19 December 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 12-18

Attack of militants on policemen in Grozny; people's assembly held by opposition in Abkhazia; detention of a suspect of assassination attempt on Ingush Imam Tsechoev, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 12-18, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Militants' attack of policemen in Grozny

On December 17, in central Grozny, an armed clash broke out; the counterterrorist operation (CTO) regime was introduced. Four militants were killed in the shootout, and two others wounded. On December 18, it was reported that power agents blocked a private house in the outskirt of Grozny, where three militants were killed and two others – detained, one of them was wounded. That is, during two days, seven militants were killed, four others were detained, and three of them were wounded. Four policemen perished; and one was wounded. According to a source, the death toll included Ibragim Mazhaev, an 18-year-old participant of the attack on policemen, who, like another suspect Istamul Mamaev, has earlier sworn to the "Islamic State" (IS) a terrorist grouping, banned in Russia. Residents of Grozny reported increased security measures and door-by-door visits undertaken by law enforcers.

The above shootout was at least the fourth one since the beginning of 2016, and the seventh one since the beginning of 2015, in which power agents clashed with militants in Chechnya. For the fourth consecutive year, in Southern Russia, militants reveal themselves in December with loud attacks and terror acts, the "Caucasian Knot" has noted.

After people's assembly, President of Abkhazia offers high posts to oppositionists and agrees to restrict his powers

On December 15, in Sukhumi, in front of the building of the government, the opposition held the so-called "people's assembly", demanding the early resignation of the president; which was accompanied by a parallel pro-governmental rally. After his talks with the opposition, President Raul Khajimba said he would not leave his post. Then, the talks were continued with the participation of the Minister of Defence. Mr Khajimba offered oppositionists to take high state posts, including the posts of the Public Prosecutor General and the Vice-Premier (Deputy Chairman of the Government), and agreed to restrict his own powers.

Sergey Shamba, the leader of the "United Abkhazia" Party, has noted that the president and the oppositionists have agreed to stabilize the political situation. The assembly of oppositional forces in Sukhumi lasted for more than 14 hours. As stated by Aslan Bzhaniya, the leader of the oppositional "Apra" Foundation, the guarantor of the compromise, offered by the president, was Valery Bganba, the Speaker of the Parliament of Abkhazia. The people's assembly was preceded by law enforcers' raids and detention of Bzhaniya.

Supporters of Ingush Imam Tsechoev detain suspect of attempt on him

On December 13, a source from the Muslim community of the Ingush village of Ali-Yurt told about a prevention of an attempt on the Islamic preacher Isa Tsechoev. The source said that the parishioners called policemen and handed the detainee over to them. The Ingush Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) did not confirm this information. Later, a Tsechoev's supporter said that prior to delivery to policemen the detainee was questioned by Imam's relatives; and this interrogation was video recorded. The detainee gave confessions. He is Rustam Aptaev, a 36-year-old resident of Grozny. His defence and relatives assert that he was tortured to force him to self-incriminate. Aptaev was accused of disobedience to law enforcer's legitimate demands; and on December 14, the Nazran District Court arrested him for 10 days.

Earlier, it was reported about an attempt on Tsechoev, which was plotted on August 30, when near the mosque in the village of Ali-Yurt power agents found a car stuffed with explosives.

Ten Azerbaijani oil workers missing after overpass collapse in Caspian Sea

On December 15, in the Caspian Sea, at the oil collection station No. 3 of the oil-and-gas department named after Narimanov of the Production Association (PA) "Azneft", a strong wind blew off an overpass section about 150 meters long. The section rolled over together with the adjacent platform and a residential booth. Ten oilers went missing. On December 15, the body of one of them, Ilham Gafarov, was found. On December 16, divers found the booth, but it was empty.

Decision made to move IBSF World Championships from Sochi to another location

On December 13, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) decided to move the 2017 World Championships from Sochi to another country. Earlier, the Latvian national skeleton team announced a boycott of the World Championships in Sochi in the context of publication of the second part of the report of Richard McLaren, an expert of the World Anti-Doping (WADA), who stated the existence of a system of concealing the use of doping by athletes in Russia. Athletes of Great Britain, United States, Belgium and American Virgin Islands also called to boycott the Championships. The Russian Federation of Bobsleigh has agreed to move the World Championships away from Sochi, stating a threat of a split in the sports movement and of a mass boycott of the competitions. At the same time, Russian athletes, including the bobsledder Alexei Voyevoda and the skeleton racer Sergey Chudinov, have stated that the calls to boycott the Championships are caused by the reluctance to compete with the Russian athletes.

The 65thIBSF World Championships were scheduled for February 13-26, 2017. The new location of the tournament will be defined later.

Geneva debates on security and stability in Transcaucasia again end without adoption of non-use of force document

On December 13-14, in Geneva, another round of international debates on Transcaucasia took place; the debates started after the warfare in South Ossetia in August 2008. The parties have failed again to agree on the statement on non-use of force, because of the position of the Georgian party, said the Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), noting that the document was "status-neutral". According to the MFA, Tbilisi tried to impose the wording of "international security mechanisms" to monitor the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The MFA of Georgia has stated that the coordination of the document failed because of the position of Russia.

The participants of the debates have evaluated the situation on the borders of Georgia with Abkhazia and South Ossetia as generally stable.

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