03 April 2017, 08:55

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 27-April 2

Parliamentary elections in Armenia; strikes of truck drivers in the south of Russia as a part of the all-Russian protest action against the "Platon" system; disrupted "tractor march" of the Kuban farmers to Moscow; conflict between residents of the Chechen village of Davydenko with law enforcers, which ended in a forced apology; verdict in the case of torture at a police station in Karachay-Cherkessia; fire on the Makhachkala market, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 27-April 2, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Armenia holds parliamentary elections

On April 2, Armenia held the voting at the elections of MPs of the country's parliament, the first one after the constitutional referendum of December 6, 2015, which resulted in transition to the parliamentary model of government. After the closure of the polling stations, the Central Election Commission (CEC) reported that 60.86% of voters had voted at the elections. According to the results of the calculation of 56 percent of the ballots, the ruling Republican Party of Armenia is the leader with 49.7% of votes. It is followed by the "Tsarukyan" bloc with 27.84% of votes, the "Elk" bloc with 7.02% of votes, and the ARF "Dashnaktsutyun" Party with 6.68%. The remaining election participants gained less than 4% of votes.

Following the results of the elections, members of the Republican Party of Armenia and the People's Assembly have announced the absence of violations during the voting. However, oppositionists reported violations, including malfunctions in the operation of electronic equipment, removal of blank ballots from polling stations, "carousels," and open voting. The Prosecutor's Office of Armenia has already reported that 392 violations committed during the elections were classified as crimes.

In total, 2,564,195 Armenian citizens were included in the voters' list. 29,000 observers were accredited to the elections, including 22 representatives from the PACE and 330 from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. When commenting on the pre-election situation, Armenian political analysts claimed that no black PR took place. Besides, they also drew attention to the caution shown by most parties and blocs in the discussion of the conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh.

Truck drivers of south of Russia support protest action against "Platon" system

On March 27, Russian truck drivers, including in the south of Russia, resumed their mass protests against the "Platon" system, introduced to collect fees for drivers of heavy trucks for travelling on federal roads. In North Ossetia, truck drivers declared an indefinite strike. In Karachay-Cherkessia, in the course of the protest action in Cherkessk, drivers of heavy trucks voiced the demand to the authorities, including arranging the correct procedure of weight control and ensuring the passage along the Moscow Ring Road (known as MKAD) around the clock and not at night, when truck drivers should rest. On the same day, in Kabardino-Balkaria, truck drivers held a protest action: about 30 heavy trucks stopped on the roadside of the federal highway in Baksan, and their drivers voiced their demands to the head of the local administration and then left the place. Truck drivers from the Volgograd and Astrakhan Regions also joined the protest action. Drivers of heavy trucks also come to the protest action in the Korenovsky and Gulkevichsky Districts of the Krasnodar Territory. In the very city of Krasnodar, the police blocked the entrances to the city for heavy trucks and thus did not allow the protest action to be carried out.

In Dagestan, truck drivers also joined the protest action. On March 28, Dagestani truck drivers left the Kayakent District for Makhachkala, then headed towards the town of Manas in the Karabudakhkent District, and held a rally near it. On March 31, in Manas, the police blocked the truck drivers on strike, and their planned motor rally to Makhachkala and back was disrupted.

Kuban farmers fail to conduct "tractor march" to Moscow

The repeated "tractor march" to Moscow planned for March 28 was disrupted. Kuban farmers wanted to hold their repeated "tractor march" to draw attention to the problem of raiders' seizures in the Krasnodar Territory. Farmers who left their place to take part in the "tractor march" were detained on their way to the gathering place. Starting from the morning, in the Cossack village of Kazanskaya, law enforcers blocked all exits from the field camp of farmer Oleg Petrov, from where the "tractor march" was to begin. The organizers of the protest action were detained by law enforcers under various pretexts. In particular, Oleg Petrov's house was searched, after that, its owner was detained on suspicion of fraud on a large scale. The farmer believes that the criminal case itself was instituted without grounds. In protest against the criminal prosecution, Oleg Petrov went on a hunger strike. On the eve of the protest action, law enforcers also arrested Alexei Volchenko, the leader of the movement "Polite Farmers", and a new criminal case was instituted against Nikolai Borodin, another activist.

Chechen authorities force woman from Davydenko village to apologize for her statements about law enforcers

During the past week, the authorities of Chechnya have once again tried to resolve the conflict in the republic with the help of public humiliation of persons who criticized the local authorities and law enforcers. On March 29, at the news of the "Grozny" TV Channel, local resident Maret Zanzulaeva, who earlier delivered a speech at a gathering of people in the village of Davydenko of the Achkhoi-Martan District, apologized for her statements concerning the land conflict and denied the information about the beating of people by law enforcers. The woman's apology was forced by Magomed Daudov, Speaker of the Chechen Parliament, who visited the village of Davydenko after the forceful dispersal of the villagers on March 26. According to the villagers, during the clash, law enforcers beat people, fired into the air, and detained three persons. The residents of the village used WhatsApp to disseminate an appeal to the leader of Chechnya in the hope of bringing the information about the conflict to Ramzan Kadyrov.

However, the commission set up on behalf of Magomed Daudov to resolve the conflict took the side of the local authorities. Members of the commission demanded from the villagers to pay heavy fines and start registration of lease of land plots, where they began to construct unauthorized buildings. The villagers refused to pay fines and claimed corruption of officials, this fact, together with the most violent dispersal, was described in the video from the village of Davydenko, disseminated on the Internet, which also recorded the emotional speech of Maret Zanzulaeva.

Court acquits four defendants in case of death of resident of Karachay-Cherkessia at police station

On March 29, the Ust-Djeguta District Court of Karachay-Cherkessia sentenced policeman Askhat Lapanov to seven years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony. Askhat Lapanov is one of five defendants in the case of the death of Murat Borlakov, detained at the police station in February 2014. According to the testimony of a person detained together with him, Murat Borlakov was subjected to torture. The other four defendants, also the policemen, were acquitted with the right to rehabilitation, despite the fact that the public prosecutor asked the court to sentence all the defendants to 10-15 years of imprisonment. The trial was held starting from January 2015. After the pronouncement of the verdict, the advocate of the victim party called the court's decision unjust and unfair and filed an appeal against it. Oleg Novikov, a member of the human rights foundation "Public Verdict", who was watching the trial, agreed with the advocate. According to Oleg Novikov, the Court has appointed a "criminal." The human rights defender also called the verdict a mockery of justice and a "slap in the face of the victim party."

After fire at clothing market in Makhachkala, sellers come to protest action

On March 31, a major fire broke out in Makhachkala. The clothing market "Dagelektromash" Irchi located in Irchi Kazak Street was burned down. The fire was localized when its area reached 1200 square meters. Fire-fighters were fighting the fire during four hours, and a helicopter of the National Guard of Russia was engaged to extinguish the fire. During the fire, the territory of the market was cordoned off, because sellers entered the territory in attempts to save their goods. After the fire, 33 people applied for medical help. Of them, three persons were diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. Sellers who lost their goods claimed that the fire was caused by arson, the third one during one month. According to the sellers, about 5000 people worked at the market, but the authorities were dissatisfied with the fact that the trade took place within the city territory. On April 1, the Mayor's Office promised to pay compensation to entrepreneurs and to exempt them from taxes for a year. However, the entrepreneurs have expressed their distrust to the authorities and demanded guarantees confirmed by documents. Some of the fire victims went to the central square of Makhachkala. Among other demands, they also requested the authorities to restore the market at its original location. After officials promised that the market would be restored in short time and would not be removed anywhere during at least three years, the protesters left Gamidov Avenue occupied by them and finished their rally.

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