Participant of "Immortal Regiment" action in Makhachkala, May 9, 2016. Photo by Patimat Makhmudova for the ‘Caucasian Knot’.

16 May 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 9-15

Victory Day celebrations; participation of singers from South-Caucasian countries in the "Eurovision-2016" song contest; special operation in Derbent after the murder of 82-year-old Gadjiakhmed Kaziakhmedov; ECtHR judgment in the case of abduction of Chechen woman in 2009; attack on a checkpoint in Chechnya and burning down of attackers' houses and the house of Ramazan Djalaldinov, who had raised corruption issues; start of NATO military exercises in Georgia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 9-15, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Residents of Southern Russia and South-Caucasian regions mark Victory Day by parades and "Immortal Regiment" actions

On May 9, all the regions of Russia, including Southern Russia, held parades and a variety of events to mark the 71st anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. The most massive action was the march named "Immortal Regiment", in which residents marched through city streets with portraits of perished soldiers in hands. The action "Immortal Regiment" in Karachay-Cherkessia was attended by 38,750 people; in Grozny, 4000 people were marching; in Nalchik – over 10,000 residents; in Makhachkala – about 14,500 people; and in Stavropol and Vladikavkaz – 15,000 people each.

In Volgograd, according to marchers, the column of the "Immortal Regiment" was several tens of thousand people strong; in Rostov-on-Don, the march organizers claimed about 50,000 participants. In Adygea, 20,000 people were participants of the "Immortal Regiment"; the authorities of Sochi reported about more than 100,000 participants of the "Immortal Regiment" action; and the authorities of Astrakhan reported about 15,000 demonstrators.

Various events on the Victory Day were held also in Southern Caucasus. About 4500 people took part in the "Immortal Regiment" march in South Ossetia; in the capital of Abkhazia the "Immortal Regiment" gathered 1000 people. Citizens of Yerevan dedicated their "Immortal Regiment" march to liberation of the city of Shushi. In Tbilisi, an analogue of the "Immortal Regiment" action, which was invented in Russia, was held by activists of the "Our Fatherland – Georgia" Party, who came to the Eternal Flame with portraits of Stalin, Zhukov and their relatives – participants of the Great Patriotic War. In Baku, on the occasion of the Victory Day, the Russian Information and Cultural Centre organized a photo exhibition and a gallery "Immortal Regiment".

Singers from countries of South Caucasus performed in Eurovision-2016 final

The contest "Eurovision-2016" was held on May 10-14 in Stockholm. Singers and musical bands from Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan took part in it. By results of the semi-finals, all the three representatives were qualified for the final, namely: the Armenian singer Iveta Mukuchyan with the "LoveWave" song; the singer Semra Rehimli of Azerbaijan with the song "Miracle"; and the group from Georgia Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz with the song "Midnight Gold". As a result, the performers from Georgia took the 20th place in the final round; the Armenian singer – the 7th place; and the singer from Azerbaijan – the 17th place. The contest was won by the Ukrainian singer Jamala with the song "1944"; the Russian singer Sergey Lazarev with the song "You Are the Only One" took the third place.

During the contest, an incident occurred that jeopardized the further participation of the Armenian singer. On May 10, during the announcement of voting results live on air Iveta Mukuchyan raised the flag of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan has condemned the singer's action; and on May 12, the European Broadcasting Union, the organizer of the contest, said that in case of any future violation of the rules by Armenia, the country would be disqualified from this or subsequent contests.

82-year-old resident killed in Derbent, after which at least 20 people fell victim to special operation

In Derbent, on May 9, the body of the 82-year-old Gadjiakhmed Kaziakhmedov was found with gunshot wounds; he was the father of the former Mayor of Derbent Felix Kaziakhmedov; of the Lieutenant Colonel Marat Kaziakhmedov, an employee of the Prosecutor's Office of Dagestan; and of Seifudin Kaziakhmedov, the head of the Division for Investigating Especially Important Cases of the Investigating Department for Dagestan of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), who was killed in 2009. Initially, investigators put forward an attempted robbery as the basic version of his murder; then, it was replaced by a possible extremists' revenge.

On May 14, in Derbent, apartment was blocked in Krepostnaya Street. According to law enforcers, it was used as a shelter for the suspects of killing Gadjiakhmed Kaziakhmedov. On the same day, power agents reported the killing in the course of a special operation of four suspected militants. Also, during the armed clash, the head of the criminal search and an OMON (riot police) fighter were killed; sources reported that the number of wounded law enforcers reached 17. However, in the morning on May 15, a law enforcement source said that the body of one militant was found in the place of the special operation. The officially confirmed casualties of the special operation were one alleged militant – a local resident Bairamali Abbasov, as well as the death of one policeman and wounding of two others. According to the resources belonging to the "Islamic State" (IS), recognized as a terrorist organization and banned in Russia, the persons, who opened fire on policemen in Derbent, were members of the IS.

ECtHR condemns Russia for abduction in Chechnya of employee of "Danish Refugee Council"

On May 12, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued its decision in the case of the abduction in 2009 in Grozny of Zarema Gaisanova, an employee of the "Danish Refugee Council". Gaisanova was abducted by several armed men: on this day, a special operation was conducted in the district, where she lived. In that special operation, the Gaisanovs house was burned down; and Zarema Gaisanova was taken away to some unknown place; and her further fate is unknown. The ECtHR found Russia responsible for the abduction and awarded the applicant, Lida Gaisanova, Zarema's mother, the compensation in the amount of 60,000 euros. Rights defenders assert that there are grounds to believe that law enforcers had been involved in Gaisanova's abduction, and point, in particular, to the fact that the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov had confessed that he was in command of the above special operation. After the ECtHR's decision, the competent authorities should carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances of the crime, said Oleg Orlov, a member of the Board of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial".

Checkpoint attacked in Chechnya; then, attackers' houses were burned down

In the morning on May 9, two armed men attacked a checkpoint located in the Grozny District of Chechnya. Initially, it was reported that at the self-explosion of one of them a policeman was killed, and four others were wounded; the second attacker was shot dead by policemen. Later, the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) refuted the policeman's death and stated six wounded policemen, who had arrived to take their service from the Republic of Bashkortostan. The attackers were identified as residents of Grozny – the 28-year-old Shamil Djanaraliev and the 25-year-old Akhmed Inalov. According to Chechen law enforcers, Djanaraliev had earlier attempted to go to the warfare in Syria. Grozny residents assert that after the attack on the checkpoint, power agents detained Djanaraliev's pregnant wife and his two younger brothers, as well as the Inalov's elder brother, who works for the MIA. On May 13, the head of the Chechen MIA said that four accomplices of Djanaraliev and Inalov had been arrested. It was not specified whether they are the attackers' relatives. On May 11, it became known that the houses of Djanaraliev and Inalov in Grozny were burned down, and their families and other residents of these houses had to move to the neighbours. Photos of one of the burned down houses were disseminated on the Internet. The author of two of them is the Moscow journalist Ilya Azar. He quoted the words of one of the locals that some people who had lived in the burned down house had no attitude to the attackers on the police checkpoint.

Chechnya: the house of Ramazan Djalaldinov, who had raised the corruption issue, burned down

At night on May 12, in the Avar village of Kenkhi, Sharoi District of Chechnya, the house of Ramazan Djalaldinov, who had raised the issue of corruption, was burned down. His wife and children were taken to Dagestan, where he himself is hiding. According to Djalaldinov's relatives, the house was burned down by power agents, who threatened to kill them. Should the information about the burning down of Ramazan Djalaldinov's house be confirmed, law enforcement bodies should promptly react to this fact, Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the President of Russia, said on the same day. In his turn, Ramzan Kadyrov, the acting head of Chechnya, asserted that Ramazan Djalaldinov had himself imitated the arson of his house. The authorities of Dagestan have promised to send a joint delegation of the Government and Parliament of Dagestan to Chechnya "to examine in situ the details of what had happened and to mutually search for the settlement of the current situation."

NATO starts military exercises in Georgia

On May 11, Georgia launched joint military exercises with the NATO under the motto "Worthy Partner-2016", which will last until May 24. They are attended by a total of 1300 militaries: 500 – from Georgia; 650 – from the US Army; and 150 – from Great Britain. Specifically for the exercises, some military equipment, which is in the US inventory, was brought to Georgia: "Abrams", Bradley" infantry combat vehicles, medical evacuation and command-staff armoured vehicles, "Hammer" jeeps, and US military aircraft C-130. As reported by Colonel Nikoloz Jandjgava, the spokesman of the General Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces, within the exercises, the scenarios will be implemented of protection and defence of important sites. These are the most large-scale NATO exercises; and upon the completion thereof, one company of Georgian soldiers will receive a NATO license and will be the first official company of the North-Atlantic Treaty Alliance in the country. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) described the exercises as "a provocation aimed at swaying the situation in the region." In her comment on this statement, Tinatin Khidasheli, the Georgian Defence Minister, has noted that for Georgia the launched exercises are a precondition of creating a strong, highly-developed and progressive state.

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