic freedoms in the country, experts noted.

Mayors of Makhachkala and Derbent elected by City Assemblies

Last week, Mayors of Makhachkala and Derbent were elected in Dagestan.

On October 29, the City Assembly of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, unanimously elected Musa Musaev to the post of the Mayor; he was the Acting Mayor since this June. He was the first who received the post of Mayor after the start of prosecution against Said Amirov, who had held the post for over 10 years. Prior to Musaev, three persons were acting mayors. Apart from Musaev, the list of candidates included Galina Arnautova, an ex-MP of the Peoples' Assembly of Dagestan and Associate Professor of the DagestaniStateAgriculturalUniversity, and Magomedgadji Abdullaev, the Head of Department of Land Resources of the Administration of Makhachkala. The contest among candidates was held in two stages. Local residents pointed out that the contest was not open.

On October 30, the City Assembly of Derbent, which in September this year celebrated the 2000th anniversary of the city, unanimously voted for the appointment of Malik Bagliev to be the Mayor of the city; earlier he worked as the Minister of Labour and Social Development of Dagestan. Here, the specificity was that the contest for the vacant post was held twice. The first contest held in September failed, as six out of seven candidates had self-withdrawn from the race.

Contract soldier who perished in Syria buried in Krasnodar Territory

On October 27, information appeared in Russian media about the death in Syria of Vadim Kostenko, a 19-year-old native of the KrasnodarTerritory. On the same day, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed the death of the contract soldier, who has served as a technical specialist at the air base named "Hmeymim". The date of his death was not specified. According to the first results of the check, conducted by the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office of Russia, the soldier had committed suicide. Kostenko's parents stated that they did not believe the official version of their son's death and demanded to hold forensic re-examination. On November 29, Vadim Kostenko was buried in his native hamlet of Grechanaya Balka of the Krasnodar Territory. He was buried with military honours. Many fellow villagers also said that they doubted the version of his suicide and told about many injuries they saw in the face of the young man. The MoD hurried to confirm the fact of Kostenko's suicide, said Valentina Melnikova, the executive secretary of the Russian Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers. Human rights defenders called on the Russian authorities to investigate the death of the contractor.

Court in Grozny began considering case of Ukrainian citizens accused of involvement in warfare in Chechnya

On October 27, the Supreme Court (SC) of the ChechenRepublicbegan considering on the merits the case of Ukrainian citizens Nikolai Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh, accused of involvement in warfare in Chechnya. The case is considered with participation of the jury. According to investigators, Karpyuk and Klykh were members of the organization UNA-UNSO, which was created in early 1990s and recognized as an extremist organization in Russia. The defendants are accused of leading and participating in a gang, killings and attempted murders of two or more persons during the first Chechen War. Investigators assert that Karpyuk was the organizer of an armed grouping, which attacked Russian soldiers, and Klykh was a member thereof. Karpyuk has denied his involvement in the conflict in Chechnya and said that he was tortured during the investigation. On October 26, the defendants' advocates stated that no evidence of Karpyuk's and Klykh's involvement in the warfare in Chechnya was presented at the trial. Rights defenders state that the investigators are trying to image Karpyuk and Klykh most negatively, in order to cause an emotional impact on the judge and jurors.

Suspect of involvement in Sernovodsk terror act killed in Nazran

On October 31, in the course of the counterterrorist operation (CTO), conducted in the territory of the universal indoor marketplace in Nazran, two persons were killed. Policemen tried to detain them on suspicion of being militants. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), they rendered armed resistance. During the CTO, Leila Chemurzieva, who, according to power agents, had links with militants, was wounded. A ready-to-use improvised explosive device (IED) was found in the casualties' car, said law enforcers. The casualties were identified as Ilyas Vedzizhev, the leader of the "Nazran" grouping, and Beslan Makhauri, the leader of the militants, who acted in the territory of Ingushetia; earlier, he was a confidant of Doku Umarov, the head of "Imarat Kavkaz". Makhauri, a native of the village of Assinovskaya of the Sunzha District of Chechnya, had been on the federal wanted list; law enforcers believe that he had been involved in numerous attacks on power agents, including the terror act at the ROVD (District Interior Division) building in Sernovodsk on September 16, 2013, where three policemen were killed. According to the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAC) of Russia, Makhauri and Vedzizhev swore to the "Islamic State" in June this year.

Rostov-on-Don court announces search of Vladimir Bessonov, State Duma MP

On October 28, the court in Rostov-on-Don decided to search and arrest Vladimir Bessonov, an MP of the Russian State Duma, who is accused, along with other participants of the rally in Rostov-on-Don on December 2, 2011, of assaulting a policeman. The court made this decision under the motive that the communist parliamentarian fails to attend the court sessions on his case. On the same day, Bessonov himself told reporters that he had no information about court sessions; he also noted that he was a member of the parliamentary delegation in Ljubljana, where he took part in the international conference "Anti-Fascist Front of the World". The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) has threatened to launch an international scandal because of the court's decision to arrest Bessonov for his failures to appear. The State Duma also said that the issue of the arrest of the MP, if such appeal arrives from the General Prosecutor's Office, may be considered by his colleagues in the Parliament not earlier than November 9, when the nearest sitting of the Duma Council will take place.

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