10 July 2017, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 3-9

Conflict at elections in Nogay District of Dagestan; Rostov miners go on protest hunger strike; Armenian Parliament decides on increasing water intake from Lake Sevan; head of Sberbank Branch in Chechnya announced wanted; death of civilians in Karabakh conflict zone as a result of shelling, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of July 3-9, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Conflict at elections in Nogay District of Dagestan

On July 3, in the village of Terekly-Mekteb, where earlier rallies were held against the protraction of the election of the head of the Nogay District and against the interference of republic's authorities into the election process, activists disrupted the introduction of Baimagomed Yarlykapov, the active head of the district. On July 4, the deputies of the district assembly cancelled the decision to appoint Yarlykapov to be the acting head of the district, and elected Ruslan Nasyrov instead. On July 6, Yarlykapov came into the administration building, accompanied by power agents, and occupied the office of the head of the district. On the same day, at a rally, local residents demanded from the authorities to withdraw power agents, but this was not done.

On July 7, the district administration held a sitting dedicated to the social and economic development of the district, which was attended by a delegation of the Dagestani Government, headed by Ramazan Djafarov, a Vice-Prime Minister. The members of the organizing committee of the Congress of the Nogay People, who were on the guest list, were not admitted to the sitting. In the evening, when the delegation was leaving the administration building, a brawl broke out between local residents and law enforcers, who made several shots in the air. Mr Djafarov promised the protesters that the republic's leadership would surely take measures to settle the political conflict in the Nogay District. Let us note here that the protesters' main claim against Yarlykapov is in the fact that two years ago a local resident was killed in the building of the ROVD (District Interior Division), then headed by Yarlykapov; and no one was punished for it. Then, indignant local residents repeatedly went out to rallies, demanding an independent inquiry into the incident.

Miners in Rostov Region go on hunger strike demanding repayment of wage debts

On July 4, in the city of Gukovo, Rostov Region, miners of the "Kingcoal" Company gathered to a picket and announced a protest hunger strike. The picketers said that some of them would go to Moscow to continue their hunger strike there. The miners' protest followed the June 30 statement of Sergey Bondarev, Vice-Governor, that the regional government had fully paid off the debts to the former employees of the bankrupt "Kingcoal" group of companies by paying out 308.2 million roubles to them. The salary debts, the so-called "ration coal", as well as compensations for unpaid wages and other obligations are still unpaid; according to the estimates of the initiative group, the miners should receive 374 million roubles more. As of July 7, the number of hunger-strikers was 60, the initiative group reports.

However, the authorities of the Rostov Region denied the miners' data on their debts. Mr Bondarev stated on July 7 that the remaining debts make about 40 million roubles. He added that the miners' statements about the hunger strike are of a political nature.

Armenian parliament approves water intake increase from Sevan Lake against ecologists' protests

On July 4, the Armenian parliament approved, in the first reading, draft amendments to the law "On Restoration and Preservation of Lake Sevan's Ecosystem", which provides for an increase in 2017 the annual rate of water abstraction from Sevan for irrigation purposes from 170 to 270 million cubic meters. The government's initiative was adopted, despite the negative conclusion of the Ministry of Natural Resources, which advocates the preservation of the current water intake from the lake, which is the only Armenia's major and guaranteed source of fresh water. On the same day, activists of the civil initiative "SOS Sevan" held a protest near the building of the Armenian parliament against the changes proposed by the government to the law. Environmentalists expressed their concern about the potential lake shallowing and swamping. On July 6, the amendments were adopted in the second and final reading. 77 out of 81 MPs present at the session voted for the initiative; the four MPs of the "Yelk" faction voted against it.

In Chechnya, head of Sberbank Branch announced wanted

On July 3, the Chechnya's Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported that Said-Magomed Djabrailov, the head of the Chechen Branch of the "Sberbank" (Savings Bank), was put on the wanted list after becoming a suspect in the case of illegal cashing of more than one billion roubles through his bank and a number of one-day companies. According to law enforcers, Djabrailov organized at least 12 one-day fictitious companies headed by frontmen; the settlement accounts of these companies were opened in the local "Sberbank" Branch, said the MIA. Almost simultaneously mass media spread information that Djabrailov was put on the wanted list in connection with his refusal to issue 30 million roubles at the request of Magomed Daudov, the Speaker of the Chechen Parliament. The extortion attempt was reported by the edition named "Kavkaz.Realii" with reference to its own sources in Moscow. The "Sberbank" has stated they began checking this information.

Civilians killed by shelling in Karabakh conflict zone

During the past week, alarming reports repeatedly came from the Karabakh conflict zone.

In the evening on July 4, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Nagorno-Karabakh reported that for the first time since April 2016 the Azerbaijani militaries used the TR-107 multiple missile fire system. This report was refuted by the Azerbaijani MoD, which, in its turn, stated that as a result of shelling the village of Alkhanly from the Armenian side, a woman and a two-year-old girl were killed and another woman was wounded. The Azerbaijani General Prosecutor's Office (GPO) opened a criminal case under seven articles of the Criminal Code in connection with the shelling of the village. Andrzej Kasprzyk, the Personal Representative of the OSCE's Envoy, and his office staff are conducting an inquiry into the incident, said Khikmet Gadjiev, the official spokesman of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). After the incident in Alkhanly, Armenia and Azerbaijan exchanged accusations of ignoring civilians' rights.

On July 7, the Azerbaijani MoD announced its fire attacks on Armenian positions, explaining the shelling by the need to prevent diversion, and calling it a response to the shelling of Alkhanly, where two civilians were killed. As a result of the shelling on July 7, three servicemen of the Defence Army were wounded, the MoD of Nagorno-Karabakh reported.

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