20 June 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 13-19

Three special operations in Dagestan, as a result of which 15 people were killed; races of "Formula 1" in Baku held against the background of statements voiced by human rights defenders concerning the situation in Azerbaijan; naming of one of the bridges in Saint Petersburg after Akhmat Kadyrov, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 13-19, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

15 people killed in special operation in Dagestan

Last week, in Dagestan, law enforcers conducted several special operations in different districts.

On June 16, the counterterrorist operation (CTO) legal regime was introduced in the Suleiman-Stalsky District. Law enforcers were involved in a shootout with unidentified men who opened fire on them from a dugout in the vicinity of the village of Kasumkent. According to sources from the law enforcement bodies, three law enforcers were wounded. In the morning, five members of the "Southern" militant grouping were killed. On June 17, in the Derbent District, an armed clash occurred near the village of Gedjukh. As a result, Gasan Abdullaev, the leader of the "Southern" militant grouping, was killed. Two OMON (riot police) fighters were also killed. On the same day, one more armed clash occurred in a forest in the Tabasaran District, as a result of which one suspected militant was killed. Two OMON fighters were killed during a shootout, and four policemen were wounded.

In total, according to the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), as a result of the above special operations, five law enforcers were killed, and four others were wounded. Besides, ten suspected militants were also killed.

In Baku, "Formula 1" races held against background of human rights defenders' statements about situation in Azerbaijan

On June 17-19, Baku hosted for the first time a round of the "Formula-1" races in the European Grand Prix World Championship. The races involved 22 pilots from 11 teams. On June 18, the race was won by Nico Rosberg, a German Mercedes driver, while his teammate world champion Lewis Hamilton had an accident. On June 19, the first place was also won by Nico Rosberg. Russian pilot Daniil Kvyat was unable to finish because of failure of suspension in his car.

On June 17, a lot of Baku residents complained about inconvenience in connection with the races. According to the Azerbaijani authorities, the race costs amounts to no more than 100 million manats (66 million US dollars). The local residents interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" have voiced different opinions concerning the races: some of the locals treat such costs as unreasonable, while others hope that the racing events will attract tourists and improve the image of Azerbaijan.

In connection with the "Formula 1" races, human rights defenders tried to draw the international community's attention to the situation in the country. On June 14, the "Freedom House" called on guests of the races not to forget about human rights violations in Azerbaijan. On June 16, the "Amnesty International" (AI) published an updated list of Azerbaijani "prisoners of conscience". On June 18, Jane Buchanan, a member of the "Human Rights Watch" (HRW) called on the top-managers of the "Formula 1" to make a statement about the repressions in Azerbaijan.

ECtHR recognizes violations of rights of Vano Merabishvili, jailed former Prime Minister of Georgia

On June 14, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) pronounced the verdict on the complaint filed by Vano Merabishvili, the former Prime Minister of Georgia, who was detained in May 2013 and sentenced on several charges. The ECtHR recognizes that the decision of the Georgian court on the pre-trial detention of the Georgian politician in September 2013 was unreasonable. The advocate of sentenced Vano Merabishvili has stated that his client can be thus treated as a political prisoner. Human rights defenders voiced different opinions concerning if Vano Merabishvili can be treated as a political prisoner. The ECtHR's decision will be challenged. This was stated by Thea Tsulukiani, Georgian Minister of Justice. She has also noted that the verdict can come into force only in 2017.

In Saint Petersburg, a bridge named after Akhmat Kadyrov despite protests of local residents

Last week, the issue of renaming one of the bridges in Saint Petersburg after Akhmat Kadyrov, the first Chechen President, was solved. On May 30, the Toponymy Commission of Saint Petersburg announced an initiative to name an unnamed bridge over the Dudergof Channel after Akhmat Kadyrov. The initiative was criticized by figures of culture, and people held action of protest in the city. On June 15, Governor Georgy Poltavchenko signed a resolution to name the bridge after Akhmat Kadyrov. In that connection, four MPs appealed to the Prosecutor's Office with a request to check the legality of the decision. They believe that the decision was made prior to the completion of the necessary expertise and, in particular, of anticorruption expertise. The opponents of the initiative state that Akhmat Kadyrov had no deserts to the city. However, the supporters of the decision believe that if Akhmat Kadyrov was awarded the Hero of Russia, then his name could be honoured in any city in the country.

Sergey Zirinov accused of acts of banditry and organization of murders testifies in court

Since August 2015, the North- Caucasian District Military Court considers the case against Sergey Zirinov, a deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Krasnodar Territory, accused of involvement in acts of banditry and killings. On June 16, the Court began his questioning. Sergey Zirinov told the Court about his relationships with each of the defendants in the case. Besides, he claimed his non-involvement in the organization of the criminal grouping. On June 17, Sergey Zirinov told the Court of his acquaintance with Vitaly Sadovnichy, the director of the Anapa sanatorium "Little Bay" and claimed that he was not involved in his murder, since he never had any interest in the sanatorium. According to Sergey Zirinov, he was not acquainted with Salman Nabiev, a businessman from Novorossiysk, and he was not involved in the assassination attempt on ataman Nikolai Nesterenko.

Participants of Geneva Discussions protest against resolution on refugees adopted by UN General Assembly by initiative of Georgia

On June 15, Geneva hosted the 36th round of the discussions on security in Transcaucasia. Delegations of Russia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia have called unfair the resolution on the refugees' right to return to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, adopted by the UN General Assembly on June 7 on the initiative of the Georgia. Members of the above delegations have left the hall in protest. Delegates of South Ossetia have accused the Georgian side of the intentional damage of border signs and declared entry of Georgian law enforcers on the territory of the South Ossetia. Members of the Russian delegation have called on Tbilisi to start the process of delimitation and demarcation of the borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In turn, Georgia has expressed the need to return internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes, voiced the problem of restriction of the right of ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to receive education in their native language, and demanded from Sukhumi to extradite a person suspected of the murder of Gigi Otkhozoriya.

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