01 August 2011, 23:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 25-31

Start of election race in Abkhazia; Dagestan: disputable outcomes of special operation, economic forum and murder of head of President's press service; natural fires in Rostov Region, and, probably, criminal origin of fires in central Astrakhan, – look these and other events in the Caucasus in the week of July 25-31, 2011, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Abkhazia: presidential aspirants registered by CEC and promise honest fight

On July 25, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Abkhazia registered the following presidential candidates and their accompanying aspirants for the post of vice-president: Raul Khadjimba and Svetlana Djergeniya; Alexander Ankvab and Mikhail Logua; Sergey Shamba and Shamil Adzynba. On July 26, the candidates received respective certificates; and on July 27, the presidential candidates signed an agreement "For honest and clean election".

The document was initiated by the oppositional "Forum of People's Unity of Abkhazia", which has nominated Raul Khadjimba. The signatories are sure that the presidential election will pass peacefully, in compliance with democratic standards.

The early presidential election to be held on August 26 were appointed after the sudden death in his 63rd year of President Sergey Bagapsh. So far, his duties are on the Speaker Nugzar Ashuba.

Let us note here then on July 18 Nino Kalandadze, Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister, said that Georgia was not viewing the early election of President of Abkhazia as legitimate; however, Abkhazian politicians and journalists believe that the fact of Georgia's rejection of any elections held by Abkhazia is no worry for the residents of this breakaway republic, and in no case makes them illegitimate.

Dagestan: disputable special operation, economic forum and murder of head of President's press service

Within the past week, Dagestan saw quite a lot of events; however, the outcomes of the special operation held in the city of Dagestanskie Ogni on July 24, the economic forum held in Makhachkala and the murder in this city on July 28 of Garun Kurbanov, head of the department for information policy and press service of the President of Dagestan stand quite separately and need a detailed consideration.

Special operation in Dagestanskie Ogni

In the morning on July 24, power agents announced on the outcomes of a special operation in the city of Dagestanskie Ogni that in the course thereof two militants and Inna (Maryam) Cherenkova (Chernikova), 21, had been liquidated. Another woman – Zagra Kadimagomedova – was injured and hospitalized. According to Rashid Nurgaliev, the Russian Interior Minister, his agents found two submachine guns, two TNT (trotyl) blocks, plenty of ammunition and two charged "shahid belts" in the house. Special services believe that they have thus prevented terror acts to be committed in Central Russia.

A specific feature of the special operation was the fact that it was inspected by human rights defenders, who have recognized that the power agents had acted within the bounds of the law and that townspeople themselves had informed law enforcers about the appearance of militants in the city.

Back on the first day of the special operation, Maxim Shevchenko, a TV journalist and a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation (PCRF), stated that power agents opened fire on militants without even trying to negotiate and treated it as "a provocation aimed at destabilizing the situation in Dagestan." However, already on the following day, while meeting the President of Dagestan Magomedsalam Magomedov, Shevchenko noted that rights defenders had established interaction with the law enforcers in the venue of the special operation and could state that power agents had acted completely within the bounds of the law.

In his turn, Gasan Aigunov, Chairman of the Commission of the PCRF for defence of inmates' rights, is sure that the woman, who was killed in the course of the special operation, could have been saved. Also, according to his version, the women assassinated and injured during the special operation had no shahid belts on them. This fact was not refuted by power agents either, who stated that they found the belts stuffed with explosive in the house after the end of the special operation.

Zagra Kadimagomedova does not deny her involvement in illegal armed formations (IAFs); she filed an application to the Dagestani leader about her intention to cooperate with the commission under the President of the Republic of Dagestan on adaptation to peaceful life of those citizens, who have decided to stop their terrorist and extremist activities.

Economic forum

The Dagestani Economic Forum-2011 was held on July 27-28 with participation of 19 foreign delegations – in total, over 1000 figures of business and power. Already on the first day of the Forum several major investment projects were presented. Thus, Italian and Russian investors stated their readiness to invest over 14 billion Russian roubles into the republic's agriculture.

Within the Forum, a presentation of the regional branch of the Association of Young Entrepreneurs of Russia (AYER) took place. Its members hope that development of youth entrepreneurship will contribute to addressing the problem of employment of capable population in the region; they are already developing their innovation, social and infrastructural projects to be presented in late August to regional leaders.

Murder of high-ranking official

Garun Kurbanov was shot dead on July 28 at 8:15 a.m. in Montashev Street in Makhachkala. Unidentified attackers shelled his Toyota Camry, when Garun was coming out of his house making his way to the car. Mr Kurbanov and his driver were shot dead.

Most probably, the reason of the murder of Garun Kurbanov, head of the department of information policy of Dagestani President, was in his defiant attitude to extremists – this is a unanimous opinion both of official investigators and public figures of Dagestan. However, there is an opinion that Garun Kurbanov could fall victim of rivalry for his service post.

Rostov Region: forest fire burns down almost half of trees in Obliv Forestry

In the evening on July 26 it became known about the fire in the Obliv Forestry, located in the same district of the Rostov Region. By the morning of July 27, the area of the forest fire almost doubled, and by the evening reached a thousand hectares. On that day, a special aircraft of the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) helped in fire-fighting.

As of the morning of July 28, there was no more open fire in the forest; however, certain fire islands went on glowing. By the morning of July 29, another fire seat appeared. Only on July 30, the fire was completely extinguished. It was done by more than 700 persons and a helicopter, which dropped about 80 tons of water into the fire. As a result, the fire burnt down 1400 out of 2300 forest hectares of the Obliv Forestry and took one life of a Forestry employee; one more received burns and was hospitalized.

Experts of the MfE believe that the fire was caused by an illegal and uncontrolled burn of grass on a highway shoulder, close to the territory of the "Sosna" Forestry Farm; a criminal case was initiated in this context.

Astrakhan: downtown fires burnt down houses and people

At night on July 27, in central Astrakhan, a two-storey dwelling house burnt down at No. 28 Maxim Gorky Street and damaged two neighbouring ones. The fire-fighting operation involved 16 units of the main and special machinery and 72 MfE employees. After liquidation of the fire, it became clear that seven dwellers got burnt down alive, nine persons were hospitalized; on July 28 the count of casualties went up – a woman died in the regional hospital.

The perished house was classified as an emergency building four years ago; however, the tenants were never resettled. A criminal case was initiated on the article of negligence, entailing death of two and more persons; a prosecutor's check is underway. The tenants of the perished house accuse fire-fighters of negligence and believe that a criminal arson could be a reason of the fire.

In the morning on July 28, another fire burst out in central Astrakhan. The fire destroyed three houses in Moskovskaya Street. This time, there were no victims. Fire experts do not exclude that a criminal arson could be the reason of the fire.

Let us note here that back in May Oleg Shein, a Russian State Duma Deputy from the Astrakhan Region from the Party of "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia), told the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent that within eight months 60 multi-flat houses burnt down in central Astrakhan. According to his story, 28 persons perished in the fires.

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