16 October 2017, 09:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 9-15

Entry into force of the verdict in the Nemtsov murder case; ECtHR’s decision on the complaint of relatives of the murdered residents of the Chechen village of Novye Aldy; overcoming the Georgian President’s veto on country’s draft constitution; appointment of a new head of Abkhazian MIA; detention of officer Khudyakov, who had been hiding for almost a decade; major fire in the commodity marketplace in Rostov-on-Don, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 9-15, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

After Russian SC’s decision, verdict on Nemtsov murder case comes into force

On October 10, the Russian Supreme Court (SC) slightly softened the verdict in the case of the murder of the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, cancelling the fines, but confirming the prison terms of five natives of Chechnya. Thus, the verdict issued on July 13 by the Moscow District Military Court came into force. In particular, it prescribed to send Zaur Dadaev, who was found to be the actual killer, to a colony for 20 years. The prosecutor's office opposed the claim of Boris Nemtsov's family advocates to consider his murder as an encroachment on the life of a politician. The convicts agreed with this and again declared their innocence. The Russian SC has upheld the verdict, also despite the defence’s statement that the first-instance court had violated the adversarial principle of the trial, as well as defendants’ and jurors’ rights.

ECtHR obliges Russia to pay almost 290,000 euros to relatives of Novye Aldy killed villagers

On October 10, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) passed its decision on the case “Khadjimuradov et al versus Russia” opened on complaints of relatives of 21 persons, who were killed during a "cleansing" conducted on February 5, 2000, by law enforcers in the Chechen village of Novye Aldy. The ECtHR ruled that Russian authorities had violated the right to life of the perished villagers and ordered to pay 15,000 euros to each of 18 applicants; 7500 euros to each of two applicants; and 2500 euros as compensation of legal expenses. Back in 2000, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) “Memorial” documented the death of 56 Novye Aldy villagers, who fell victim to the above "cleansing". Eyewitnesses had claimed that among the casualties there were a one-year-old child, nine women and 11 elderly villagers.

Georgian MPs overcome President's veto imposed on draft constitution

On October 9, President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili vetoed the draft of the new country’s constitution, which was adopted by the Parliament in its final reading on September 26. The president opposed six provisions of the draft: the way of distributing the "bonus mandates" among the members of the party that has won the elections; the ban on creating electoral blocs at elections; as well as the provisions concerning the Constitutional Court, the faith, and the way of electing the President of Georgia. Mr Margvelashvili sent his comments, agreed with the opposition, to the Parliament. However, on October 13, the MPs, with 110 votes "against" and 8 "for", overcame the president's veto. The MPs from the oppositional United National Movement (UNM) left the hall without voting; those from the Alliance of Georgia’s Patriots did not appear at the session; while those from the European Georgia supported the president’s veto. According to the regulations, when the veto has been overcome, the bill should be voted on in its initial version, for which 117 MPs had voted, with 7 voting “against”.

New MIA head appointed in Abkhazia

On October 12, Harry Arshba was appointed to the post of the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Abkhazia. He replaced Aslan Kobakhiya, who was dismissed after incidents with Russian tourists and a number of scandals related to law enforcers’ complaints about total corruption. President Raul Khajimba demanded from the new minister to intensify fight against crime and "more severely and actively influence the criminal situation in Abkhazia." Aslan Kobakhiya had occupied the post for a little over a year: he took it up on August 17, 2016, shortly after opposition demands of his resignation.

Abkhaz journalists believe that the minister's replacement was caused by the need to tighten the fight against crime; and appointment of Mr Arshba could be connected with recommendations from Russia. At the same time, the resigned Aslan Kobakhiya will continue as Abkhaz vice-premier and oversee the country’s power block.

Officer Khudyakov, who had been hiding for almost ten years, sent to colony

On October 9, it became known about the detention of Evgeny Khudyakov, who had been sentenced to 17 years in prison for killing three peaceful residents of Chechnya, and then escaped for almost ten years. The former officer was detained in late August; he was taken to Rostov-on-Don, where on September 21 he was acquainted with his verdict and sent to the colony, the North-Caucasian District Military Court has reported. As it turned out, Khudyakov, who failed to appear at his verdict announcement in December 2007, all this time lived in the Voronezh Region, where he worked at a small agricultural enterprise, and was detained accidentally. The injured Chechens refused to independently search for Khudyakov in order to take revenge, since "the blood feud does not concern people of other faith," said a brother of one of the murdered Chechens.

Large commodity marketplace burns down in Rostov-on-Don

In the evening on October 8, in Rostov-on-Don, a fire broke out in the "Vostochny" commodity marketplace, located in the Temernik Micro-District. The fire that covered 6000 square meters was localized at night and extinguished only on the following day, on October 9. Entrepreneurs tried to save their goods, but managed to take out only a part of their goods. Social network users suggested an arson version, while fire eyewitnesses criticized the work of fire-fighters, who, in their opinion, were late to start extinguishing the fire. The traders, who supported the arson version, told the "Caucasian Knot" about their multimillion losses; however, policemen have concluded that the fire was caused by carelessness of two welders.

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