18 January 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 11-17

Protests against price rise in three cities of Azerbaijan; special operation in Nalchik; protest actions of Kuban pensioners against abolition of privileges for public transports, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 11-17, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Protests against price growth in Azerbaijan

During the last week, three cities of Azerbaijan hosted protests. On January 12, residents of the city of Liman protested against rising prices; Iman Aliev and Nazim Gasanli, activists of the oppositional "Musavat" Party and the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), were detained there. On January 13, in the city of Siyazani in the north of the country, clashes broke out of policemen with protesters; 55 persons were detained. On January 15, people dissatisfied with rising prices on foodstuffs and consumer goods after the second devaluation of the manat, and with unemployment, gathered in the centre of the city of Guba. The action was also dispersed by policemen.

The opposition in Azerbaijan called on the authorities to stop dispersing protest actions, dismantle production monopolies and carry out personnel reshuffling in the executive branch of power, otherwise, protests would become uncontrollable. Against this background, on January 15, the authorities decided to exempt from the value added tax the import and sale of wheat, and the production and sale of flour and bread. Also, the Republic's Ministry of Economy set the maximum permitted prices on flour and bread.

Four victims of special operation in Nalchik

On January 15, Nalchik was put under the counterterrorist operation (CTO) regime. In a private house in Tsiolkovsky Street, power agents blocked the suspected militants. Mother of one of them tried to persuade her son to surrender but failed; as a result, the house was destroyed. The CTO regime was lifted on January 17 at 10:35 a.m. Moscow time. According to law enforcement sources, during the shootout three militants were killed and critically wounded a law enforcer was severely wounded. The Russian National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) stated that the body of a killed militant was removed from under the rubble of the ruined house.

According to calculations of the "Caucasian Knot", the CTO in Nalchik became the twelfth case of CTO regime introduction in the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria since the beginning of 2014, and the ninth one since the start of 2015. However, in the opinion of experts, the increased number of CTOs does not indicate any trend towards deterioration of the situation in the region. They believe that Kabardino-Balkaria is seeing "a trend towards liquidation of supporters of the 'Islamic State' (IS), recognized as a terrorist organization in Russia."

Protest actions of pensioners of Krasnodar Territory against abolition of privileges for public transport

On January 15 and 16, pensioners of the Krasnodar Territory held mass protests demanding to return their earlier privileges of using public transport. They expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that since January 1, the changes in the territorial legislation have taken effect. According to these amendments, the people, whose pension exceeds the amount of the minimum subsistence level – 7722 roubles per month are deprived of the benefits on using the public transport. After the rally on December 28, 2015, held in Sochi, the benefits were extended, but only until January 15, 2016.

On January 15, more than 100 pensioners blocked Gorky Street near the Sochi Mayoralty, demanding to return the transport privileges and talk to the Mayor. The police pushed the protesters to the sidewalks, after which the Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov came out to them and said that the Sochi budget has no funds for transport benefits.

On the same day, about 200 residents of Krasnodar took part in a rally demanding the return the transport benefits. On January 16, Governor of the Territory Veniamin Kondratiev said that the benefits would be returned since February 1.

Statement of one of figurants in Nemtsov's murder case about crime performer

On January 14, the investigators dealing with the murder of Boris Nemtsov indicted in the final version Anzor Gubashev, the arrested native of the Itum-Kale District of Chechnya. According to his advocate, Gubashev on the same day gave his testimonies, stating that the actual perpetrator of the murder was Beslan Shavanov, who self-exploded during detention in Grozny in March 2015. Earlier, it was reported that in November 2015 the case against Shavanov was terminated in connection with his death; and Gubashev had earlier testified that Nemtsov was shot by his second cousin Zaur Dadaev. Gubashev refused to plead guilty.

Action of Gyumri residents on anniversary of massacre of Avetisyan family

Last week, the Armenian city of Gyumri hosted two actions. On January 12, relatives of the Avetisyan family, the members of which were shot dead at night on January 12, 2015, held commemorative actions on the first anniversary of the crime. People gathered in the Avetisyans' house; and from there they went to the cemetery, where all seven members of the family are buried. The participants expressed the need to hold the hearings of the case in the building of the Armenian court. They believe that whether the public will know the truth depends on the venue of the trial. On January 16, Avetisyans' relatives also demanded to transfer the trial from the territory of the 102nd Russian military base to the Shirak court of general jurisdiction.

Start of trial on bribery case against Astrakhan minister

On January 12, the Privolzhskiy Court of the Astrakhan Region began considering the criminal case on an especially large bribery opened against Ekaterina Lukyanenko, the ex-minister social development of the region. She was detained on June 6, 2015, on suspicion of receiving a bribe of 260,000 roubles. Investigators suggest that since March 2014 to June 6, 2015, the defendant received bribes from the heads of the institutions subordinate to the above Ministry in the total amount of over 2 million roubles. Lukyanenko refused to plead guilty. According to the defence, the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the former minister.

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