01 October 2018, 12:39

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 24-30, 2018

Appointment of the new leader in Kabardino-Balkaria; resignation of the Governor in the Astrakhan Region; signing of the agreement on fixing the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia; meeting between the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia; reappointment of Artyom Zdunov as the chair of the Dagestani government and the next CTO in the republic, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 24-30, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Appointment of new leader in Kabardino-Balkaria

On September 26, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision to appoint Kazbek Kokov the acting leader of Kabardino-Balkaria. According to President Putin, Kabardino-Balkarian leader Yuri Kokov asked to be transferred to work in Moscow. Political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" treated the Yuri Kokov's resignation as a consequence of the conflict in the village of Kendelen. According to the political analysts, Kazbek Kokov is a satisfactory figure for the groups of influence in the republic, but his appointment speaks of the federal centre's distrust in local officials after the conflict in Kendelen. It should be noted that Kazbek Kokov recently worked at the presidential administration of the Russian Federation, while his father Valery Kokov was the leader of Kabardino-Balkaria for almost 15 years.

Resignation of Governor in Astrakhan Region

On September 26, Alexander Zhilkin left the post of the Governor for the Astrakhan Region. According to President Vladimir Putin, Alexander Zhilkin asked to be transferred to another job. The Russian President appointed Sergey Morozov, the deputy head of the Federal Customs Service, the acting head of the region. The resignation of Alexander Zhilkin was expected amid the defeat of the current governors at the elections in the regions, the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent was informed by political analyst Mikhail Vinogradov and State Duma member Oleg Shein. The resignation of the Governor was preceded by the noticeable drop of his position in the "National Rating of Governors" amid corruption scandals and economic problems in the region.

Signing of agreement on fixing the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia

On September 26, Ramzan Kadyrov and Yunus-Bek Evkurov, the leaders of Chechnya and Ingushetia, respectively, signed the agreement on securing the border between the republics. The signing of the agreement amid the protests of Ingush residents in the cities of Sunzha and Magas provoked criticism: the authorities were preparing it in secret, and Ingush residents suspected that the agreed exchange of territories was not really equal, said Ruslan Mutsolgov, the leader of the Ingush branch of the "Yabloko" Party, and rights defender Timur Akiev. On the same day, Yunus-Bek Evkurov commented that the agreement concerned the mountainous and wooded territories without any villages or towns. On September 27, the officials exchanged the territories specified in the agreement. According to Khizir Galaev, Ingush Minister of Agriculture, the republic handed 1290 hectares of arable lands over to Chechnya and got a similar area in the Nadterechny District of Chechnya. The political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" argued about the conflict potential of the agreement signed by Ramzan Kadyrov and Yunus-Bek Evkurov. The agreement looks like a resolution of the dispute between the two republics, but it does not exclude the claims of the Chechen authorities for the territories of the neighbouring regions in the future, believe political analysts Dmitry Oreshkin and Alexei Gunya. The agreement will end the territorial dispute between the republics, political analyst Alexei Malashenko believes.

Meeting of Azerbaijani President and Armenian Prime Minister

On September 28, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met at the summit of the CIS countries held in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. During the meeting, they decided to create a mechanism for urgent communication to prevent violations of the ceasefire between the parties to the Karabakh conflict, reported the press service of the Azerbaijani President. Nikol Pashinyan confirmed the information in a live broadcast on Facebook. The Armenian Prime Minister called the meeting an informal and important event.

It should be noted that almost at the same time, in the speech delivered at the UN General Assembly session, the Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs called on the international community to exert pressure on Armenia to force the country to comply with the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council on the Karabakh conflict. On September 29, a rally was held in Baku, and its participants demanded from the Azerbaijani authorities to begin the military operation "to liberate Karabakh." A Baku official has called the rally inappropriate. He has emphasized that the government uses all the resources to resolve the Karabakh conflict "both through diplomatic measures and by strengthening of the army."

Reappointment of Artyom Zdunov as chair of Dagestani government and next CTO in republic

On September 25, members of the Dagestani parliament approved the appointment of Artyom Zdunov the Prime Minister of the republic. On September 24, Vladimir Vasiliev, elected the leader of Dagestan on September 9, introduced Artyom Zdunov for consideration by the Dagestani MPs. The voting at the parliament was secret: 75 MPs voted for Artyom Zdunov, one voted against him, and one MP abstained. 39-year-old Artyom Zdunov has been the Prime Minister of Dagestan since February 7. Earlier, he had mentioned a large-scale fight against corruption as one of the main challenges. Now he has announced that the government chaired by him intends to focus on the development of infrastructure and attracting investment.

On September 27, the counterterrorist operation (CTO) legal regime was introduced in the Buynaksk and Kumtorkala Districts of Dagestan. On September 28, sources reported that law enforcers killed a 26-year-old resident of the Endirei village in the Khasavyurt District. The armed man was detected in the area of the Buynaksk Pass, he rendered resistance and was killed in a shootout, the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) reported. The killed suspect was identified as Shamil Bilalov, a native of the Endirei village. Earlier, a source from the law enforcement bodies had mentioned him among the people suspected of attacking a police checkpoint near Kizilyurt on December 25, 2016. The responsibility for the attack on the police checkpoint in Kizlyar was claimed by the terrorist organization "Islamic State" (IS), banned in Russia by the court's decision. It should be noted that in the territory of the Buynaksk District, the CTO announced on September 27 became the second special operation for a month, and in the Kumtorkala District the first operation in 2018, while in Dagestan, the special operation became the ninth one since early 2018.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on September 29, 2018 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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