15 February 2016, 08:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 8-14

Protests of parishioners of Salafi mosque in Derbent after detention of its Imam; decision of Volgograd authorities to build a new house in place of destroyed one; large-scale military exercises in Southern Russia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of February 8-14, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Protests of parishioners of Salafi mosque in Derbent after detention of Imam

On February 9, Derbent residents reported about the detention of the Imam of the Salafi mosque located in the neighbourhood "Airport". On the same evening, mosque-goers held a protest action in front of the Derbent GOVD (City Interior Division) to demand the release of the Imam. On February 10, at least 300 parishioners rallied again in support of the Imam. According to their stories, the rally was dispersed by power agents, who detained at least 20 people. The GOVD reported that all the detainees were released on the same day. On February 11, the mosque resumed its normal work. It worked also on February 12, but on that day, as stated by the parishioners, the access to the mosque was blocked; and power agents detained believers, who were going to the Friday namaz (prayer), and registered them. The GOVD confirmed that no more than 10 people were detained, but soon released.

A criminal case was initiated against the Imam on illegal deprivation of freedom (Article 127 of the Russian Criminal Code). According to investigators, the Imam brought a 27-year-old local woman and her four-year daughter into the premises in the territory of the mosque, where, according to the woman, "under threat of violence, he took the keys to her apartment." Investigators assert that the woman and her daughter were released two hours later by policemen. The court arrested the Imam for two months.

Volgograd: authorities decide to build a new house for tenants of destroyed one

In Volgograd, on February 11, the public hearings approved the draft of surveying the territory under the apartment block, which is destroyed by explosion on December 20, 2015. On the eve of the hearings, Governor Andrei Bocharov said that a new block will be erected in the place of the ruined one within a year. Officials gave guarantees to build it, and promised to provide apartments in the new house to all the tenants, who would like it. Those, who lost their housing, will receive their housing certificates on the basis of their lost total area and the rate of 35,000 roubles per square meter. People will be able to sign contracts of equity participation in the new construction, and buy apartments in accordance with the terms of these contracts.

Southern Russia hosted major military exercises

Large-scale military exercises were held in Southern Russia. A sudden check of combat readiness of troops was launched, under the order of the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, on February 8. According to the press service of the Southern Military District (SMD), the exercises involved about 8500 servicemen of various kinds and types of troops, about 900 military vehicles, up to 200 aircrafts and helicopters, and 50 warships. Over 1100 servicemen, 180 military and special vehicles, and over 300 tons of materiel were delivered to the area of the exercises by railway, marine and air transports. The exercises were held simultaneously at 18 military grounds and ended on February 12.

The personnel have confirmed their readiness to reliably ensure Russia's security in the south-western strategic direction, including the Crimean Peninsula, said President Vladimir Putin in his estimate of the exercises.

Fire on Azeri platform "Gyuneshli" in Caspian Sea completely extinguished

On February 10, the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) of Azerbaijan reported on the elimination of the fire on Platform No. 10 of the "Gyuneshli" oil field in the Caspian Sea, which broke out on December 4, 2015. As a result of the fire, 12 people were killed, and 18 are still reported missing. Due to the suspension of oil extraction by the platform, this year the State Company SOCAR will extract by about half a million tonnes of oil less, the company has reported.

According to Ilham Shaban, the Head of the "Caspian Barrel" Oil Research Centre, thanks to timely plug-up of oil wells, the oil reserves were not affected. At the same time, as noted by the expert, in monetary terms, the reduction of oil extraction by 500-600 thousand tons at an average price of 1 barrel of 35 US dollars, the SOCAR will lose about 105-110 million US dollars in 2016.

Georgian Parliamentary Committee not to support opposition's initiative to reform elections

On February 11, the Legal Committee of the Parliament of Georgia refused to support the opposition's initiative to amend the Constitution towards eliminating the majority electoral system. The memorandum on amending the system of parliamentary elections, according to which 75 MPs will be elected under the proportional system, and 75 MPs – under the regional-proportional system, was signed by Georgian opposition parties and some NGOs on May 30, 2015. However, back on June 5, 2015, the ruling coalition "Georgian Dream" decided to hold parliamentary elections in 2016 under the current electoral system. Oppositionists gathered and sent to the Parliament 240,000 signatures of supporters of the above legislative initiative to change the majority electoral system for the regional-proportional one.

The opposition, who believe that without the majority system the "Georgian Dream" will not be able to win the autumn elections, noted that the failure of the Legal Committee of the Parliament to support the draft electoral reform was no surprise to them. Despite this failure, according to the legislation, the draft will be submitted to a plenary session of the Parliament.

Appointment of new senator from KChR and protests demanding to restore direct election of republic's head

On February 10, Rashid Temrezov, the head of the Karachay-Cherkessian Republic (KChR), appointed Krym Kazanokov, a Deputy of the National Assembly, the KChR's representative in the Federation Council of the Russian Federation. Krym Kazanokov has replaced Vyacheslav Derev, who submitted an application on his early resignation in December 2015; and on January 27 the Federation Council terminated his Senator's mandate. Krym Kazanokov is a Circassian by his nationality; and, according to the "Kommersant", he is a brother of the KChR's Prime Minister Ruslan Kazanokov. Thus, the information that Rauf Arashukov, the head of the administration of the Khabez District of the KChR, could take the post of the Senator, was not confirmed. Rauf's father Raul Arashukov for more than 16 years headed major gas structure in the region.

It is noteworthy that in March 2016, the powers of Rashid Temrezov as the head of the republic will expire. The new leader to be elected by republic's MPs; and on February 11, Moscow and Cherkessk hosted protests demanding to hold a referendum on the return to direct election of the head of the KChR. In Moscow, the organizers of the action – activists of the party "Communist of Russia" – said that the action was 100 people strong.

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