Women and children return from Syria to Chechnya, Grozny, October 21, 2017. Screenshot: video posted by user Russia 24, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au-M3DuD-9I

04 January 2018, 07:00

Northern Caucasus in 2017: persecution of gays, armed clashes, change of power in Dagestan

The past year in the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) will be remembered by truckers' protests, change of Dagestani leadership, persecutions of gays in Chechnya and armed clashes of law enforces with militants. The "Caucasian Knot" has summed up the most significant events in Northern Caucasus.

Militants' New Year surprises

In several regions of Northern Caucasus, the end of 2017 was marked by counterterrorist operations (CTOs) and shootouts, including in the regions, where militants had not been particularly active – in the Stavropol Territory and the Karachay-Cherkessian Republic (KChR).

Thus, at night on December 20, in Stavropol, a man blew up a grenade in a block of flats, after which he was killed by law enforcers. The casualty was a 25-year-old KChR native, who, presumably, was a member of the "Zelenychuk" grouping of militants, law enforcers have suggested.

On December 18, law enforcers reported the killing of five militants in the outskirt of the village of Zelenchukskaya in the KChR. According to the police, the casualties had planned terror acts in crowded places.

In November-December, several CTOs were also held in the regions, where militants have traditionally been active in recent years. Thus, on December 16, the CTO regime was introduced in the village of Gubden in the Karabudakhkent District of Dagestan. In the morning on December 17, law enforcers engaged in a skirmish with armed people who had taken shelter in a private house. During the storming of the house, three people were killed. One of them was identified as Aligadji Khamutaev, who, according to law enforcers, was the leader of the "Gubden" grouping.

In the evening on November 5, several militants attacked a block-post near the village of Yandare in the Nazran District of Ingushetia. A suicide bomber blew up a bomb in the block-post building, killing two policemen. His accomplices started a battle with policemen; the Russian National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) reported two killed militants.

Truckers against "Platon" and customs

In spring of 2017, drivers of heavy trucks (truckers) from the NCFD regions conducted protest actions demanding the abolition of the "Platon" system, introduced in 2015 to collect fares for using federal highways. One of the most numerous was the truckers' action near the Dagestani city of Manas – here, as of the evening on April 23, more than 350 drivers and truck owners went on a strike. The action was reinforced by truckers in Ingushetia and KChR.

Return from Syria

In 2017, women and children were returned to Russia from Syria and Iraq in several large groups. In total, last year, 93 Russian citizens were returned from the Middle East, as Ziyad Sabsabi, the Senator from Chechnya at the Federation Council, stated on December 14.

However, some women were detained by law enforcers; and criminal cases were brought against them. On November 14, it became known that policemen detained three women from Dagestan, who flew from Syria to Chechnya.

The return of women and children home is one of the most important outcomes of the year, Dagestani journalists believe. "The women who had left for Syria and Iraq with their children made their choice consciously, but children are innocent – they do not deserve to be in the difficult conditions of the war; therefore, it's very important to bring them home," Gadjimurad Sagitov has noted.

Abdulatipov's resignation was the main event for Dagestan

On October 3, Russian President accepted the resignation of the head of Dagestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov, and appointed Vladimir Vasiliev, the head of the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) faction at the State Duma, to be the acting head of Dagestan.

"The change of the head of Dagestan was not only an all-Dagestani, but also a federal event... For the first time, the principle that was used earlier – to appoint local officials – was broken. The situation in Dagestan had deteriorated up to the state of complete absurdity – political, legal and economic; therefore, it was decided to introduce an external management," Magomed Magomedov, a political analyst of the "Chernovik" weekly, has noted.

Persecution of gays

On April 1, the "Novaya Gazeta" published an article about mass detentions and murders in Chechnya of men suspected of unconventional sexual orientation. On April 4, the newspaper reported on a "secret jail" for gays in Argun, in the building of the former ROVD (District Interior Division).

The publication of the "Novaya Gazeta" triggered a sharp reaction of Chechen authorities, who stated that if there had been any gays in the region, their relatives would have executed them themselves. On April 25, the PACE Deputies adopted a resolution, in which they criticized the human rights situation in Northern Caucasus.

Kidnappings in Chechnya are on "flow line"

According to the calculations run by the "Caucasian Knot", in 2017, in Chechnya, relatives of at least 51 persons claimed kidnapping of them. Kidnappers' victims were people from various population groups – relatives of underground fighters; people suspected of sympathy to radical Islam; relatives of those who went to fight in Syria for the anti-governmental forces; people suspected of homosexual orientation; and entrepreneurs. The situation with kidnappings in Chechnya resembled the situation during the second Chechen campaign, the rights defenders, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", believe.

KChR – struggle for direct election

On December 5, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the Karachay-Cherkessian Republic (KChR) sent a petition of the initiative group asking to initiate a referendum on direct election of the head of the republic. The initiative was supported by the Congress of the Karachay People. However, on December 25, the parliamentarians voted against the referendum. This decision was made with an eye to the Kremlin's position, members of the "Russia's Renaissance Party", "Yabloko" and "ROT Front" suggested.

Verdict in Nemtsov's murder case

On October 10, the Russian Supreme Court slightly softened the verdict in the case of the murder of the oppositional politician Boris Nemtsov, by cancelling the fines, but upholding the prison terms awarded to five natives of Chechnya. Thus, the verdict passed on July 13 by the Moscow District Military Court came into force and sent Zaur Dadaev, who was found to be the killer, to colony for 20 years. Anzor Gubashev was sentenced to 19 years, Shagid Gubashev – to 16 years, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov – to 14 years, and Khamzat Bakhaev – to 11 years of imprisonment.

Full text of the article is available on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’.

Author: Gor Aleksanyan, Oleg Krasnov; Source: CK correspondents

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