25 January 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 18-24

Growing incidence of SARS and influenza in the southern regions of Russia; mass Orthodox bathing on the occasion of Epiphany in the south of Russia; rally in Grozny in support of Ramzan Kadyrov after his critic statements concerning non-systemic opposition; sentence against BORN members being upheld by the Supreme Court of Russia; collision of an armoured car with Gazel passenger minivan in Dagestan; start of the consideration of the Levon Airapetyan's case by Moscow court, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 18-24, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Southern regions of Russia register growing incidence of SARS and influenza

Last week, the regions of southern Russia faced the deterioration of the situation with SARS and influenza.

In Adygea, starting from January 22, all clinics were transferred to the daily work schedule. On January 21, the authorities of Adygea decided to announce quarantine in schools and kindergartens. As of January 20, the region registered six cases of death caused by complications of viral infections. Of them, one person died of swine flu. As of January 22, in several districts of the Rostov Region, schools and kindergartens were also completely or partially closed because of influenza and SARS. As of January 20, in the Rostov Region, the number of people who fell victim to swine flu reached 185 people. Of them, six people died. In the Volgograd Region, schools were also closed for quarantine. In the region, the death toll of pneumonia, which followed swine flu, reached 11 persons. In Karachay-Cherkessia, all kindergartens, schools and colleges have announced quarantine till January 31 to prevent the epidemic of SARS and influenza. On January 19, in North Ossetia, all educational institutions, including colleges and higher educational institutions, were closed for quarantine. As of January 21, no confirmed cases of influenza were reported in Kabardino-Balkaria. In connection with the threat of growing incidence of SARS and influenza, the authorities of Kabardino-Balkaria have introduced additional preventive measures, including, in particular, restriction of visits to hospitals. Dagestan faces similar situation: during the first 17 days of 2016, 82 people were diagnosed with the A Group influenza (H1N1) (the so called "swine flu"); of them, five persons died.

In south of Russia, Orthodox believers celebrate Epiphany by mass bathing

On January 19, in the southern regions of Russia, like in the whole country, mass Epiphany bathing took place. Field kitchens and heating points were arranged for believers on the waterfront. Law enforcers, rescue teams of the Russian Ministry for Emergencies (MfE), and doctors were engaged in the observation of the believers' security. On January 19, in the city of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, about 300 people, including children of school age, came to swim in the sea to the beach "Birch", arranged by the authorities. In Kabardino-Balkaria, the mass bathing took place in the indoor pools of three churches. In North Ossetia, Epiphany bathing took place in nine locations, including the Terek River: a platform and two font basins for men and for women, each with depth of 2 meters were arranged in the floodplain area. In the Stavropol Territory, there are 44 places of traditional bathing of believers during the Epiphany celebrations, and this time, believers formed a line to the font basins. In the Volgograd Region, 72 places for bathing were arranged, including seven places on Central embankment in Volgograd. In the Krasnodar Territory, 107 font basins were arranged for Epiphany bathing, including seven in Krasnodar. In the Rostov Region, more than 100 places for mass bathing of believers were arranged, including 12 in the capital of the region. In Adygea, four places for mass bathing were arranged.

Grozny hosts rally in support of Ramzan Kadyrov after his critic statements concerning non-systemic opposition

On January 22, Grozny hosted a rally "Our Strength is in Unity" in support of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has reported that the rally was attended by at least 800,000 people. According to the resolution adopted by the rally in Grozny, members of the non-systemic opposition, sharply criticized by Ramzan Kadyrov, are national traitors, and their activities should be checked for elements of high treason. Residents of Chechnya claimed that the Chechen authorities obliged public employees and school children to attend the rally. According to the people, who attended the rally, the official number of the rally participants was overstated. The witnesses claimed that the police did not allow the participants of the pro-government rally in Grozny to leave the place. Ramzan Kadyrov himself has denied that the authorities obliged people to attend the rally, which, according to the official information, was attended by 57% of the population of Chechnya.

The rally was announced after human rights defenders, opposition activists and intellectuals had criticized the statements made by the Chechen leader, who claimed that the non-systemic opposition should be treated "as enemies of the people and as traitors," who were trying to deteriorate the situation in the country. On January 18, Maxim Reznik, an MP from Saint Petersburg, filed an appeal to the General Prosecutor's Office with a request to verify the Ramzan Kadyrov's statements for extremism. The Human Rights Council under the Russian President (HRC) has also proposed to organize a linguistic examination of the statements made by Ramzan Kadyrov, whose term as the leader of the Chechen Republic will expire on March 5, 2016. The report prepared by the HRC concerning the statements made by the Chechen leader will be presented directly to President Vladimir Putin. The Congress of intellectuals "Against war, against self-isolation of Russia, against restoration of totalitarianism" has organized the collection of signatures under the demand for the immediate resignation of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for his statements concerning the non-systemic opposition.

SC upholds sentences in BORN's case

On January 21, the Russian Supreme Court (SC) dismissed the appeals filed against the verdict against Maxim Baklagin, Vyacheslav Isaev, and Mikhail Volkov, who were accused of involvement in a series of resonant crimes committed in 2008-2010 in Moscow and who were sentenced in the criminal case against the "Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists" (known in Russia as BORN).

Advocates of Maxim Baklagin and Vyacheslav Isaev, sentenced to life imprisonment, have asked the court to mitigate the verdict and sentence their clients to specific terms of imprisonment. The advocates believe the mitigation of the verdict is possible, since their clients have contributed to the solution of the crime. Mikhail Volkov, sentenced by the court to 24 years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony, asked the court to cancel the verdict and direct the criminal case for retrial.

In Dagestan, three persons killed in collision of armoured car with Gazel passenger minivan

On January 23, a Tiger armoured car and a Gazel passenger minivan collided in the highway Makhachkala-Khasavyurt. According to sources in the emergency services, as a result of the road traffic accident, three persons were killed and 20 others were injured. The victims were brought to hospitals of Kizilyurt and Khasavyurt. Their number includes eight soldiers, the Dagestani Ministry of Public Health reports. As of the morning of January 24, 14 people injured in the road traffic accident, stayed in the medical institutions of Dagestan. Doctors estimate the condition of three victims as severe.

According to the police, the armoured car drove into the oncoming lane after another car hindered it. The Tiger armoured car involved in the road traffic accident is owned by the Department for Dagestan of the Federal Penitentiary Service (known as FSIN), and the car was driven to Khasavyurt for a special mission, a source from the law enforcement bodies reports.

In Moscow, Court starts trial in Levon Airapetyan's case

On January 18, the Zamoskvorechye Court of Moscow started court hearings in the criminal case against Levon Airapetyan, a businessman of Armenian origin, accused of embezzling 700,000 US dollars from the mother of Igor Izmestiev, the former senator from Bashkortostan. Investigators initially claimed that the businessman was involved in the sale of shares of the "Bashneft", and as a result, according to the position of the investigating authorities, the "Bashneft" was illegally taken out of the control of the state. During the court hearings on the merits of the criminal case, Levon Airapetyan pleaded not guilty to the embezzlement, and the businessman's advocate stated at the trial that the case was of "highly ordered nature."

Levon Airapetyan is among the ten richest members of the Armenian Diaspora in the world and is a major investor in Nagorno-Karabakh. He was detained on July 15, 2014. The Levon Airapetyan's arrest caused a great resonance in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Since October 2014, the businessman has been under house arrest. The start of the trial in his case was scheduled for December 2, 2015; however, the trial was postponed because of the hospitalization of the defendant. The court hearings scheduled for December 9 and 15, 2015, were postponed for the same reason. On December 24, 2015, the court hearing was again postponed because of the illness of the defendant's advocate. On January 12, the court postponed the trial in the case to January 18 and thus provided the new advocate with the time to get acquainted with the criminal case.

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