29 July 2019, 18:19

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 22-28, 2019

New information about the Chechen "execution list"; adoption of the law on the Dagestani volunteer militia; Agile Spirit 2019 multinational military exercises, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of July 22-28, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

New information about Chechen "execution list"

On July 23, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", the "Committee against Torture" (CaT), and the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta" presented the testimonies of people who witnessed detentions and disappearances in the period from December 2016 to January 2017 of residents of Chechnya from the "execution list." According to the human rights defenders, during the trial in the case against 14 residents of the Kurchaloi District, accused of involvement in the armed underground, the defendants testified how they were tortured in secret prisons. The people also reported that they were kept together with the detainees from the "execution list" of 27 people, about which the "Novaya Gazeta" reported in July 2017. According to the newspaper, on January 26, 2017, 27 people, detained after an attack on policemen in Grozny on December 17, 2016, were executed. In Chechnya, the law enforcement bodies refused to institute a criminal case and stated that the majority of the defendants from the "execution list" went to fight in Syria. The testimonies of the convicts shed light on the case of extrajudicial executions, the human rights activists believe. They are preparing a complaint to be filed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) against the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), which refuses to investigate the case on the possible murder of 27 residents of Chechnya. Meanwhile, the Chechen authorities called new information about executions a fiction.

Adoption of law on Dagestani volunteer militia

On July 23, the State Duma adopted a law which equates to veterans of military actions the volunteers who resisted the invasion of Chechen militants into Dagestan in August-September 1999. The law comes into force on January 1, 2020. It will give the right to the veterans to receive monthly payments and benefits. Let us remind you that on June 20, residents of the Dagestani village of Botlikh addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin through the "Direct Line" and asked him to equate the volunteer militiamen to the veterans of the military actions. The preliminary lists included more than 12,000 volunteers from the Dagestani militia.

Agile Spirit 2019 multinational military exercises and arrest of former Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili in Georgia

In the period from July 27 to August 9, the Agile Spirit 2019 multinational military exercises are taking place in Georgia. They are expected to involve more than 3000 soldiers from 14 NATO member countries and partner countries. The military exercises differ from previous ones in conducting integrated practical exercises at the military training grounds. In the course of the exercises, soldiers and officers are practicing defensive skills, and that corresponds to the situation in which the country finds itself, Georgian military experts point out. Let us remind you that the Agile Spirit military exercises are held in Georgia annually since 2011, and they are one of the elements of the Georgia's cooperation with the United States and NATO. The purpose of the military exercises is to increase the compatibility of the standards of the armed forces of Georgia and NATO, as well as to train Georgian soldiers and officers to participate in international peacekeeping operations.

On July 25, Irakli Okruashvili, the leader of the opposition "Victorious Georgia" Party, who served as the Interior Minister, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Economic Development under President Mikhail Saakashvili, was detained on suspicion of calls for mass violence during protests in front of the Georgian parliament building on June 20. Irakli Okruashvili called on the protestors to break into the parliament building and made such attempts himself, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported. The defence insists that Irakli Okruashvili is not guilty. The criminal proceedings against Irakli Okruashvili may be related to his claims to the "Rustavi-2" TV Company, political analysts believe. On July 18, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) recognized as legitimate the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) of Georgia to transfer the assets of the TV Company to its former owner Kibar Khalvashi. The stocks of the "Rustavi-2" TV Company were formally registered in favour of Kibar Khalvashi, but bought by Irakli Okruashvili, his advocates stated.

Closure of Dargavs Necropolis in North Ossetia

On July 22, Elbrus Kubalov, Minister of Culture of North Ossetia, signed an order on temporary closure for visitors to Dargavs Necropolis after a video was posted on the Internet, which showed skulls in apertures of the buildings in the "City of the Dead." The Minister instructed the National Museum of North Ossetia to develop a concept for the functioning of the necropolis. The museum is short of funds to implement the concept, reports Valery Kubalov, the director of the National Museum of North Ossetia. He believes it is necessary to organize the protection of the necropolis, install more video surveillance cameras, and fence the territory. Social network users have criticized the use of the necropolis as a tourist site. Tourists should be educated, and not denied access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, notes Larisa Sotieva, an expert from Ossetia.

Completion of registration of participants in elections of heads of four regions in Southern Russia

On July 24, the election commissions of the Stavropol Territory, Kalmykia, and the Astrakhan and Volgograd Regions completed accepting documents for registration from candidates for the posts of heads of those regions, whose elections will be held on September 8. The main condition for the registration of candidates is passage of the municipal filter.

In the Stavropol territory, the election commission received documents from five candidates.

Only four out of 16 candidates who have declared themselves were able to be submitted the documents necessary for participation in the election of the Governor of the Astrakhan Region.

In Kalmykia, only Erdni Bodgaev, a candidate nominated by the Kalmyk branch of the "Defenders of Fatherland" Party, failed to pass the municipal filter, while the other five candidates for the post of the leader of Kalmykia handed over the documents to the election commission.

In the Volgograd Region, five candidates who have already got official registration for the elections will fight for the post of the head of the region.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on July 29, 2019 at 09:10 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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