07 January 2019, 17:27

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 31, 2018-January 6, 2019

New Year celebrations and related tragic events; resonant murder in Ingushetia; return of Russian children from Iraq to their families; protest actions in support of Azerbaijani blogger Mekhman Guseinov; start of the "garbage reform" in the regions of Southern Russia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 31, 2018-January 6, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

New Year celebrations and related tragic events

The past week will be remembered by residents of Southern Russia and the countries of Southern Caucasus as a week of the New Year celebrations. However, some tragic events occurred during the holidays. After the New Year fireworks on January 1, a three-year-old boy was brought to the Derbent hospital with a gunshot wound. An unidentified person opened fire from a gun, and a bullet hit the child's head. Doctors failed to save the boy's life, and he died at the Derbent hospital on January 5. Dozens of Georgian residents were injured when launching fireworks. In Tbilisi alone, 44 people were injured while using pyrotechnics on New Year's Eve. In Batumi, four persons were injured when a machine for launching fireworks overturned at the main city square.

Resonant murder in Ingushetia

At night on December 31, 2018, in Nazran, unidentified persons shot and killed Ibragim Belkharoev, a religious leader, a great-grandson of Sheikh Batal-Haji Belkhoroev. During the assassination, Abo Aushev, a driver of Ibragim Belkharoev, was wounded, and he underwent surgery at the Republican Clinical Hospital. On December 31, Ibragim Belkharoev was buried at the family cemetery in the Surkhakhi village. Hundreds of people attended the funeral ceremony. Ibragim Belkharoev's relatives announced a reward of 30 million roubles for information about his murder. Local residents associate the murder of Ibragim Belkharoev with his conflict with the authorities. The assassinated religious leader was closely acquainted with the leaders of Chechnya, users of social networks noted. Besides, social network users expressed the opinion that the murder had been committed with the aim of introducing contention between Muslims or sowing "inter-Vird" discord. The head of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) ordered to transfer the case on the Ibragim Belkharoev's assassination to the ICRF's district department. It should be noted that earlier, at least two assassination attempts had been committed against Ibragim Belkharoev, including in May 2016 and in September 2008.

Return of Russian children from Iraq to their families

During the past week, children, brought from Iraq on December 30, were transferred to their relatives. In total, a special flight from Iraq delivered 30 children to Russia, and it was announced by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. According to him, "three children from Chechnya, one from Moscow, one from Penza, and other 24 from Dagestan" were returned to Russia. Among the children returned from the Middle East on December 30, 2018, there was a six-year-old granddaughter of Nalchik resident Madina Naloeva (the child was taken away from Russia in 2015). After examinations at a Moscow medical centre, 30 children returned from the Middle East were taken by their relatives, reported Russian Children's Ombudsperson Anna Kuznetsova on January 5. The returned children need psychological rehabilitation, note officials from the administration for the Chechen leader and the government of Chechnya. According to Ms Kuznetsova, it is planned to return other 36 children from Iraq in January.

Protest actions in support of Azerbaijani blogger Mekhman Guseinov

In Azerbaijan, the health state of blogger Mekhman Guseinov, the head of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), who is serving his sentence on the charge of defamation after filing a complaint about torture, has been worsened. Mekhman Guseinov continues his hunger strike to protest against a new charge of beating a warder. Azerbaijani rights defenders treat the new case against Mekhman Guseinov as an act of revenge for criticizing the authorities. On January 3, in Baku, supporters of the blogger came to an action in his defence, and 15 people were detained. Of them, eight were sentenced to arrests and fines. On January 3 and 4, an activist of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), a member of the board of the "Musavat" Party, and the head of the Monitoring Centre for Political Prisoners joined the hunger strike with the demand to release the blogger from prison. The international organization "Reporters Without Borders" (RWB) and the US PEN Club also demanded to release Mekhman Guseinov. PACE co-rapporteurs on Azerbaijan called on the country's authorities to reconsider the new case against Mekhman Guseinov. On January 4, the blogger's advocate reported that her client was not able to walk and needed urgent surgery.

Start of "garbage reform" in regions of Southern Russia

On January 1, the so-called "garbage reform" was launched in Russia. Regional operators selected through a tender are now responsible for cleaning, sorting, recycling, and disposal of garbage. Tariffs have also been changed: the cost of the garbage disposal service will now be calculated under a new procedure, and the fee for garbage disposal has been significantly increased in many regions, including in Southern Russia. In Kalmykia, the opposition pointed out the difficulties of the "garbage reform." The increase in tariffs has affected vulnerable segments of the population, and the very method for the tariff calculation is unfair, notes, in particular, the head of the Kalmyk branch of the "Yabloko" Party. In Adygea, the tariffs were increased by 2.5 times. The tariffs have been calculated with errors and should be reduced, while the garbage disposal technology to be used by a new operator is of concern, notes Valery Brinikh, the head for the Adyg branch of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation (known as VOOP). Dissatisfaction with the "garbage reform" was also expressed by residents of Volgograd, who complained that the garbage had been rapidly accumulated in their yards during the New Year's holidays. Garbage dumps were also reported by residents of Rostov-on-Don, where the city authorities threatened to punish the companies responsible for the disposition of garbage.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on January 7, 2019 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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