24 June 2019, 15:31

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 17-23, 2019

Mass protests in Tbilisi and Russia's ban on flights to Georgia; release of Chechen human rights defender Oyub Titiev; sentence of a law enforcer in the case on the murder of a Kabardino-Balkarian resident; armed incidents in Dagestan and Chechnya; protest actions in connection with the arrest of a Dagestani journalist, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 17-23, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Mass protests in Tbilisi and Russia's ban on flights to Georgia

On June 20, at a meeting of the parliamentary assembly, which was held in the parliament building, Sergey Gavrilov, a State Duma MP, sat in the chair of the Speaker of the Georgian parliament. That displeased some of the MPs, and they announced the start of the impeachment procedure for the chair of the parliament. The MPs also demanded to expel the Russian delegation from the building and referred to the fact that "Russia occupied the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia." The MPs' protest was supported by participants of the protests in Tbilisi. The Russian delegation decided to leave Georgia, but the protest continued. In the morning on June 21, law enforcers used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to disperse the protest action. The Georgian Ministry for Public Health reported about 240 people hospitalized. One of the victims was Beslan Kmuzov, a "Caucasian Knot" correspondent. As of June 23, according to the Emergency Situations Coordination and Urgent Assistance Centre of Georgia, 28 victims received the inpatient treatment in Tbilisi. The action was followed by the resignation of Georgian Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), 305 participants of the protest action were detained, and of them, more than 120 were subjected to administrative arrests.

In the evening on June 22, protesters resumed their action in front of the Georgian parliament. They appealed to the government with the demand to release the detainees, bring to justice the law enforcers, who, according to the protestors, were guilty of the cruel dispersal of the protest action, dismiss Interior Minister Giorgi Gakhariya, and hold early parliamentary elections under a proportional system. The protest action ended in front of the office of the "Georgian Dream" ruling party. In the evening on June 23, the protesters resumed a rally in front of the Georgian parliament and blocked Rustaveli Avenue in the centre of Tbilisi. The protest action ended in the square in front of the Georgian government building. The protesters announced they would take actions until the authorities fulfilled their demands.

On June 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Decree "On Certain Measures to Ensure the National Security of Russia and Its Citizens", according to which starting from July 8, Russian airlines are banned from carrying passengers to Georgia. On the other day, the Ministry of Transport imposed a ban on flights of Georgian airlines to Russia starting from July 8. Thus, on July 8, regular flights between Russia and Georgia will be stopped. Earlier, flight connection was suspended in 2006 and 2008, but was restored in 2010.

Release of Chechen human rights defender Oyub Titiev

On June 21, Oyub Titiev, the head of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" office in Grozny, left the penal settlement colony in Argun, where he was serving his sentence in a case on drug possession. Let us remind you that the human rights defender was sentenced to four years of imprisonment in a penal settlement colony. He pleaded not guilty and said that the drugs had been planted to him. On June 10, the court granted the request of Oyub Titiev for his conditional early relief (CER). After Oyub Titiev had been released, he said that he would first rebuild his house and then continue his human rights activities. Colleagues of Oyub Titiev associated his release with a public resonance.

Sentence of law enforcer in case on murder of Kabardino-Balkarian resident

On June 19, the North-Caucasian Military District Court found Pavel Sterlyagov, a former FSB officer, guilty in the case on the murder of Khusei Makitov, a resident of the village of Elbrus in Kabardino-Balkaria, and sentenced him to nine years of imprisonment in a high-security colony. Pavel Sterlyagov was found guilty of intentionally causing grievous bodily harm, resulting in the death of the victim through negligence. Meanwhile, based on the jury's verdict, the court acquitted Pavel Sterlyagov under the article on attempted murder, left him the right to rehabilitation, and did not deprive Pavel Sterlyagov of his military ranks, although prosecutor insisted on that. Advocate Victoria Sheveleva announced that the victims would challenge the verdict. According to the advocate, the pressure was exerted on the jury and their verdict was biased.

Armed incidents in Dagestan and Chechnya

Late in the evening on June 22, policemen tried to stop a VAZ 2109 car. When the people in the car were offered to lay down their arms and surrender to the authorities, they opened fire and were killed, the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) reported. According to the law enforcement bodies, the killed suspects were two residents of Makhachkala, supporters of the "Islamic State" (IS), a terrorist organization banned in Russia by the court. There were no casualties or injuries among law enforcers and civilians as a result of the incident.

On June 23, policemen were attacked in the Leninsky District of Grozny, not far from the residence of the Chechen leader and the Grozny City complex. According to a source from the law enforcement bodies, an inspector of the road-and-patrol service (known as DPS) was killed. In total, there were two attackers, one of them was killed at the place, and the second after some time, during the shootout, the source from the law enforcement bodies reported.

Protest actions in connection with arrest of Dagestani journalist

On June 18, Abdulmumin Gadjiev, a journalist of the Dagestani newspaper "Chernovik" (Draft), was arrested in the case on financing of terrorism. He himself claimed falsification of the case. From the moment of his detention on June 14, colleagues of Abdulmumin Gadjiev began to carry out actions with the demand to release him. The hearing of the court, which pronounced the decision to arrest Abdulmumin Gadjiev, was held against the background of the protest action organized by his colleagues in front of the court building. On June 21, in Makhachkala, at least five persons held solo pickets in support of Abdulmumin Gadjiev in front the Investigating Department for Dagestan of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF). 22 solo pickets were held by colleagues of Abdulmumin Gadjiev in front of the Prosecutor's Office in Makhachkala. On June 23, in Sakharov Avenue in Moscow, a rally sanctioned by the authorities was held against the falsification of criminal cases. The rally was also attended by journalists from Dagestan. At the rally, Mairbek Agaev, the editor-in-chief of the "Chernovik", has announced that Abdulmumin Gadjiev has always publicly spoken out against terrorism. Mairbek Agaev demanded to release the journalist of his newspaper. On the same day, a series of solo pickets in support of Abdulmumin Gadjiev and against the fabrication of criminal cases took place in University Square in Makhachkala.

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

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