01 July 2019, 14:27

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 24-30, 2019

Voluntary early resignation of Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Evkurov; mass protests in Georgia; exchange of war prisoners between Armenia and Azerbaijan; re-arrest of the second president of Armenia; appointment of a new senator from Karachay-Cherkessia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of June 24-30, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Voluntary early resignation of Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Evkurov

On June 24, Yunus-Bek Evkurov asked the Russian President to accept his early resignation from the post of the leader of Ingushetia, which he held since 2008. He explained his decision by a split in society and placed responsibility for political contradictions in Ingushetia on NGOs and religious figures of the republic. Residents of Ingushetia met the news of the possible resignation of Yunus-Bek Evkurov with fireworks and car sounds. The Yunus-Bek Evkurov's letter of resignation did not come as a surprise to the Russian President, reported Dmitry Peskov, Press Secretary for the President of Russia. On June 26, Vladimir Putin accepted the resignation of Yunus-Bek Evkurov. The Russian President appointed Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov as the acting head of Ingushetia. From August 2004 to April 2007, Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov held the post of the Prosecutor of Ingushetia, and most recently headed the Department of the "Rosprirodnadzor" (the Russian Federal Service for Nature Use Supervision) for the Samara Region. Let us remind you that starting from October 2018, the resignation of the Ingush leader was sought by opponents of the agreement on the administrative border with Chechnya, concluded by Yunus-Bek Evkurov and Ramzan Kadyrov. The new acting head of the region should eliminate tension in the society and restore confidence in the government, and his main task is to cancel through judicial bodies the agreement on establishing the border with Chechnya, believe participants of the protest movement in the republic interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". Yunus-Bek Evkurov, who left the post of the leader of Ingushetia, will take the position of the Deputy Minister of Defence of Russia, report sources close to Yunus-Bek Evkurov.

Mass protests in Georgia

In Tbilisi, after a scandal with the Russian delegation on June 20, protest actions are being held every day. The protesters succeeded in seeking the resignation of the Speaker of the Parliament and the consideration of the issue of holding parliamentary elections under a proportional system. Their last demand is the resignation of Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Gakhariya. Participants of the rally held on June 27 marched to the residence of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader and founder of the ruling "Georgian Dream" Party and showed him a symbolic "yellow card." On June 29, in Tbilisi, participants of the "Freedom March" stated that Giorgi Gakhariya was trying to justify himself by all means and avoid responsibility for dispersing the protesters on June 21. It should be noted that on June 27, the Georgian Interior Minister took responsibility for the actions of the police after the start of the protests. According to him, the policemen were doing their duty, and he will hold his post of the Interior Minister until the investigation is completed. On June 28, Giorgi Gakhariya declared that the action held on June 20 was of an "absolutely violent character." On June 23, five protesters set up tents in Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi and announced a hunger strike. On June 27, they declared that they would continue their protest action until the resignation of the Interior Minister. On the same day, two out of the five hunger-strikers were hospitalized; and they were replaced by two other protesters.

On June 25, in the course of the investigation into the case on the riots on June 20, prosecutors requested the parliament to temporarily deprive Nikanor (Nika) Meliya, an MP from the "United National Movement" (UNM) Party, of his immunity. The MP is accused of organizing gang violence on protests. On June 26, the Georgian MPs granted the prosecutors' request to terminate the Nika Meliya's parliamentary immunity. However, the court dismissed the motion of the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia about the arrest of the MP, and Nika Meliya was released on bail.

Exchange of war prisoners between Armenia and Azerbaijan

On June 28, with the mediation of the Red Cross, Zaven Karapetyan, treated by Azerbaijan as a spy, and Elvin Ibragimov, detained by Armenian soldiers at the border, returned to their homeland. In Azerbaijan, Elvin Ibragimov was considered taken hostage. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) for Armenia claims that the Azerbaijani citizen was detained as a border intruder on March 16. According to the Azerbaijani Border Guard Service, Elvin Ibragimov is disabled and mentally ill. Elvin Ibragimov was wounded by Armenian soldiers and underwent several surgeries during his detention in Armenia. After returning home, he was urgently hospitalized. According to the Ministry of Defence for Azerbaijan, Zaven Karapetyan, being a member of a group of Armenian soldiers, planned to attack the positions of the Azerbaijani army and was detained in the territory of the Gazakh District on June 20, 2017. However, officials from Yerevan deny even the very fact that Zaven Karapetyan is a soldier. It should be noted that after the meeting of officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Azerbaijan on June 20, the shelling attacks on the contact line almost stopped. The parties agreed on mutual concessions; however, if the process of peace negotiations is stalled, the conflict may escalate again, believe political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot".

Re-arrest of second president of Armenia

On June 25, the Armenian Court of Appeal granted the complaint filed by the General Prosecutor's Office and cancelled the decision on the release from custody of former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan. The court also cancelled the decision on the appeal to the Constitutional Court and returned the case for a new investigation. Advocates of Robert Kocharyan accused the court of bias and boycotted the pronouncement of the verdict. Robert Kocharyan himself did not wait for a forced detention on remand and appeared at the SIZO (pre-trial prison) after the court's decision on his arrest. Let us remind you that Robert Kocharyan was charged in the case on receiving a bribe and suppressing mass protests in Yerevan on March 1-2, 2008, after Serzh Sargsyan won the presidential election. Then ten people were killed in clashes between law enforcers and protestors. Robert Kocharyan believes that the criminal proceedings against him are politically motivated.

Appointment of new senator from Karachay-Cherkessia

On June 25, in the Federation Council, Krym Kazanokov took the seat of the senator from Karachay-Cherkessia, earlier held by Rauf Arashukov. Let us remind you that on May 22, at the plenary meeting, senators unanimously voted for the early termination of the Rauf Arashukov's power. Rauf Araushukov is being kept under arrest. On June 27, the Basmanny Court of Moscow extended his detention in custody until September 30.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on July 1, 2019 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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