02 April 2018, 09:10

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 26-April 1

Actions in Southern Russia in memory of victims in Kemerovo; arrest of Dagestani businessman Ziyavudin Magomedov; blowing up in Nagorno-Karabakh of combat engineers from The HALO Trust; Geneva Discussions on Transcaucasia; attack in Makhachkala on a staff member of the HRC "Memorial" Dagestani office; guilty verdict for defendants involved in beating of a Rostov journalist, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 26-April 1, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Residents of Southern Russia hold actions in memory of Kemerovo victims

On March 25, a fire occurred at the "Winter Cherry" shopping and entertainment complex in Kemerovo. It was not extinguished until the other day. According to the updated information, 64 people, including 41 children, were killed by the fire. The day of March 28 was declared a day of mourning in Russia. On that day, as well as on March 27, mourning events were held in many cities of Russia, including in the southern regions, and abroad. In particular, on March 27, eight Volgograd residents held solo pickets, during which they stated that the tragedy in Kemerovo had been provoked by corruption and negligence of officials. On the same day, two other mourning events were held in Volgograd. One of them was organized by the authorities in the Komsomol Garden, and the second one was held by the local office of Alexei Navalny. Residents of Makhachkala, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi and Cherkessk interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" correspondents said that they were afraid to visit large shopping centres and called on to punish the persons guilty of the tragedy.

In Southern Russia, people also joined the social action #locked, seeking to prevent similar tragedies in their cities. Participants of the action independently check shopping centres, educational institutions, administrative buildings and other public places in their cities for the presence of fire extinguishers and open emergency exits. The activists use a hashtag #locked and post on social networks the photos of the places where those necessary fire safety requirements are not respected. They call on to refrain from visiting those buildings.

Dagestani businessman Ziyavudin Magomedov arrested in Moscow

On March 30, investigators arrived to conduct searches at the office of the "Summa" Group, chaired by Ziyavudin Magomedov, a native of Dagestan, one of the richest businessmen in Russia. On March 31, the Tver Court of Moscow arrested Ziyavudin Magomedov and his brother Magomed Magomedov, a former senator, until May 30. The Magomedov brothers are suspected of creating a criminal community and embezzling 2.5 billion roubles from the budget. Investigators started to check the Ziyavudin Magomedov's case after the tax authorities voiced claims against the Novorossiysk commercial seaport, which, according to the Federal Tax Service, failed to pay 6.95 billion roubles of taxes in 2014-2015. Ziyavudin Magomedov called the criminal case against him "a strange" and promised to challenge his arrest.

Combat engineers from HALO Trust killed in an explosion in NKR

In the morning on March 29, a car of the international humanitarian organization The HALO Trust was blown up on a mine in the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). As a result, three persons were killed and two others were wounded. All the killed and wounded people are residents of the NKR. Doctors estimate the condition of the wounded people as grave, one of them lost his legs. The HALO Trust is a British charitable and US NGO engaged in clearance of landmines and unexploded missiles that may pose a danger to local residents. The incident with the explosion occurred when combat engineers were driving to the place to be cleared of landmines.

Participants in Geneva Discussions on Transcaucasia fail to agree on non-use of force

On March 27-28, there was the 43rd round of the Geneva Discussions on security and stability in Transcaucasia. Its participants failed to accept the declaration on the non-use of force and explained that by the parties' unwillingness to constructively discuss the issue. The Georgian and Russian political analysts explained to the "Caucasian Knot" that Russia and Georgia pursue different goals at the talks. In particular, earlier, Russia has refused to sign an agreement on the non-use of force, since the country does not consider itself to be a party to the conflict, and Georgia is not willing to sign any agreements with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, treating them as its occupied territories. According to Vyacheslav Chirikba, former Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, and Irina Agrba, the head of an NGO, the format of the Geneva Discussions was initially unsuitable for concluding an agreement on the non-use of force. The lack of progress in the negotiations is connected with the Georgia's refusal to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent parties to the conflict, noted journalists Inal Khashig and Anton Krivenyuk.

A staff member of Dagestani office of the HRC "Memorial" beaten up in Makhachkala

On March 28, Sirazhudin Datsiev, the head of the Dagestani office of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", was beaten near his house in Makhachkala. Relatives of the rights defender were informed by doctors that he got injuries of medium severity. The HRC "Memorial" associated the beating of its employee with his human rights activities. The beating of Sirazhudin Datsiev was the realization of threats voiced against human rights defenders in January, believes Oleg Orlov, a member of the council board for the HRC "Memorial". He has mentioned that in January, a car of the HRC was set on fire in Makhachkala and staff members of the HRC "Memorial" Dagestani office got messages with threats and demands to stop their activities.

Guilty verdict pronounced against defendants involved in an attack on a Rostov journalist

On March 26, in Rostov-on-Don, the court found local residents guilty of beating Vladislav Ryazantsev, a "Caucasian Knot" correspondent. Two of the defendants were punished by deprivation of liberty: Ruslan Pavlyuk was sentenced to 3.5 years of imprisonment in a common-security penal colony, and Andrei Bezuglov – to three years and eight months of imprisonment in a penal colony. The rest were sentenced to non-custodial punishments: Alexander Vishnyakov was sentenced to 300 hours of correctional labour, and a minor defendant to one year and seven months of conditional imprisonment. Vladislav Ryazantsev himself criticized the mild sentence for Alexander Vishnyakov and called him an active participant in the attack. Meanwhile, the journalist has stated that he does not plan to challenge the verdict, but intends to seek compensation for moral harm. Let us remind you that Vladislav Ryazantsev was beaten near the government building of the Rostov Region on January 10, 2017. According to investigators, three out of four defendants are members of the "Misanthropic Division", an extremist organization banned in Russia.

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