28 November 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of November 21-27

Bad weather in the Stavropol territory and Karachay-Cherkessia, which caused emergencies; start of the trial in the case against Khasan Zakaev, a native of Chechnya, charged of involvement in the seizure of the Dubrovka Theatre Centre; special operation in Ingushetia and Dagestan; replacement of the Government of Georgia; gas outburst at the Volgograd "Caustic" plant, which caused four victims; decision of ECtHR concerning complaint filed by a group of residents of Chechnya about disappearance of their relatives, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of November 21-27, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Strong wind causes emergencies in Stavropol Territory and Karachay-Cherkessia

The week started with reports from the south of Russia on incidents provoked by strong wind. The Stavropol Territory and Karachay-Cherkessia were mostly affected. In particular, in the Karachay-Cherkessian Republic (KChR), wind gusts which speed reached 34 meters per second damaged social facilities and private households and broke electric power lines. It was reported on three victims, two of whom were hospitalized. On November 22, classes in schools and kindergartens were cancelled in Cherkessk and in four other districts of the KChR. The Karachay-Cherkessian authorities have preliminary estimated the damage caused by the disaster in the amount of about one hundred million roubles. In the Stavropol Territory, the wind felled trees, and several villages and towns were deprived of electricity supply as a result of the disaster. The accident at the electric power substation "Pribrezhnaya" stopped three pumping stations which ensured the operation of the regional water supply system. It took several hours to eliminate the consequences of the accident at the electric power substation. The wind damaged roofs of buildings, including several schools in the Stavropol Territory: in the town of Lermontov, the village of Sengileevskoe, farm yard of Ust-Nevinsky, the aul (village) Karamurzinsky and the village of Zavetnoe. In the village of Kochubeevskoe, the wind damaged the roof of the kindergarten building.

In Moscow, court starts trying case against Chechen native Khasan Zakaev, charged with involvement in seizure of Dubrovka Theatre Centre

On November 22, the Moscow District Military Court began the trial in the case against Khasan Zakaev, a native of Chechnya, accused of involvement in the seizure of the Dubrovka Theatre in 2002. Public prosecutor read out the indictment. According to him, in 2002, Khasan Zakaev together with militants intended to capture not the Dubrovka Theatre Centre, but the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. The indictment also mentioned the Gorbunov Palace of Culture, the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, and the theatre, which presented the musical "Chicago", as potential targets of the terrorists. Khasan Zakaev himself pleaded guilty only of transportation of weapons and ammunition. At the court hearing held on November 24, the defendant said he was not aware of the terrorists' plans. According to Khasan Zakaev, he was paid half as much as promised for his work. On the same day, relatives of the deceased hostages were questioned by the court. One of them demanded to attach to the Khasan Zakaev's case the materials of independent investigation into the terror act at the Dubrovka Theatre; however, the court dismissed the motion. According to Karinna Moskalenko, a lawyer representing the interests of the victims, in the course of the trial, the victim party will file civil claims for compensation for damage.

Special operations held in Ingushetia and Dagestan

Early in the morning of November 24, the counterterrorist operation (CTO) legal regime was introduced within a part of the territory of Nazran. In Abadiev Street, law enforcers cordoned off a private house. Two militants inside the blocked private house refused to surrender and were killed in the shootout, report the law enforcement authorities. The National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) also reported about the deaths of two fighters of special forces. The CTO legal regime was lifted on the same day. The law enforcement authorities report that the killed militants were identified as Iliev father and son. According to the leader of Ingushetia, the men let out a woman who stayed with them in the house cordoned off by law enforcers, but they themselves refused to come out of the house. When law enforces searched the house, which sheltered the killed suspects, they discovered a hiding with weapons, bombs and a flag with the symbols of the terrorist organization "Islamic State" (IS), banned in Russia by court. On the day of the special operation carried out in the village of Nasyr-Kort on the outskirts of Nazran, law enforcers detained 40-year-old Khasan Djandigov and searched his house, where they discovered ammunition. This was reported by a source from the law enforcement bodies.

On November 26, it became known that the CTO legal regime was introduced within the territories of the Kazbek, Kizilyurt, and Khasavyurt Districts of Dagestan. Law enforcers only reported that the search for militants is underway there.

Georgia forms government renewed after parliamentary elections

On November 26, the Georgian Parliament approved the new composition of the government of Georgia in connection with the fact that the former members of the government resigned after admission of the results of the recent parliamentary elections held in October. On November 18, Georgy Kvirikashvili was nominated for the post of the Prime Minister, and on November 22, he presented the new composition of the Georgian government. As a result, four new ministers were included in the composition of the government, while others retained their posts. Georgian MPs discussed the issue a vote of confidence to the government and the government programme "Freedom, Rapid Development and Prosperity" and adopted it (110 votes in favour and 19 against). On November 27, after the approval of the composition of the government, Georgian President Georgy Margvelashvili signed a decree to appoint Georgy Kvirikashvili Prime Minister.

The new composition of the Georgian government has been criticized by MPs from the "United National Movement" (UNM) and "Alliance of Georgian Patriots" Parties. MPs from the ruling "Georgian Dream" Party have fully supported the choice of Georgy Kvirikashvili and expressed their confidence in the effective operation of the government.

In Volgograd, four people injured in gas outburst at "Caustic" plant

On November 21, in Volgograd, an outburst of liquefied gas occurred in the course of the preparatory works carried out at a shop of the "Caustic" plant. It was initially reported on spontaneous combustion of small amount of vinyl chloride. However, later, agents of the NIKOKHIM group of companies claimed that "no fire took place at the 'Caustic' plant, but it was a short gas outburst." As a result of the incident, four people suffered burns and were hospitalized. By November 23, one of the victims had already been discharged from the hospital, while the others were diagnosed with light injuries. Ecologists reported no excess of permissible concentration of contaminants after the incident at the chemical plant. The plant has set up a commission to investigate the incident.

ECtHR obliges Russia to pay more than 1.1 million euros to residents of Chechnya, whose relatives disappeared after special operation

On November 22, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued two resolutions concerning the complaints filed by relatives of 16 Chechen residents, one of whom was killed by law enforcers and the others disappeared in 2002 during the special operation carried out by law enforcers in the village of Mesker-Yurt of the Shali District in the period from May 21 to June 11, 2002. The total amount of compensation reaches 1,129,000 euros. 52 people filed their complaints to the ECtHR concerning the events of 2002 in the village of Mesker-Yurt. According to the complainants, their relatives were detained by state agents during the special operation and driven to some unknown destination. The Chechen residents exhausted all domestic remedies and appealed to the organization "Legal Initiative", where lawyers assisted them in preparing and sending their complaints to the ECtHR. The residents of the village of Mesker-Yurt demanded to reopen the investigation into the case. In particular, Nulizhan Israilova, who in 2002 lost her two sons, has noted that as long as there is at least a small hope that some of the disappeared men may be alive, the authorities should continue the investigation.

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