01 April 2019, 19:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 25-31, 2019

Mass protests in Ingushetia demanding the resignation of the leader of the republic; meeting of the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia; Ramzan Kadyrov's intervention in a road accident case in Mozhaisk highway in Moscow; transfer to the court of the case against Abdusamad Gamidov, the former Prime Minister of Dagestan; verdict of guilty to a resident of Georgia in the case on the murder of the US family; mass fight of policemen in Kalmykia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 25-31, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Mass protests in Ingushetia demanding resignation of leader of republic

On March 26, in Magas, a rally against the law on referendum, organized by the public movement "Support of Ingushetia", resulted in a rally demanding the resignation of Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Evkurov. The leader of the republic withdrew the bill from the National Assembly amid the criticism of the opposition, which stated that the bill failed to indicate the grounds for which it would be mandatory to hold a referendum. The new version of the law is dictated by the border agreement which was signed on September 26, 2018, and which caused mass protests in the republic, noted Ruslan Mutsolgov, the leader of the Ingush branch of the "Yabloko" Party. Participants of the rally demanded the resignation of Yunus-Bek Evkurov because of his refusal to meet activists.

The rally was sanctioned for one day only, but some of the protesters stayed in the square till the morning. During the night and morning on March 27, law enforcers made three attempts to disperse protesters, reported human rights defender Magomed Mutsolgov, who took part in the protests. As follows from videos published by eyewitnesses, during the clashes, protesters threw bottles, sticks, chairs, and metal fence parts at law enforcers. In the morning on March 27, in Magas, the protesters stopped the rally in the square after their leaders called on the protesters to disperse, fearing "bloodshed" in new clashes with the law enforcers. The authorities promised to sanction a new rally in five days. Later, hundreds of people blocked for several hours the "Caucasus" highway at the entrance to Nazran and did not unblock it until persuasions of protest leaders. At night on March 28, car drivers carried out a mass spontaneous motor rally in Nazran, after which additional detachments of law enforcers were seconded to the city. On March 29, Yunus-Bek Evkurov accused the leaders of the Ingush protest of irresponsibility. And on March 31, it became known that organizers of two rallies in Magas were refused holding rallies because of violations of the deadlines for filing notifications and errors in them.

Meeting of President of Azerbaijan and Prime Minister of Armenia

On March 29, Ilham Aliev and Nikol Pashinyan met in Vienna under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group co-Chairs. They described the results of the meeting as positive. The meeting in Vienna lasted over three hours, and during two of them, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan talked face to face. It became the first official meeting of Ilham Aliev and Nikol Pashinyan under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group after the "velvet revolution" in Armenia, although earlier, the leaders of the two countries had already met three times. At the end of the meeting, Nikol Pashinyan proposed to continue discussing further the measures to stabilize the situation on the contact line and try to establish a peaceful life in the frontline villages. The negotiation process should also be supported by humanitarian actions, Ilham Aliev said. However, the Azerbaijani political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" did not share the restrained optimism of the leaders of the two countries. Togrul Djuvarly believes that no high expectations should have been associated with the talks between the leaders of the two countries. The negotiation process should be of concrete shape, said Tofiq Tyurkel. The positions of the parties are diametrically opposed, and in such a situation no one should count on a breakthrough in the negotiations, believes Khikmet Gadjizade. Although no breakthrough in the negotiations on the Karabakh conflict should be yet expected, the meeting of the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Vienna demonstrated a constructive approach of the parties, also stated the Armenian political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". In particular, Akop Badalyan notes the world community agrees that the resumption of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh is unacceptable. The OSCE Minsk Group called the Nikol Pashinyan's meeting with Ilham Aliev not negotiations, but a meeting. So, no specific decisions were expected, Stepan Safaryan noted. It was a positive, but not a crucial meeting, concluded Ara Papyan. The meeting of Nikol Pashinyan and Ilham Aliev was positively assessed by the politicians of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Ramzan Kadyrov's intervention in road accident case in Mozhaisk highway in Moscow

At night on March 25, a fatal road accident occurred in Mozhaisk highway in Moscow, in which two persons were killed. According to eyewitnesses, a Mercedes Gelandewagen car flew at high speed into the oncoming lane, where it collided with a Niva car, in which a family from Smolensk was traveling, and a daughter and a wife of the driver were killed. The media reported that the foreign-made car belonged to Abdul-Rakhman Dudaev, a MMA fighter from Chechnya. Abdul-Rakhman Dudaev himself said that he had sold the car a year ago without re-issuance of new document for a new owner of the car. On March 28, Ramzan Kadyrov demanded from Muslim Djambekov, a foreign-made car driver, who had fled from the place of the fatal road accident, "not to disgrace his family" and come to the police to surrender. The Ramzan Kadyrov's appeal was preceded by an appeal of a Smolensk delegate to the leader of Chechnya concerning the road accident. On March 29, Ramzan Kadyrov posted a video of the Muslim Djambekov's apology and reported that the wanted person had come to the police to surrender. On the other day, the police took Muslim Djambekov to the capital of Russia, where he was arrested.

A new video with his apologies from Muslim Djambekov to the leader of Chechnya provoked bewilderment among the residents of the republic interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". They noted that after a similar road accident in Grozny with the participation of a Ramzan Kadyrov's relative, the guilty driver was not punished. Users of social networks argued about the need for the Ramzan Kadyrov's intervention in resonant cases. It should be noted that in October 2018, Ramzan Kadyrov also reacted harshly to a video on the Internet, in which a Chechen threw a can at public transport passengers in Moscow and shouted: "Akhmat rules." Ramzan Kadyrov demanded from the young man to bring a public apology, and in about 2.5 hours, a video was posted on the Internet in which the guy apologized for his action. Human rights defenders then stated that Ramzan Kadyrov unreasonably demonstrated his responsibility for all Chechens.

Transfer to court of case against Abdusamad Gamidov, former Prime Minister of Dagestan

The General Prosecutor's Office of Russia requested to transfer outside the republic the trial in the case against Abdusamad Gamidov, the former Prime Minister of Dagestan. The case against Abdusamad Gamidov and his deputy Rayudin Yusufov on embezzlement of 40 million roubles allocated for the reconstruction of a building to arrange a special institution for the maintenance of stateless persons was transferred to the Supreme Court (SC) of Russia which was to decide where the case would be considered, advocate Dagir Khasavov reported on March 27. The advocate criticized the desire of the Russian General Prosecutor's Office to transfer the trial to another region. Dagir Khasavov believes such a transfer can lead to a delay in the trial. Dagestani journalists Magomed Magomedov and Milrad Fatullaev and political analysts Eduard Urazaev have told the "Caucasian Knot" that the trial in the Abdusamad Gamidov's case is being transferred to another region due to mistrust of the republic's judges. There are no weighty reasons for the transfer of the trial in the Abdusamad Gamidov's case, believes Sergey Kvasov, a well-known Dagestani advocate.

Verdict of guilty to resident of Georgia in case on murder of US family

On March 25, jurors of the Gori District Court of Georgia unanimously found local resident Malkhaz Kobauri guilty of murdering in July 2018 three members of the US Smith family. Malkhaz Kobauri was their guide through the Khada Gorge in the Dusheti District. On March 27, the court sentenced him to life imprisonment. The defender announced his intention to appeal against the verdict, since he believes the Malkhaz Kobauri's guilt was not proved. The Smith spouses and their four-year-old child disappeared in the Khada Gorge in July 2018. Rescue team members found their bodies within three days. According to the results of the forensic examination, the defendant had sexual contact with the murdered woman and the child was shot dead at close range. The murder of the Smith family and the life sentence to shepherd Malkhaz Kobauri did not provoke controversy in society, local journalists reported. The resonant murder produced no effect on the tourism industry of Georgia, although Western diplomats voiced questions concerning the level of security in the country, workers of the tourism industry noted.

Mass fight of policemen in Kalmykia

At night on March 24, a fight broke out among law enforcers in a restaurant in the city of Elista, investigators reported on March 25. According to sources, about 40 people were involved in the conflict. During the fight, a traumatic weapon was used, and as a result, one law enforcer was injured and another was beaten with metal fitting bars. The law enforcers involved in the fight in Elista originated from one village, reported sources of the "Caucasian Knot" from the law enforcement bodies of Kalmykia. According to them, the conflict was of a domestic nature. On March 27, Irina Volk, the official representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Russia, reported that according to the results of the service check carried out against the law enforcers after the fight, four law enforcers were dismissed, eight police officers holding senior positions were brought to "strict disciplinary responsibility," and the materials of the inspection were handed over to investigators.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on April 1, 2019 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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