13 February 2017, 09:00
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events on February 6-12
Extradition of Russian blogger Lapshin from Belarus to Azerbaijan; refusal to institute proceedings against Ingush rights defender Mutsolgov; cadre reshuffle in Dagestani government and cancellation of the decision to build museum in Makhachkala park – see a review of major events in the Caucasus on February 6-12, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
Russian blogger Alexander Lapshin extradited from Belarus to Azerbaijan
The blogger Alexander Lapshin, who has citizenships of Russia, Ukraine and Israel, and was detained on February 7 in Belarus on the request of Azerbaijan, has been extradited from Minsk to Baku. The official Baku accuses him of having visited the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), which Azerbaijan treats as its occupied territory, and of public statements in support of the NKR’s independence. His extradition was condemned by the governments of Russia, Armenia and NKR. The Armenian political experts, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", believe that Belarus has given Lapshin out to Azerbaijan in order to strengthen their bilateral relations in the energy sector. Belarus has had every reason to refuse to extradite the blogger, as he is being persecuted for his political beliefs, Armenian rights defenders have stated. The blogger faces up to eight years in prison.
Refusal to open criminal case against Ingush rights defender Magomed Mutsolgov
Ingush investigators have refused to initiate criminal proceedings against Magomed Mutsolgov, the head of the human rights organization "Mashr". None of law enforcers’ allegations about the presence on his computer material in support of terrorists and pornography, was confirmed, Magomed himself said on February 9. The check was launched after searches of the “Mashr” office and Mutsolgov’s home on November 6, 2015. According to power agents, in the confiscated computer they found photos of child porn and files with materials on militants’ activities. According to Magomed Mutsolgov, throughout the year he was summoned for questioning to the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). The rights defenders, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", believe that the attempt to discredit the activities of Mutsolgov and the "Mashr" has failed. In their opinion, the pressure was caused by Mutsolgov’s criticism of the authorities.
Cadre changes in Dagestani government and cancellation of building museum in Makhachkala park
Last week, Dagestan saw cadre reshuffling in the government. On February 6, Rabiyat Zakavova was appointed the head of the Ministry of Tourism and Folk Crafts; she replaced Magomed Isaev, who on February 1 became the head of the Dagestani Branch of the Russian Pension Fund (RPF). On February 7, the republic’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development was headed by Rasul Ibragimov after Khasbulla Gadjigishiev was dismissed from this post. Rashid Akavov, the Director of the Institute of Culture and Arts of the Dagestani State Pedagogical University, was appointed the Minister of Press and Information of Dagestan, by replacing Burliyat Tokbolatova. According to journalists, the appointments had to do with the need to observe the principle of national quotas in the Cabinet of Ministers; and they could have been affected by the team of Sagid Murtazaliev, the former head of the Dagestani Branch of the RPF.
Residents of Makhachkala have succeeded in cancelling the decision to build the museum "Russia – My Story" in the Lenin Komsomol Park. The initiative group of citizens held actions and appealed to court and Russian authorities. On February 7, Ramazan Abdulatipov, the head of Dagestan, said that the museum would be built in Imam Shamil Avenue instead. He explained that the decision was made "after a broad public discussion."
Armenian opposition fails to collect signatures for postponing parliamentary elections
On February 6, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Armenia started registering candidates for the National Assembly; the elections are scheduled for April 2. On the same day, the Armenian National Congress (ANC) began collecting signatures to the appeal to the Constitutional Court of Armenia demanding to postpone the elections. The ANC believes that the elections should be appointed from April 20 to 30 in accordance with the respective article of the former Constitution, and in accordance with the article of the transitional provisions for the new Constitution. The ANC also demanded "to show respect for the memory of victims of the April war in 2016 in Nagorno-Karabakh, and shift the elections to the second decade of April." On February 10, the collection of signatures was suspended, since the demand to postpone the elections was supported by only 19 MPs of the National Assembly of Armenia.
Chief Rabbi of Sochi deprived of right to live in Russia
The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has revoked the residence permit issued to the Sochi Rabbi Aryeh Edelkopf, a US citizen. This was announced on February 9 by Mr Edelkopf himself. According to his story, the MIA explained its decision by the fact that the Rabbi created a threat to the Russia’s national security. He has stated that he had conducted no political activities. The members of the Jewish community of Sochi have treated the decision to expel the Rabbi as illegal, and appealed to the President of Russia with a demand to cancel the deportation. On January 27, the first-instance court of Sochi refused to cancel the decision to deprive Aryeh Edelkopf of his residence permit. Now, the Rabbi is preparing an appeal complaint to the Krasnodar Territorial Court. The advocate of his family admits the association of the case with the dispute over the construction of a synagogue in Sochi.