A protest action against pension reform in Volgograd on July 28. Photo by Tatyana Filimonova for the "Caucasian Knot"

30 July 2018, 20:15

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 23-29, 2018

Guilty verdicts to Ingush CCE agents in the case on torture; arrest of former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan in the case on dispersal of demonstrators in 2008, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of July 23-29, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Ingush CCE agents sentenced in case on torture

On July 27, in Nalchik, the court pronounced a verdict in the case against seven employees of the Ingush Centre for Combating Extremism (CCE, or Centre "E"), accused of murder, extortion, abuse of power with the use of violence against detainees, and other crimes. Timur Khamkhoev, the CCE chief, was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment in a penal colony, Andrei Beznosyuk, the head of the CCE Department, to six years of imprisonment, and Sergey Khandogin, a Timur Khamkhoev's deputy, was sentenced to three years of conditional imprisonment. The most severe punishment ten years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony was pronounced against field investigator Alikhan Bekov. He was the only one charged with the murder of detained Magomed Daliev. Other three law enforcers were sentenced to 3-5.5 years of imprisonment in a common-security penal colony. Timur Khamkhoev and his colleagues were sentenced to significantly shorter terms of imprisonment than public prosecutors required. The public prosecutor required 13 years of imprisonment in a common-security penal colony for Timur Khamkhoev, 16 years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony for Alikhan Bekov, 10 years of imprisonment for Andrei Beznosyuk, and six years of imprisonment for Sergey Khandogin. The defendants pleaded not guilty and completely rejected all the charges. Five of them, including CCE chief Timur Khamkhoev, told the court that they considered themselves to be victims of slander and political intrigues. The victims are disappointed with the excessively mild punishment for the defendants, while the defence of the defendants intends to challenge the verdicts.

The serious verification of complaints about acts of brutal torture in the Centre "E" was launched after the death of one of the detainees who was allegedly subjected to a cruel interrogation.

Residents of Southern Russia take part in protest actions against pension reform

On July 28, in various regions of Russia, including the Southern Federal District (SFD) and the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), people came to actions to protest against the reform, providing for an increase in the retirement age for men from 60 up to 65 and for women from 55 up to 63 years old.

In Rostov-on-Don, more than 1000 activists gathered for a rally. They adopted a resolution with the demand for the resignation of the President and the government of the country. In Volgograd, activists held two rallies. In Elista, organizers reported about protesters, and they said an increase of the retirement age amid a shortage of jobs would greatly complicate employment in Kalmykia.

In Astrakhan, protestors called the reform "a legitimization of slavery." The authorities ignored the opinion of the people, stated participants of a rally in Nalchik, which gathered about 250 people.

In Armenia, Robert Kocharyan arrested in case on dispersal of demonstrators in 2008

On July 26, Robert Kocharyan, the second president of Armenia, was charged with overthrowing the constitutional order in connection with the dispersal of protest rallies in Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008. Then, there were clashes between the protestors, not satisfied with the outcome of the presidential election, and the police. As a result of the clashes, ten people were killed, and more than 250 others were injured. On July 27, the court arrested Robert Kocharyan for 2 months. The former president of Armenia himself stated that the criminal case against him was "a political reprisal."

A criminal case on the violent overthrow of the constitutional order in connection with the events of March 1-2, 2008, was instituted after opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan had come to power. The criminal case also involves CSTO Secretary General Yuri Khachaturov. In 2008-2016, he was the Chief of the General Headquarters of the Armenian Armed Forces and was the First Deputy Minister of Defence of the country. The court placed him under arrest before deposition of a bail in the amount exceeding 10,000 US dollars. Besides, Colonel-General Mikael Arutyunyan, who in 2008 headed the Armenian Ministry of Defence (MoD), was declared wanted. Investigators found that the Mikael Arutyunyan's order to bring armed army units to Yerevan violated the Armenian Constitution.

Law on native languages adopted despite protests voiced by residents of Southern Russia

On July 25, members of the State Duma adopted a bill on national languages, providing for the compulsory study of native languages at the choice of pupils' parents. The bill, providing for the study of the state languages of the republics of Russia "on a voluntary basis," outraged residents of the regions, including in Northern Caucasus. People treated the new law as a threat to the languages and culture of their nations. In Southern Russia, activists went to rallies. 87 researchers from European universities called on the Russian State Duma to reject the bill, but their opinion was also ignored. The new order for teaching of native languages will encourage some of parents to refuse to study the national language in favour of the Russian language, and the federal centre will continue its policy to assimilate small nations, state residents of Dagestan interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". Activists of the North-Caucasian NGOs promised to seek the repeal of the law.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on July 30, 2018 at 09:11 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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