02 July 2018, 16:12

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events from June 25 to July 1, 2018

Protests in Southern Russia against increase of retirement age; explosion at a fuelling station and a new government head in Chechnya; new Saakashvili's conviction, – read about these and other events in the Caucasus that happened during the week from June 25 to July 1, 2018, in the review prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Protests in Southern Russia against plans to rise the retirement age

Last week, a number of cities in Southern Russia hosted protests against the increase of the retirement age for women from 55 to 63 years and for men from 60 to 65 years.

On July 1, in Stavropol, an unsanctioned action was held by several dozen supporters of the oppositional politician Alexei Navalny. On the same day, his supporters held a rally in Krasnodar with about 150 participants, according to the police. Solo pickets were held in Volgograd by activists of the "Communist of Russia" Party.

On June 29, a rally in Astrakhan, organized by the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party, gathered about 2000 people. Its participants called for the resignation of the government and expressed their outrage at the plans to increase the retirement age and the VAT, complaining also about the rise of gasoline prices. On June 28, in Rostov-on-Don, women-activists of the Democratic Coalition staged a flash mob against the planned increase of the retirement age; they went out almost naked with posters "They've robbed us to panties". Earlier, the authorities of Rostov-on-Don and Volgograd refused to sanction the protests against the pension reform. The Rostov Mayoralty explained the refusal with enhanced security measures related to the FIFA World Cup.

Explosion at a fuelling station and new head of Chechen government

On June 28, four tanks with fuel exploded at a fuelling station located a kilometre off the village of Shelkovskaya. The fire spread to the car service building and covered 800 square meters. Five persons have suffered. Law enforcers believe that the main version of the accident was a violation of safety rules during works at the fuelling station.

On June 25, the parliament of Chechnya approved Muslim Khuchiev, the Mayor of Grozny, earlier appointed by Ramzan Kadyrov, as the new chairman of the republic's government (prime minister). This happened after on June 22, Abubakar Edelgeriev, the former premier, was appointed as adviser to the Russian president Vladimir Putin. Ibragim Zakriev, 28, Kadyrov's nephew, earlier First Deputy Prime Minister of Chechnya, was appointed as Acting Mayor of Grozny.

New verdict to Saakashvili and "Otkhozoriya-Tatunashvili" list presented to Georgian MPs

On June 28, Tbilisi Court found the former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili guilty of beating up the MP Valery Gelashvili in 2005 and sentenced him in absentia to six years in prison. This is Saakashvili's second conviction passed in his homeland. On January 5 this year, he was found guilty of abuse of powers in pardoning the convicts for killing the businessman Sandro Girgvliani and sentenced to three years in prison.

On June 26, the Georgian government approved a sanctions list named after Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoriya, the Georgian citizens, killed, according to Tbilisi, in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On March 21, Georgian MPs demanded from the government to present a list of those accused of committing crimes against Georgian citizens in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The list includes 33 persons, against whom criminal cases are opened in Georgia. The list of "Otkhozoriya-Tatunashvili" will include not only the culprits, but also those who patronize them, Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Premier, has assured. The Georgian opposition has criticized the list, saying that it contains no Russians but contains those already dead. Sukhumi treated it as "a manifestation of aggression." A meeting was scheduled in Gali for June 27 within the framework of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms. The delegates of Russia and Abkhazia demanded that the issue of Giga Otkhozoriya's death be withdrawn from the consideration; the Georgian party found it unacceptable; and the talks were disrupted.

Parade with demonstration of new equipment and announcement of military exercises in Azerbaijan

On June 26, Baku hosted a parade in honour of the Day of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan and the 100th anniversary of the National Army with the participation of new modern weapons. President Ilham Aliev, speaking about the confrontation in the Karabakh conflict zone, noted that "the war is not over." American helicopters, cruise missiles and other weapons shown at the parade confirmed the statements about Azerbaijan's superiority over the enemy and testified the Azerbaijani readiness for large-scale battles in Karabakh, said the Azerbaijani experts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". Their Armenian counterparts believe that it is too early to talk about the changed balance of power of the parties in conflict, but Armenia should be ready for a new aggravation. Also on June 28, Baku announced the upcoming military exercises involving 20,000 militaries and the use of missiles and aircrafts. The manoeuvres will be held in conditions as close to combat ones as possible, military observers assert.

Appointment of presidential envoys to Southern Russia

On June 26, the Russian president appointed Lieutenant-General Alexander Matovnikov, Deputy Commander of Special Operations Forces, as his plenipotentiary envoy for the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD). He will replace Oleg Belaventsev, who occupied the post since July 26, 2016. Vladimir Ustinov, the plenipotentiary envoy for the Southern Federal District (SFD), will preserve his post. The President of Russia has extended his powers for the fourth time, despite the envoy's limit age for the civil service.

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