23 May 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 16-22

Meeting of Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Vienna; primaries of "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party to nominate candidates for State Duma MPs; bus accident with Russian servicemen in South Ossetia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 16-22, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan meet in Vienna and talk on Karabakh conflict

On May 16, Vienna hosted a meeting of Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliev, Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively, with the participation of foreign ministers of the countries-co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Representatives of the Group stated that both Baku and Yerevan reaffirmed their commitment to a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict and agreed to take measures to investigate ceasefire violations.

The meeting was neither a breakthrough nor a failure to resolve the conflict, but its results may form the basis for advancing the peace process, said the Azerbaijani experts, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". However, in the opinion of Armenian political analysts, we should not expect any sharp improvement in the Karabakh conflict zone.

Primaries of "Edinaya Rossiya" held in regions of Southern Russia

On May 22, the regions of Russia, including the North-Caucasian and Southern Federal Districts (NCFD and SFD), held the primaries of the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party to elect the candidates for the forthcoming elections of State Duma MPs, scheduled for September 18, 2016, – on the united voting day. According to Grigory Melkonyants, the Co-Chairman of the Board of the "Golos" (Vote) Movement in Defence of Voters' Rights, the primaries are a really needed procedure, which helps the electorate to "see the candidates and assess the readiness of the party."

In Dagestan, 43 persons got registered for participation in the primaries; six acting State Duma MPs among them, as well as the vice-speaker of the republic's parliament. In Karachay-Cherkessia, the authorities registered six persons as candidates for the MPs from the ruling party. At the same time, the Chairman of the Russian Congress of Caucasian Nations was not admitted to the primaries. The primaries of the "Edinaya Rossiya" in Kabardino-Balkaria were attended by 11 candidates, including two current State Duma MPs and two deputies of the regional parliament. In the Volgograd Region, 84 persons applied for participation in the primaries; of them, 74 persons were found eligible. In the Stavropol Territory, 192 participants were registered for the "Edinaya Rossiya" primaries; and in the Astrakhan Region, 10 candidates applied for the participation in the primaries.

The voting has not passed without violations. For example, in the Volgograd Region, the State Duma MP Oleg Savchenko reported transportation by buses of the voters, who were registered in the lists. In Stavropol, students complained about the obligatory selfies during the primaries. In the Astrakhan Region, violations concerned agitation rules and bribing voters.

Six Russian servicemen killed and 12 other injured in bus accident in South Ossetia

On May 19, a bus of the Russian military bases in South Ossetia, which was moving from Tskhinvali to Leningor, overturned on the alpine road. The bus was carrying 24 persons, of whom six persons perished. On May 20, all the injured servicemen were taken to North Ossetia. Among the victims there are the officers, who were on their way to the place of their exercises. Presumably, the accident was caused by a failure of the braking system in the conditions of a heavy fog. The authorities of South Ossetia have decided to erect a monument in honour of those killed in the accident.

Azerbaijan adopts amnesty for 10,000 people

On May 20, the National Assembly of Azerbaijan adopted the Amnesty Act, dated to the Republic Day, marked on May 28. The amnesty will cover more than 10,000 people, including 3500 inmates, who will be released from jails. The draft of the Act was presented as a legislative initiative by Mekhriban Alieva, an MP and the First Lady of Azerbaijan. Civil society activists have pointed to the imperfection of the amnesty: it has not covered the political prisoners.

In Grozny, jury passes guilty verdict to Karpyuk and Klykh

On May 19, at the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic, at the trial of the citizens of Ukraine Nikolai Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh, the jury found both defendants guilty of involvement in the murders of at least 30 soldiers and wounding at least other 13 during the first Chechen War. Klykh was found deserving leniency. On May 18, prosecutors asked the jury to pass a guilty verdict, while the defence stated the absence of proofs of the defendants' guilt. The advocates of the Ukrainian citizens, who had been recognized as political prisoners by the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", have already announced their intention to appeal against the upcoming verdict.

Museum of Southern Russia and Southern Caucasus join international action "Night of Museums"

This year on May 21, the regions of Southern Russia and Southern Caucasus re-joined the international action "Night of Museums". Several museums of Volgograd told about the heroism of the legendary pilot Alexei Maresiev; the action was joined by the Volgograd International Airport, which provided exhibits from its Aviation Museum. At the "Night of Museums", North Ossetia held exhibitions, concerts and quizes within the action "Night of History", dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Russian Historical Society. The National Museum in Vladikavkaz offered an exhibition "Legends of the Caucasus" to its visitors.

According to estimates of the organizers of the "Night of Museums" in Sochi, within the action, the cultural institutions of the city were visited by 50,000 persons.

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