27 March 2017, 08:35
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 20-26
Attack of militants of a terrorist organization on a military unit in Chechnya; anti-corruption actions held by Alexei Navalny's supporters in the cities of Southern Russia; verdict against Khasan Zakaev in the case of the terror act at the Dubrovka Theatre, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 20-26, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
IS militants attack military unit in Chechnya
On March 24, in Chechnya, a checkpoint of the military camp of the “Natsgvardia” (National Guard) in the Cossack village of Naurskaya was attacked. Six soldiers were killed, and three others were wounded. Six attackers were also killed, while two others managed to flee. The National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) reported on discovery of fake shahid belts on two of the killed suspects. According to Anvar Makhmutov, a former MP of the State Duma, and Nikolai Dolonin, Deputy Commander of the North-Caucasian District of the National Guard, the militants' aim could be to seize weapons. All the killed suspects were identified as residents of the Cossack village of Naurskaya, and the terrorist organization "Islamic State" (IS), banned in Russia, claimed responsibility for the attack. According to local residents, after the attack, law enforcers carried out mass detentions of men with beards in the mosques of the Cossack village of Naurskaya and the village of Chernokozovo, and then, relatives of the militants killed in Naurskaya were also detained. The armed clash in the Cossack village of Naurskaya became the third armed incident in Chechnya since the beginning of the year.
In cities of Southern Russia, supporters of Alexei Navalny come to anti-corruption actions
On March 26, many cities of Russia hosted actions of supporters of oppositionist Alexei Navalny. Preparations for the rallies were launched after the Alexei Navalny's Foundation to Combat Corruption had released the film "He is not Dimon for you", dedicated to the "secret empire of Premier Dmitry Medvedev." The actions were also held in the cities of Southern Russia. The authorities of a number of cities refused to sanction the actions. So, the rallies were not sanctioned in declared places in Krasnodar, Sochi, Rostov-on-Don, Astrakhan, Makhachkala, and Volgograd. Meanwhile, the authorities of Stavropol and Volzhsky sanctioned the rallies. The actions resulted in mass detentions in Krasnodar, Sochi, Rostov-on-Don, and Makhachkala. In Krasnodar, according to eyewitnesses, law enforcers used smoke bombs to disperse participants of the rally.
Court pronounces verdict against native of Chechnya in case of terror act at Dubrovka Theatre
On March 21, the Moscow District Military Court recognized Khasan Zakaev, a native of Chechnya, guilty of aiding in taking hostages during the musical "Nord-Ost" at the Dubrovka Theatre Centre in 2002. The defendant was sentenced to 19 years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony. Civil claims of the victims were partially satisfied: the court obliged Khasan Zakaev to pay 37.5 million roubles in favour of the victims. In his final speech, Khasan Zakaev himself stated that when he was transporting weapons, he did not know about the preparation of the hostage-taking. The Prosecutor's Office reported that they would not challenge the verdict, while the defence of the victims criticized the Court's decision. On March 22, representatives of the victims filed an appeal against the Khasan Zakaev's sentence to the Supreme Court (SC) of Russia regarding compensation. On March 23, it became known that the victims filed another appeal against the verdict concerning involvement of all persons who, according to them, were guilty of the people's deaths.
Abkhazia holds repeated elections of MPs
On March 26, in Abkhazia, polling stations were opened in 22 electoral precincts for voting in the second round of the elections of deputies to the People's Assembly of the sixth convocation. Earlier, the voting held on March 12 had failed to elect deputies. Journalists predicted a low voter turnout in the second round. However, the chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Abkhazia announced no mandatory voter turnout threshold, so it would not affect the outcome of the elections. By 6 p.m., according to the CEC, voter turnout reached 49 percent. Observers from the polling stations in Sukhumi and Gali District reported that the voting took place without violations. At night, it became known that, according to the preliminary information, winners of the second round were identified in 20 electoral precincts.
Activist Arthur Sargsyan buried in Yerevan
On March 22, Arthur Sargsyan, who was accused of supporting the "Sasna Tsrer" (Daredevils of Sassoun) and who died after a 25-day hunger strike, was buried at the Shaumyan cemetery on the outskirts of Yerevan. About 7000 people came to attend the ceremony of the funeral of the activist, who was persecuted for the fact that in July 2016, he broke through a police cordon and handed over food to members of the "Sasna Tsrer" unit, who were holding the police regiment building. The decision to bury Arthur Sargsyan at the Shaumyan cemetery was made by his brother, and the authorities did not respond to the citizens' demand to bury the activist at the "Yerablur" military cemetery. Organizers of the protests have announced that the actions with demand to punish the persons guilty of the Arthur Sargsyan's death will be continued. According to Armenian human rights defenders, Arthur Sargsyan fell victim to inhuman treatment. They believe that the responsibility for the activist's death is to be borne by the investigator, the supervisory prosecutor and the judge who ordered to arrest Arthur Sargsyan.
"Congress of Karachay people" demands from authorities to resolve land issue and speaks in favour of direct elections of leader of Karachay-Cherkessia
On March 25, the city of Cherkessk hosted a congress of the "Congress of Karachay People", a regional public organization aimed at protecting the rights of the Karachay nationals and helping to strengthen peace and friendship among the peoples. 205 delegates took part in the congress and voted for the return of direct election of the leader of the republic and heads of all levels of executive power in Karachay-Cherkessia. Besides, the activists also demanded from the authorities to solve the land issue. On the eve of the congress, there were attempts to disrupt the event, the leaders of the "Congress of Karachay People" report.