09 January 2017, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 2-8

Orthodox believers celebrate Christmas; the release from prison of ex-Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava; rally of fellow villagers of thesuspect of killing Ingush journalist; opening of first casino in new gambling zone "Krasnaya Polyana" in Sochi, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 2-8, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Orthodox believers of SFD and NCFD and countries of Southern Caucasus celebrate Christmas

At the Christmas night, on January 7, tens of thousands of residents of the Southern and North-Caucasian Federal Districts (SFD and NCFD) attended solemn liturgies at Orthodox churches, which were held under strong police supervision. In many cities of Southern Russia, Christmas celebrations continued in the form of public festivals, concerts and sporting events.

At night on January 7, Christmas services for Orthodox Christians of Azerbaijan were held in three churches of Baku and in churches of the cities of Gyanja (Gandzha) and Khachmaz. Tbilisi hosted, apart from festive services, a traditional Christmas "Alilo" march, where participants collected donations for further distribution among the needy and elderly people, and orphans. The ArmenianApostolicChurch celebrated the Christmas Eve of Epiphany (Chragaluys) on January 5; and then, all the churches held liturgies and water blessing ceremony.

Ex-Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava released from prison after CoA's decision

On January 6, Gigi Ugulava, the former Mayor of Tbilisi, left the prison after the decision of the Tbilisi Court of Appeal (CoA) passed on that very day. The Court reclassified the charge against Ugulava of employing activists of the "United National Movement" (UNM) into municipal structures from embezzlement into abuse of office and sentenced him to one year, three months and 22 days in prison. According to the verdict of the first-instance court passed on September 18, 2015, Ugulava was sentenced to nine years in prison. Gigi Ugulava was also accused of misappropriating the "Imedi" TV Company; illegal lobbying an Israeli company, engagement in building car parks in Tbilisi; and of pressing members of the election commission at the 2014 electoral campaign. Mr Ugulava himself and his supporters treated the cases against him as political persecution. On January 4, during the consideration of his appeal complaint, Gigi Ugulava rejected the accusation of embezzlement. After his release from prison, he reiterated that all the charges against him were "politically motivated," and urged Georgian authorities to grant amnesty to all political prisoners.

Fellow villagers of the person, who confessed of killing journalist in Ingushetia, demand from his family to leave the village

The resident of the village of Nesterovskoeheld a rally, where they stated that the members of the family of Rizvan Kotiev, a suspect of killing on January 1 the journalist Amerkhan Kokurkhoev, should change their residence in order to avoid conflicts, an official from the local administration said on January 6. Amerkhan Kokurkhoev, the press secretary of the administration of the Sunzha District of Ingushetia and the presenter at the republic's television, died in hospital as a result of being stabbed. According to investigators, the murder was an act of domestic violence; and the main suspect was Rizvan Kotiev, a journalist's neighbour. On January 5, policemen detained his father, Ruslan Djamaldinov, who, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), in the course of interrogation confessed that it was he who inflicted a fatal stab wound to the journalist. The rally of Nesterovskoe villagers, held with the participation of elders and officials of the local clergy and authorities, decided to recommend the members of the family of Rizvan Kotiev to leave the village.

First casino opens in new "Krasnaya Polyana" gambling zone in Sochi

On January 5, Sochihosted an opening ceremony of the first casino in the new gambling zone "Krasnaya Polyana", which had been working in the test mode since December 24, 2016. The casino will employ 1100 persons and yield annually to budgets of all levels about 500 million roubles, Alexander Saurin, the Director General of the "Krasnaya Polyana" Company, said at the opening ceremony. In total, the new casino contains 569 gambling slot machines and 70 gaming tables. According to casino bosses, the investments into the project amounted to 4 billion roubles; it is planned that the casino will pay them back in at least five years. During the testing period, the casino acquired about 500 permanent visitors; it is visited by about a thousand people daily, the press centre of the "Sochi Casino and Resort" has reported. However, visitors have noted the high cost that must be paid for participation in the game.

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