21 December 2015, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 14-20

Explosion in high-rise building in Volgograd that deprived hundred people of housing; start of trial on massacre of Avetisyan family in Armenia; meeting of presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 14-20, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Explosion in high-rise block of flats in Volgograd leaving hundred people homeless

On December 20, an explosion occurred in high-rise residential building in Volgograd; as a result, a flight from the second to the ninth levels collapsed. All the residents of the house were evacuated. Investigators believe that it was an explosion of the household a gas. As a result, 36 apartments were destroyed leaving homeless about 100 residents. The search-and-rescue operations found the body of one deceased tenant, said a source from the operative headquarters on Monday.

Trial on case of massacre of Avetisyan family begins in Armenia

On December 18, Armenia began the trial of the mass murder in Gyumri. The defendant is the Russian serviceman Valery Permyakov, who confessed of killing seven members of Avetisyan family at night on January 12. The travelling court session of the Shirak Regional Court that was held in the territory of the 102nd Russian military base was attended by Avetisyans' relatives, who expressed disbelief in the fact that the massacre of Avetisyans was committed by one person. At the request of Permyakov's public defender, who asked for some time to study the case, the court extended the trial by one month. Relatives of the casualties said that they would boycott the trial and refuse to take part in it, if the next session would be scheduled in the same location.

Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan discuss situation in Karabakh conflict area

The meeting of presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place on December 19 in Bern, Switzerland, with the participation of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and Andrzej Kasprzyk, the special representative of the OSCE chairman. Presidents Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliev expressed their support to mechanisms for investigating incidents on the border and the measures to settle the conflict, which are being developed by the OSCE. The meeting took place against the background of reports of violations of the ceasefire in the conflict zone and statements of the parties about losses. On the day of the meeting, Nagorno-Karabakh declared that within the past week Azerbaijan lost 13 soldiers, and more than 30 soldiers were wounded. The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defence (MoD) denied these losses and confirmed only the death of a Private Rashad Djafaradze and a serviceman Ibragim Avaz oglu Nurmammedzade.

Relatives of defendants in rape case in Dagestan stop hunger strike

Relatives of nine residents of Khasavyurt, accused of raping a minor, who started a hunger strike on December 9 in Makhachkala, stopped their protest on December 18. They did it because of deterioration of their health; one of the hunger-strikers was hospitalized. The protesters believe that the case against their relatives was fabricated. The defence claims their clients' innocence, stating that they have alibis.

Russia's SC starts considering appeals of convicts for attack on Nalchik

On December 15, the Russia's Supreme Court (SC) began studying the appeals on the case of the attack on Nalchik in 2005, which were submitted by 48 out of 52 convicts. They declared the bias of the state prosecution and demanded to remove the state prosecutors; however, the court refused to satisfy the petition. The court also rejected a request for a medical examination of two convicts – Zaur Tokhov and Zaur Sokmyshev, having considered that this issue was beyond the competence of the court. Along with that, the panel of judges decided "to notify the administration of the SIZO (pre-trial prison) about the problem." The court rejected a number of other convicts' petitions, including the one that asked to allow long meetings with relatives. On December 18, the SC finished announcing the complaints that contain requests to commute sentences up to complete acquittal. The prosecution treated these arguments as unjustified, and the sentence – handed down in strict accordance with the law.

EC states fulfilment by Georgia of requirements for abolition of visas

The European Commission (EC) has recommended to make – starting 2016 – changes to visa regulations of the European Union (EU) in relation to Georgia. The final version of the EC's report released on December 18 noted that Georgia had fulfilled all the conditions in regard to the four sections of the second phase of the action plan for visa liberalization. In order to amend the resolution with a list of countries whose citizens need visas for short-term visits to the EU, this decision should be approved by consensus of all 28 EU member-states.

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