Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the Prime Minister of Georgia, at a protest action in Tbilisi on May 31, 2018. Photo by the press service of the Prime Minister of Georgia

04 June 2018, 09:10

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of 28 to June 3, 2018

Protests in Georgia after the court judgement on two schoolboys' murder; celebration of the Republic Day in Azerbaijan; Syria's recognition of Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's independence, – read about these and other events in the review on the developments in the Caucasus during the week from May 28 to June 3, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Protests in Georgia after judgement on two schoolboys' murder

On May 31, Tbilisi launched the protest action "#don'tkill", triggered by an unfair, according to protesters, court judgement in the murder case of two schoolboys, who were stabbed to death at a brawl on December 1, 2017. The protests began after the court had partially acquitted the two teenagers accused of the murder. The action was visited by Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the Premier, who tried to address the rally on the need for an investigation, but the protesters began throwing bottles at him with cries "Go away!"

On June 1, the court changed the judgement and sentenced the defendants to 10.5 and to 9.75 years of imprisonment, respectively, but the action did not stop. According to the father of one of the casualties, the initiator of the rally, investigators had sheltered the real killers, who have high-ranking relatives. At the background of protests, Irakli Shotadze, the Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, resigned; but after that, protesters began demanding the resignation of the government. The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) resumed the inquiry into the murder, but even then the protests did not stop. On June 2, Tbilisi protesters split – some gathered at the parliament and went on demanding the resignation of the government, while others, mostly students, rallied outside the school, distancing themselves from any political demands.

Conflict Evkurov versus Ingush Muftiate aggravates

On May 27, the Muftiate of Ingushetia ruled to remove Yunus-Bek Evkurov, the head of the republic, from the Muslim community, stating that he had oppressed employees of the Muslims' Spiritual Centre of Ingushetia and the regional Imams. The renunciation of a person from the community implies that Muslims will not participate in his funeral, wedding and other events, the Muftiate has explained. Thus, Mr Evkurov's confrontation with the Muftiate, which lasts for more than one year, has aggravated, during which the head of the republic announced the dissolution of the Muftiate and imposed the control over sermons in mosques; while clergyman threatened him with a Sharia court. The boycott of Evkurov was supported by about 50 most active Muslim preachers, representing from a quarter to a third of all Ingush Imams, Magomed Mutsolgov, the head of the Ingush human rights organization "Mashr", said earlier. On May 30, Evkurov appealed to the Ingush Muftiate with an appeal to show peace during the holy month of Ramadan and arranged a grand reception with the Iftar, attended by Ingush elders and Alims, and on May 31 invited Mufti Khamkhoev to the Iftar.

In the opinion of Akhmet Yarlykapov, a senior researcher at the Centre for Caucasian Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (known as MGIMO), Evkurov's renunciation from the community was a political act on the eve of the election of the head of Ingushetia to be held later in 2018. It is noteworthy that on May 24, Evkurov announced his readiness to head Ingushetia again if the Russian president nominates him for voting at the local parliament; and on June 2, about 500 people went to a rally in Magas, the Ingush capital, demanding the direct election of the head of the republic by citizens.

Celebration of the Republic Day, pressure on opposition and opening of Southern Gas Corridor in Azerbaijan

On May 28, Azerbaijan celebrated the Republic Day. This year, despite the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic (ADR), there were no parades at the state level. The action in memory of the first national republic was held in Baku against the background of law enforcers' ban; it was attended by some 1000-1500 people, the organizers have reported. After the action, the "Republican Alternative" (ReAl) Movement complained about the authorities' pressure. According to the ReAl, four activists were arrested in Baku on May 29-30. Another 50 activists were summoned to the police. The accusations were "unaddressed foul language" and "disobedience to the police," which the oppositionists have treated as far-fetched.

On May 29, President Ilham Aliev opened the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline to supply Azerbaijani gas to Europe. The project will bring not only economic benefits to Azerbaijan, but also political dividends to the authorities, experts believe. According to Ilham Shaban, the head of the Caspian Barrel Petroleum Research Centre, Europe receives a new source of gas and reduces its dependence on other exporters, while Azerbaijan opens a new market for its gas supplies. The Europe's energy interests will outweigh the situation with human rights in Azerbaijan, Natig Djafarli, an economic expert and a member of the ReAl Movement, is sure.

Syria recognizes Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's independence

On May 29, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) of Syria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia announced the mutual recognition and establishment of diplomatic relations. Georgia condemned the Syrian authorities and announced the disruption of diplomatic relations with this country. David Dondua, Deputy Head of Georgia's MFA, has stated a violation of the international law and accused Russia of involvement in the events. The Syria's recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia violates the international law, the European Union and the US State Department have stated.

Nalchik "Bum-Bank" deprived of license

On June 1, the Central Bank of Russia revoked the license from the Kabardino-Balkarian "Bum-Bank" Commercial Bank. The reasons for the decision include violations in combating laundering of the money obtained in a criminal manner, and financing terrorism, a risky business model and participation in dubious transit operations. The "Bum-Bank" depositors will start receiving their insurance indemnity no later than June 15, the "Deposit Insurance Agency" has stated. According to the Central Bank, as of May 1, by the asset value, the "Bum-Bank" was the 380th within the banking system of Russia.

Celebration of Buddha's birthday in Kalmykia

On May 29, Kalmykia's Buddhists marked one of the main holidays – the Buddha's birthday. The central Khurul "Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni" in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, hosted a festive prayer service, attended by about 2000 people. After the prayer, about 60 people took a vow of sobriety. The birthday of Buddha Shakyamuni was traditionally declared a day off in Kalmykia.

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