28 December 2015, 09:00

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

Resignation of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili; release of Krasnodar ecologist Evgeny Vitishko from colony; election of new City Manager of Vladikavkaz; removal of debris after apartment block explosion in Volgograd; special operations in three republics of Northern Caucasus; update of list of political prisoners in Azerbaijan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 21-27, 2015, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Georgian Premier Irakli Garibashvili resigns

On December 23, the head of the government of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili announced his retirement. On December 24, it became known that the parliamentary majority had decided to nominate the Georgian Foreign Minister and Vice-Premier Giorgi Kvirikashvili to the post of the Premier. On December 25, President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili presented Kvirikashvili's candidacy to Parliament for approval as Prime Minister. On December 28 and 29, Kutaisi will host sittings of parliamentary committees and factions; and the repeated session of the Parliament is scheduled for December 29 to approve the new staff of the government. Giorgi Kvirikashvili said, after his presentation to the MPs, that the government will remain the same, except for the Minister for Foreign Affairs – his own previous post.

As for the Garibashvili himself, who was the Georgian Prime Minister since November 2013, he has not announced any specific cause of his resignation, but assessed his work as successful. A number of Georgian MPs, the political scientist Giya Nodiya, and Mamuka Katsitadze, the leader of the "New Right-Wingers" Party, believe that the resignation of Garibashvili has to do with preparations for the 2016 parliamentary elections. The politicians, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", believe that the changes in the Georgian government will not lead to any changes in the political course of the country.

Krasnodar ecologist Evgeny Vitishko is at large

On December 22, Evgeny Vitishko, a member of the "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus" (EcoWatch), was released from his colony in the Tambov Region, where the activist was serving his sentence after in December 2013 the court changed his conditional imprisonment for damaging the fence around the territory, known as Alexander Tkachov's "summer cottage", by a real custody in a colony-settlement. On this day (December 22), the Tambov Regional Court upheld the ruling of the Kirsanov District Court to replace Evgeny Vitishko's remaining term for restriction of freedom. According to the ruling, the ecologist will serve the rest of his sentence in the Tuapse District of the Krasnodar Territory. The released Vitishko was welcomed by activists of the "EcoWatch"; he declared that he would seek his full rehabilitation and complete his report on the impact of the 2014 Winter Olympics on the environment of the city of Sochi.

Boris Albegov elected new City Manager of Vladikavkaz

On December 24, Boris Albegov, the acting head of the administration of Vladikavkaz, was unanimously elected by Deputies of the City Duma of the capital of North Ossetia to the post of City Manager. Albegov reached the final of the contest for the post by gaining 9.7 points. His main rival Nalyk Khetagurov gained 7.85 points. The contest for the post of City Manager of Vladikavkaz was announced after on October 27 the then City Manager Sergey Dzantiev announced his decision to resign. Officially, Dzantiev's duties were terminated on November 26. After his election, Albegov said that he would give special attention to the spheres of education, transport and housing and communal utilities.

Four bodies found under rubble after apartment block blast in Volgograd

Last week, rescuers were removing the debris of the nine-storey apartment building in Volgograd, which partially collapsed on December 20 after an explosion. After the accident, 12 people were hospitalized, while bodies of four people were found while clearing the rubble. On December 25, the house was found an emergency one and subject to demolition. On December 26, the search and rescue operations at the venue were suspended until 28 December. This was due to the fact that an expert group arrived in Volgograd, which will hold a detailed examination of the house; and then, as stated by Andrei Bocharov, the Governor of the Volgograd Region, the search for the fifth body of the suspected casualty would continue under the rubble.

The victims of the explosion are receiving financial help to compensate their lost property; and the authorities have promised to solve their housing problems. However, the victims say that they find new apartments offered to them inappropriate, and express doubts that they will be able to find due equivalents to their ruined housing at the price offered by the city officials – 31,000 roubles per square meter. Also, tenants of the destroyed apartment block state problems with accommodation in hotels.

Special operations conducted in three republics of Northern Caucasus: suspected militants were killed and detained

In the morning on December 24, near the village of Lechinkay in Kabardino-Balkaria, power agents killed three persons, who were in a VAZ-21099 car and who opened fire after a demand to stop for a document check. According to the Russian National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC), one of those killed, Nazir Tokhov, had undergone training in Syria and arrived in the republic to commit terror acts in Northern Caucasus. Along with Tokhov, Aslan Zagashtokov and Inal Thazaplizhev were also killed. According to power agents, ammunition was found in the car.

Also on December 24, the counterterrorist operation (CTO) regime was introduced in a number of dwelling settlements of the Adyge-Khabl and Prikubansky Districts of Karachay-Cherkessia, and in the northern part of Cherkessk, the capital of the republic. As a result of the CTO, three suspected militants were killed. Also, local power agents reported a liquidation of a laboratory for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and arrest of six local residents, who had been preparing terror acts.

On the same day, December 24, power agents reported that during their operative activities, conducted in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, the driver of a Gazel van was shot dead, after he opened fire instead of showing his documents. He was identified as Djambulat Aliev; and power agents believe that he was militants' helper and recruiter. Also on December 24, in the Shamil District of Dagestan, during a shootout with law enforcers, a man was killed, who was later identified as Gadji Kelbeliev, wanted on charges of belonging to the militants. Another armed incident occurred on December 23 in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt: here policemen shot and killed the driver of a car, who, according to law enforcers, had opened fire on them. A law enforcement source named the casualty as a member of the "Khasavyurt" militant grouping. The Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) said that the casualty was identified as Magomed Zakariev, 23, a native of the Tsumadin District. On December 27, the CTO regime was introduced within the administrative borders of the Gunib District; and another local resident was killed there; power agents believe that he was involved in activities of illegal armed formations (IAFs).

Azerbaijan updates list of political prisoners

On December 23, the working group on compiling a united list of political prisoners in Azerbaijanissued the updated list of citizens recognized as country's political prisoners, containing 93 names. On December 24, a group of Azerbaijani rights defenders presented to the joint working group on human rights, which cooperates with the country's authorities, a list of 22 political prisoners, suggested for the New Year's amnesty. The list includes rights defenders Intigam Aliev, Rasul Jafarov and Anar Mamedli; journalists Khadija Ismayilova, Parviz Gashimli and Tofig Yagublu; and oppositionists Ilgar Mamedov and Yadigyar Sadygov.

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