06 August 2018, 13:28

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 30-August 5, 2018

Death of Russian journalists in the Central African Republic; appointment of the date for the presidential election in Georgia; fire in Sochi, which killed ten people; visit of tens of thousands of people to funeral of a Chechen man sentenced for the murder of Yuri Budanov; hurricane in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia; detention of the chief of the Dagestani Bureau for Medical Examination, ‑ see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of July 30-August 5, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Russian journalists killed in CAR

Journalist Orkhan Djemal, cameraman Kirill Radchenko, and film director Alexander Rastorguev were killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) while working on a documentary film. According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), they were killed on July 30. At night on August 5, an Air France plane delivered the bodies of the killed journalists to Moscow. Investigators have already questioned relatives, colleagues, and friends of the deceased journalists and appointed forensic examinations in the case on their deaths.

Orkhan Djemal, a co-founder of the Muslim Union of Journalists of Russia, commented on a number of topics for the "Caucasian Knot", including the materials about the disappearance of singer Zelimkhan Bakaev in Chechnya and about the conflict between Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Evkurov and the Muftiate. He was an author of the book "Chronicles of the Five-Day War" about the military conflict between Georgia and Russia in South Ossetia in 2008. Alexander Rastorguev was a documentary film director from Rostov-on-Don. On August 3, the jury of the film prize "Laurel Branch" posthumously declared him its laureate.

The journalists could fell victim to robbers, reported sources from the law enforcement bodies of the CAR. Staff members of private and public organizations specializing in investigations pointed to the discrepancy between the information about the signs of torture on the killed journalists' bodies reported by the Russian MFA, as well as about the security of the area where Orkhan Djemal, Alexander Rastorguev, and Kirill Radchenko had been killed. According to the Centre for Investigations, the killed journalists arrived in the CAR on tourist visas, and their investigation was associated with the private military company "Wagner Group". Earlier, the "Caucasian Knot" has been informed by military analysts that mercenaries from the "Wagner Group" and Chechen soldiers and officers comprise the main land-based combat units within the Russian grouping of troops in Syria. The total strength of the Russian contingent in Syria is estimated at 7000 soldiers and officers.

Georgia announces date of presidential election

In Georgia, the presidential election will be held on October 28, 2018, announced Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on August 1. The election, which is scheduled for October 28, will be the last election to be held by direct vote, as follows from the amendments to the Constitution of Georgia. The president will be elected for six years in connection with the transition to a parliamentary model of government and the election of the leader of the state by parliament since 2024. On July 21, David Bakradze was presented as a candidate for the presidency of Georgia from the oppositional parliamentary "European Georgia" Party. Prior to that, ten opposition parties headed by the "United National Movement" (UNM) Party presented Grigol Vashadze as a single presidential candidate, and the political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" placed him to the second place in the run for President.

Members of the ruling "Georgian Dream-Democratic Movement" Party promised to present their presidential candidate in late August. Meanwhile, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the ruling party, has stated that the issue to nominate an independent candidate for the presidential election is being considered. It is not ruled out that Salome Zurabishvili, an independent member of the Georgian Parliament, will be an independent candidate for the presidential election. On July 31, she announced the renunciation of her French citizenship. The political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" associated the Salome Zurabishvili's step with her intention to run for President, but they criticized the "Georgian Dream" Party for unwillingness to nominate its candidate.

In Sochi, ten people killed in fire

On July 30, in Sochi, a fire occurred in a building, which, as it turned out later, was built without any permit from the authorities. At the place of the fire, the bodies of ten people were found. Three persons were hospitalized. The death toll included tourists. According to investigators, the burned building was leased out by an owner of a barbecue house located next door. The fire began in the barbecue house and then spread to the building where the tourists stayed. The owner of the barbecue house is charged under the article about rendering services of inadequate quality, which provides for up to ten years of imprisonment. Relatives of four victims, citizens of Armenia, have already identified their family members, and the authorities of Sochi helped them transport the bodies to their homeland.

Tens of thousands of people visit funeral of a Chechen man sentenced for Yuri Budanov's murder

On August 3, the Federal Penitentiary Service (known as FSIN) reported that Yusup Temirkhanov, who was serving his sentence in a penal colony in Omsk for the murder of Yuri Budanov, died in the hospital. Yusup Temirkhanov died because of worsening of his chronic diseases, reported a FSIN official. Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Geldagan village in the Kurchaloi District to express their condolences to relatives of Yusup Temirkhanov and to take part in the funeral ceremony. On August 4, 48-year-old Yusup Temirkhanov was buried at a cemetery in his family village. On the day of the funeral, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov announced that Yusup Temirkhanov had not been involved in the murder of Yuri Budanov. Meanwhile, the Chechen leader admitted that the sentence made Yusup Temirkhanov a national hero, who "took revenge for the desecrated honour" of a Chechen young woman. Let us remind you that in July 2003, Yuri Budanov, the former Colonel of the Russian army and the commander of the 160th tank regiment, was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment in the case on the kidnapping and murder of Elza Kungaeva, an 18-year-old Chechen woman. In January 2009, Yuri Budanov was released on the conditional early relief (CER), and on June 10, 2011, he was shot dead. On May 7, 2013, the Moscow City Court sentenced Yusup Temirkhanov for the murder of Yuri Budanov to 15 years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony. Meanwhile, Yusup Temirkhanov pleaded not guilty.

Residents of Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia suffer from a hurricane

In the evening on July 30, in Kabardino-Balkaria, residents of a number of villages in the Prokhladnensky District were cut off from the electricity supply because of the bad weather. Residential buildings were damaged, and an accident on a gas pipeline occurred in the Sovetsky village. Nine people sought medical help because of injuries they got during the hurricane. On July 31, the supply of electricity was restored in all villages, except for the village of Karagach and the Cossack village of Soldatskaya. The authorities did not announce the completion of the emergency works in those villages until August 2. According to the calculations run by officials, the restoration of social facilities in the Prokhladnensky District of Kabardino-Balkaria will require 6.8 million roubles. Besides, in the evening on July 30, as a result of heavy rains and strong wind in the Ust-Dzheguta District of Karachay-Cherkessia, roofs of 76 residential buildings and two buildings of local administrations were damaged. During the hurricane, residents of villages and towns in three districts of the republic were cut off from the power supply for a while.

Chief of Dagestani Bureau for Medical Examination detained

At night on August 2, Magomed Makhachev, the head of the Chief Bureau for Medical and Social Expertise of Dagestan, who was wanted in the case on briberies in the Bureau, was detained and placed in the SIZO (pre-trial prison) in Makhachkala. The suspect was detained in Grozny, the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported. According to the Dagestani Prosecutor's Office, Magomed Makhachev is suspected of receiving bribes amounting to about 52 million roubles. He has already been dismissed by the court from the post of the head for the Chief Bureau for Medical and Social Expertise of Dagestan. According to Dagestani investigators, employees of the Chief Bureau for Medical and Social Expertise of Dagestan are suspected of mass issuance of disability certificates. Only in 2017, 300 residents of Dagestan were unreasonably recognized disabled, and as a result, about 24 million roubles were stolen from the Pension Fund of Russia, the Prosecutor's Office of Dagestan reported.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on August 6, 2018 at 08:05 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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