World Cup 2018 fan zone in Volgograd. Photo by Vyacheslav Yaschenko for the Caucasian Knot

25 June 2018, 13:58

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 18-24, 2018

Matches of the FIFA World Cup in Sochi, Volgograd, and Rostov-on-Don; approval of the interim government in Georgia; extradition to Russia of North-Ossetian native Aslan Gagiev; Geneva discussions on security in the Caucasus; issue of housing certificates to migrants from villages of Khrakh-Uba and Uryan-Uba; decision on granting material assistance to fire victims from Mokok village in Dagestan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 18-24, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Sochi, Volgograd, and Rostov-on-Don host FIFA World Cup matches

During the past week, there were several matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia since June 14.

On June 20, a match between the national teams of Saudi Arabia and Uruguay held at the "Rostov Arena" ended with the score of 1:0 in favour of the South Americans. The match was attended by more than 42,000 people. On June 23, Rostov-on-Don hosted a match between the national teams of Mexico and South Korea, and the match ended with the score of 2:1 in favour of the Mexicans. On that day, football fans arranged a colourful procession. It should be noted that city residents expressed different impressions from the World Cup: some Rostov residents complained about traffic jams and poor organization, while others shared their positive emotions from the festive atmosphere in the city.

On June 18, the "Volgograd-Arena" Stadium hosted a match between the national teams of England and Tunisia. The British football players won with the score of 2:1. The stands of the stadium accommodated 41,084 football fans. In Volgograd, clouds of gnats disturbed football players and fans. The players of the English national team said that during the match, they used repellents against gnats, and Volgograd residents complained that the clouds of gnats prevented normal movement and breathing right in the centre of the city. When commenting on those statements, the chief of the Hydrometeorological Centre of Russia said that the invasion of gnats to Volgograd at this time of year was inevitable. On June 22, in Volgograd, football players from Nigeria defeated athletes from Iceland with the score of 2:0, and the match gathered almost 41,000 football fans. People who came to Volgograd to watch the match noted friendly attitude of city residents and fans of the opposing team.

On June 18, at the "Fisht" football stadium in Sochi, the Belgian national team defeated the team of Panama with the score of 3:0. The match was attended by more than 43,000 fans. On June 23, the national teams of Germany and Sweden played in Sochi, and the match culminated in the victory of the German football players with the score of 2:1. There were no free seats at the stands: the match gathered 44,287 football fans, the FIFA press service reports. Before the match, excursions around Sochi were arranged for guests of the city.

It should be noted that football players from Egypt accommodated in Grozny completed their two matches of the World Cup with a loss. Observers of the foreign media pointed out that the choice of the capital of Chechnya as the base was a big mistake of the Egyptian national team because of the distance from the cities of the World Cup matches. They also noted that the involvement in the Ramzan Kadyrov's PR actions prevented the rehabilitation of key Egyptian football player Mohamed Salah.

Interim government approved in Georgia

On June 20, in Georgia, the parliament approved the composition of the country's interim government, which for the first time in the Georgia's history became temporary, since it would be reorganized in the coming weeks and its members would resign again. That happened after on June 13, Giorgi Kvirikashvili announced his leaving the post of the Prime Minister and explained his decision by disagreements with Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the "Georgian Dream" ruling party. Finance Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze was approved the chair of the government approved for the coming weeks. The basic structure of the government remained the same, with the exception of three new ministers, including Giorgi Cherkezishvili, Minister for Economy and Sustainable Development, Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, and Finance Minister Nikoloz Gagua. Opposition MPs from the "United National Movement" (UNM) Party criticized Mamuka Bakhtadze and called him a "young Prime Minister with old-fashioned ideas." The new Prime Minister presented to the MPs a programme developed in haste, believe Georgian political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot".

North-Ossetian native Aslan Gagiev extradited to Russia

On June 20, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Russia reported the extradition of Aslan Gagiev, a native of North Ossetia, to the Russian law enforcement bodies in Vienna. The suspect is accused of organizing a series of resonant killings in Russia. Aslan Gagiev was detained in Vienna in January 2015, and on September 12, 2017, the Austrian court approved his extradition to Russia. The defence requested to revoke the decision to extradite Aslan Gagiev to Russia, but on March 30, the Austrian Supreme Court dismissed the defence motion. After Aslan Gagiev had been brought to Russia, he was taken into custody. According to investigators, the militant grouping led by Aslan Gagiev committed about 40 killings in North Ossetia, Moscow, and the Moscow Region. The investigators suggest that, in particular, members of the Aslan Gagiev's grouping shot dead Mark Metsaev, the chief of the North-Ossetian Department for Combating Organized Crime (known as UBOP) of the Russian MIA, Vladikavkaz Mayor Vitaly Karaev, and Kazbek Pagiev, the former head of the Vladikavkaz city administration. Some of the members from the Aslan Gagiev's grouping have already been sentenced. The defence of Aslan Gagiev prevented his extradition and referred to his alleged aerophobia. In Austria, Aslan Gagiev himself tried to simulate suffering from the above disorder. However, the additional materials provided by the Russian General Prosecutor's Office made it possible to extradite the suspect to Russia, reported Alexander Kurennoy, the spokesperson for the General Prosecutor's Office.

Geneva Discussions on security in the Caucasus mention Archil Tatunashvili's death

On June 19-20, Geneva hosted the negotiations within the so-called discussions held after the military events in South Ossetia in August 2008 and based on the agreements reached through the mediation of the EU, the UN, and the OSCE. Representatives of Georgia handed over to co-chairs and participants of the discussions the interim report of the National Bureau of Examination, which made a conclusion about the torture and murder of Archil Tatunashvili who died in the hospital of Tskhinvali on February 23, the day after being detained by South-Ossetian law enforcers on suspicion of plotting an act of sabotage. When participants of the negotiations demanded to immediately transfer to Georgia the internal organs of the man deceased in Tskhinvali for a complete examination, representatives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced they would not interfere in the Archil Tatunashvili's case. Meanwhile, during the negotiations, representatives of South Ossetia raised the issue concerning the return of the Okonsky triptych, which was still in Georgia, and also mentioned the issue concerning preservation of historical and cultural monuments in the territory controlled by the Georgian authorities. However, Georgia refused to discuss those issues.

Dagestan starts paying compensation to migrants from Khrakh-Uba and Uryan-Uba and transfers compensation to fire victims from Mokok

On June 21, in Dagestan, the authorities began granting housing certificates to accommodate migrants from the Azerbaijani villages of Khrakh-Uba and Uryan-Uba. The first certificates were granted to 20 residents of the villages, which after the collapse of the USSR became Russian enclaves in the territory of Azerbaijan and then, in 2010, became part of the country. The migrants, who had been waiting for help for many years, were informed that the problem with financing was resolved only this year after the interference of Vladimir Vasiliev, the acting leader of Dagestan. The migrants who were granted the certificates said that they were satisfied with the solution of their long-term problem. In total, the approved list of villagers in need of the state support for resettlement in Dagestan included 377 persons from 138 families.

On June 21, it was also reported that the government of Dagestan pronounced the decision to allocate more than 77 million roubles to pay compensation to 107 residents of the Mokok village, who lost their houses as a result of the fire in 2016. Dagestani Prime Minister Artyom Zdunov signed a resolution to allocate money from the Dagestani government's reserve fund to pay compensation to residents of the Mokok village. The money will be transferred to personal accounts of the fire victims. It should be noted that earlier, Mokok villagers held protest actions with the demand of compensation and accused the officials who compiled the list of the fire victims in understating their number.

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