11 July 2016, 09:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 4-10

Celebration of Eid al-Fitr by Muslims of Southern Russia; large-scale special operation in Dagestan, during which, according to law enforcers, a grouping of Makhachkala militants was liquidated; referendum on early presidential elections in Abkhazia, held against the background of oppositional protests; verdict of guilty pronounced against Mayor of Taganrog; John Kerry's visit to Tbilisi, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of July 4-10, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Muslims of Southern Russia celebrate Eid al-Fitr

This year, on July 5 and 6, inSouthern Russia, Muslims started celebrating the Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting of Ramadan. The first days of celebration were announced the days off in all the republics of Northern Caucasus. In Chechnya, the republic's authorities announced the days of July 5, 6, 7 and 8 as the days off. However, on July 4, the Muftiate announced that the ChechenRepublic would start celebrating the first day of Eid al-Fitr on July 6, since no new moon was observed in the sky. The republic started celebrations with a prayer, after which people went to greet their relatives and friends and to receive guests at home. In Dagestan, people also began to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on July 6. A collective prayer was held at the central Juma mosque in Makhachkala. Many owners of retail outlets and private companies announced a day off to provide their employees with a chance to go on holiday to the mountainous areas. Kabardino-Balkaria celebrated the end of Ramadan on July 5. On that day, the holiday ceremonies were held in all mosques of the republic. In the evening, gala fireworks took place in Nalchik.

Law enforcers report on elimination of grouping of Makhachkala militants after large-scale special operation in Dagestan

Early in the morning of July 7, the counterterrorist operation (CTO) legal regime was introduced in the Karabudakhkent District of Dagestan, after in a forest, 2 km from the village of Paraul, law enforcers discovered a group of armed men. When offered to surrender and lay down their arms, they answered in negative and opened fire, and then the law enforcers opened fire in return. According to the law enforcers, during a special operation held on July 7, nine suspected militants and one fighter of Special Forces were killed, and three other law enforcers were wounded. Among the killed men, the law enforcers mentioned Gusein Taghirov, the leader of the terrorist grouping "Makhachkala". On July 8, the law enforcers continued special activities in the CTO zone, during which they detained two men with an improvised explosive device (IED) and ammunition. Furthermore, it was reported on a new shootout in the CTO zone, in which a law enforcer was wounded. At 6:00 p.m. Moscow time of July 8, the CTO legal regime was lifted. At the end of the special operation, the law enforcers reported on the elimination of a grouping of Makhachkala militants. According to them, the number of killed men included residents of the village of Khushet, involved, according to the operative information, in bombing a military motor convoy near the village of Uitash on March 29. Gusein Taghirov was also suspected of aiding and abetting the terrorists, who committed the terror acts in Volgograd in late 2013.

In Abkhazia, referendum on early presidential elections takes place against background of opposition protests

On July 10, Abkhazia held a voting at the referendum on the early presidential elections in the republic. According to Abkhazian residents, the extremely low turnout resulted in the actual failure of the referendum. The referendum was initiated by the opposition, which members refused to take part in the voting after President Raul Khadjimba had rejected their proposal to postpone the referendum to a later date. On July 5, the oppositionists voiced their demands in the course of the rally in Sukhumi after the congress of the former ruling "Amtsakhara" Party, which provoked riots.

At the rally, the opposition supporters also demanded the resignation of Leonid Dzapshba, Abkhazian Minister of Internal Affairs. The protest action resulted in attempts to assault the building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). During the riots, 19 people were brought to hospital, and nine of them were hospitalized. The number of victims included 16 policemen. Raul Khadjimba has refused to meet the demand of the opposition and to postpone the referendum. He has called the opposition's actions an attempt to destabilize the situation in Abkhazia. On July 6, Sukhumi hosted a rally of supporters of the President. Raul Khadjimba himself has said that he is ready to resign at the request of the people. He has also supported the opposition's demand to allow voters with expired passports to take part in the referendum and agreed to dismiss the Abkhazian Minister of Internal Affairs.

As a result, the referendum gathered 1628 people, or 1.23% of the total number of voters. The voices of those people who took part in the referendum divided almost evenly: 750 people voted "for", and 761 others voted "against". The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Abkhazia has declared the referendum invalid, since, according to the Abkhazian law, the referendum results are considered valid if the turnout exceeds 50%. Alkhas Kvitsiniya, the leader of the "Amtsakhara" Party, has announced that after the referendum, the "Block of Opposition Forces" plans to hold a congress in order to determine the next steps.

Mayor of Taganrog sentenced on charge of abuse of office

On July 7, the Taganrog City Court pronounced the decision in the case against Vladimir Prasolov, Mayor of Taganrog, accused of abuse of office. Vladimir Prasolov was sentenced to one year of imprisonment in a common-security penal colony and deprived of the right to occupy positions in the agencies of state power and local self-administration for two years. According to investigators, in 2014, Vladimir Prasolov ordered to allocate more than 5.6 million roubles from the reserve fund of the Mayor's Office for cleaning and removal of snow from the streets of Taganrog. The works were performed by his acquaintance, and in fact, they were made only for the amount of 800,000 roubles. Vladimir Prasolov himself pleaded not guilty. His advocate announced the intention to appeal against the sentence. While the verdict is not entered into force, Vladimir Prasolov will be kept under house arrest.

In Tbilisi, John Kerry reports on US military and economic aid to Georgia

On July 6-7, US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Georgia. During his visit, the parties have issued the "Memorandum on the deepening of partnership in the field of defence and security between Georgia and the United States". The document was signed after the meeting of John Kerry and Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia. Besides, John Kerry took part in the meeting of the working group of the Association of the United States for International Development (USAID), where the parties announced the launch of a new economic project in the framework of the Charter on Strategic Cooperation between the US and Georgia. The project provides the allocation to Georgia of 15 million US dollars for the development of the regions. The US Secretary of State has confirmed that the United States continues to support the Georgia's course towards joining NATO. The Georgian authorities have treated the John Kerry's visit as a sign of the soon entry of Georgia into NATO. John Kerry has concluded his visit to Georgia with the meeting with the oppositionists.

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