02 May 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 25-May 1

Celebration of the Orthodox Easter and May Day in Southern Russia; attacks on dwelling settlements in the Karabakh conflict zone; dispersal of a peaceful protest in Sochi; report about closure of hazardous facility at "Electrozink" Factory in Vladikavkaz; explosion of a bus in Yerevan; deprivation of Sagid Murtazaliev of a mandate of Dagestani MP, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of April 25-May 1, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Regions of Southern Russia celebrate Orthodox Easter and May Day

On May 1 this year, residents of Southern Russia celebrated two holidays – the Orthodox Easter and the First of May – the holiday of spring and labour.

Holiday sermons were served in all Orthodox churches of the region; in the cities of the North Caucasus security measures were strengthened. This year, the Stavropol Territory was the first among regions of Russia to receive the Holy Fire from the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. In Chechnya, in preparation for the Orthodox Easter, mass subbotniks were organized at Christian cemeteries. They were held by employees of budgetary organizations, as well as former residents of the republic, who came especially for this purpose to Grozny for the weekend. On the eve of Easter, about 40 former Orthodox residents of the republic came to Grozny from the Stavropol Territory. They visited the cemeteries, where their relatives are buried, and the festive service in the Archangel Michael Church.

On May 1, in connection with the celebration of the Easter, the authorities of Adygea made a decision to cancel the traditional May Day demonstration. However, in many other regions, such demonstrations took place. In particular, in Volgograd, trade unions held a rally under the slogan "No to growth of taxes and prices, yes to growth of salaries and pensions!" In Rostov-on-Don, marches were also held by activists of the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). Meetings, dedicated to the holiday, also were held in the regions of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD).

Baku and Stepanakert state shelling of populated areas and civilian casualties

In the Karabakh conflict zone, where armistice was announced on April 5, after a four-day escalation of the situation, last week the parties continued exchanging accusations of violating the ceasefire. Also, reports began arriving about facts of shelling of dwelling settlements.

On April 26 and 27, Azerbaijan stated that as a result of nightly shelling from the Armenian party, residential houses were damaged in the city of Terter and villages of the Terter District. On April 28, Azerbaijan accused Armenia of delivering fire at schools, as well as killing two and wounding eight residents at shelling of the villages of Chemenli and Afetli of the Agdam District. The Armenian party also accused Azerbaijan of shelling Armenian settlements in the conflict zone. In particular, it reported the night shelling of the city of Martakert, as a result of which a number of houses and power lines were damaged. On April 28, Nagorno-Karabakh accused Azerbaijan of shelling the village of Madagis. Residents the village of Nerkin Oratakh, Martakert District of Nagorno-Karabakh, also reported about night bombardments. Both Baku and Stepanakert have informed international organizations – the UN, the OSCE and the International Committee of Red Cross – about what is happening in the conflict zone.

As a result of shelling, there were also casualties among servicemen.

Policemen disperse peaceful protest in Sochi

On April 29, residents of the Lazarevskoe District of Sochi staged a picket with a demand to reopen the closed walkway, which had allowed pensioners and disabled persons to easily access socially relevant facilities. The police dispersed the action, despite the fact that it was peaceful, and the local administration had been warned about it, said Elena Nikitina, a local resident and the organizer of the picket. The authorities treat the walkway as dangerous for pedestrians, and, despite the instruction of the deputy head of the Department of the GIBDD (road police) on temporary restoration of the walkway, it was not done. After the action, Elena Nikitina reported her hospitalization into the intensive care unit with a suspected stroke as a result of policemen's dispersal of the action. During the picket, Alexei Goryachkin, an Assistant of the State Duma MP Sergey Obukhov, was detained. The court sentenced him to seven days in jail, having found him guilty of disobeying the police during the picket. Making its judgement, the court relied on policemen's testimonies. Goryachkin refused to plead guilty and linked the judgement with his political activities, adding that he would appeal against it.

"Electrozink" announces closure of harmful production facility in Vladikavkaz

The authorities of North Ossetia agreed with the owners of the Open Joint-Stock Company (OJSC) "Electrozink" in Vladikavkaz, against the operation of which local residents are regularly protests, about the closure of the environmentally hazardous production facility. This was reported by Vyacheslav Bitarov, the acting head of the republic, on April 25 at the sitting of the regional government. It is planned to stop the production of lead this summer; and more than 200 workers will be dismissed, explained the spokesman of the owners of the company. Sergey Melikov, the plenipotentiary envoy of the Russian President in the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), who was present at the above sitting, said that the environmental problems related to the "Electrozink", cause protests of local residents. Both Messrs Melikov and Bitarov pointed out that, apart from "Electrozink", the ecological situation in Vladikavkaz is worsened by other industrial enterprises.

Explosion in Yerevan bus killed two and wounded eight persons

In Yerevan, in the evening on April 25, an explosion occurred in a bus. Two persons were killed by the blast, and other eight were wounded. One of the casualties was identified at once, while the other's body was severely damaged; therefore, investigators appointed a DNA examination. It showed that the second casualty was an earlier convicted 55-year-old Ruden Balyan, the Investigating Committee of Armenia reported on April 27. Initially, policemen believed that an explosion device was triggered in the bus, but special services ruled out the version of a terror act. They believe that Balyan had intended to commit an attempted murder of his relatives; and the explosion in the bus occurred accidentally. In the Balyan's house, investigators found explosives.

Dagestani Parliament strips MP's mandate off Sagid Murtazaliev

On April 26, the People's Assembly (Parliament) of Dagestan deprived Sagid Murtazaliev of his Deputy's mandate. The official version was his failure to timely submit his income statement. Sagid Murtazaliev, who was arrested by court decision in absentia, is accused of funding terrorism, organizing an attempted murder of the deputy head of the Kizlyar administration, as well as organizing an attempt on the life of Deputy Head of the Centre for Combating Extremism at the Dagestani Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). On November 12, 2015, Murtazaliev's powers as the head of the Department for Dagestan of the Pension Fund of Russia were stopped; officially his whereabouts are unknown.

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