05 September 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 29-September 4

Mourning ceremonies dedicated to the anniversary of the terror act in Beslan and protest action of victims; disappearance in Chechnya of political analyst Ruslan Martagov, who criticized the authorities; prevention of a terror act at near a mosque in Ingushetia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 29-September 4, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

"Voice of Beslan" holds protest action during mourning ceremonies dedicated to anniversary of school siege

The day of September 1 marks 12 years from the events of 2004, when militants seized 1128 hostages in the school No. 1 in the North-Ossetian town of Beslan. As a result, 334 people were killed, and 810 others were injured. According to the law enforcement bodies, about 4000 people came to pay tribute to the memory of the victims.

On September 1, in Beslan, policemen detained five women, who came to an action, dressed in T-shirts with the accusations against the President of Russia. The court found the women guilty under Articles "Failure to obey to a lawful order of a police officer" and "Violation of order of organizing or holding meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches or pickets" and obliged them to pay a fine. Three of the women were sentenced to 20 hours of public works. All the participants of the action were either held hostage by terrorists, or lost their relatives and friends in the terror act. All of them are members of the public organization "Voice of Beslan". Organizations "Freedom House" and "Amnesty International" (AI) made statements in support of the detainees. Mikhail Fedotov, the chairman of the Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation, stated that the law enforcement bodies and judges should have been more lenient to the women engaged in the action.

The protest action was recorded on video by Elena Kostyuchenko and Diana Khachatryan, journalists of the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta" and the magazine "Takie Dela", respectively. They were detained together with the participants of the action, but were released without charge the same day. After that, on September 3, the journalists twice attacked. For the first time, near the school No. 1, young people dressed in T-shirts with the inscription "Antiterror" poured the women with green paint, seized their mobile phones and fled in front of the police. Then, an unidentified man beat Elena Kostyuchenko and Diana Khachatryan at the cemetery in Beslan. According to Diana Khachatryan, Policemen were standing nearby and did not interfere in the incident. On the same day, the police reported on the detention of a local resident, suspected of attacking the journalists in the school yard.

Southern Russia registers increase in number of first-form pupils

On September 1, in Russia, schools opened their doors for children. Like last year, southern part of Russia registered an increase in the number of first-form pupils, first of all, in the Krasnodar Territory: this year, 70,000 children entered schools for the first time, while in 2015 their number was 63,000. Residents of the Prikubansky District have reported on over-crowding in schools, which may affect the level of education and health state schoolchildren. In the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD), the number of first-from pupils increased mostly in Ingushetia: this year, 10,200 children went for the first time to the schools of the republic, and that was 3200 children more than in 2015. On the Day of Knowledge, officials discussed the problems of education in the southern regions of the country, including the shortage of textbooks and teachers. Besides, the officials have also mentioned the current inability to give up the three-shift education. However, the authorities of Ingushetia and Chechnya have promised to minimize the number of third shifts after the opening of new schools.

In Chechnya, political analyst Ruslan Martagov, who criticized authorities, disappears

Ruslan Martagov, a Chechen political analyst, disappeared on September 1. On that day, he visited Grozny at the invitation of officials from the Chechen Ministry for National Policy, External Relations and Information. He stopped communicating when he was returning home by taxi. The Chechen authorities have denied any involvement in the disappearance of the political analyst. On September 3, it was announced that Ruslan Martagov called his relatives, and after that the connection with him was lost again. On September 4, the political analyst returned home, reported Elena Milashina, a correspondent of the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta". She noted that "at home, investigators were waiting for him, since they were apparently already aware that he would be released." Human rights defenders associated the disappearance of Ruslan Martagov with his criticism of the Chechen authorities and comments concerning the third term of Ramzan Kadyrov as the leader of the republic, which were voiced by the political analyst to various media, including the "Caucasian Knot".

27 parties and six electoral blocs to take part in parliamentary elections in Georgia

On August 31, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia completed the registration of political parties and electoral blocs to the parliamentary elections, the voting on which would take place on October 8. The right to participate in the elections was granted to 27 parties and six electoral blocs. The number of the registered parties includes the ruling "Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia" Party. The former ruling "United National Movement" (UNM) Party will take part in the elections as a part of the bloc under the same name together with the "European Georgia" Party. The above electoral bloc has placed Sandra Roelofs, the spouse of former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to the second line in the UNM Party's list of candidates to the parliamentary elections.

In Ingushetia, law enforcers prevent terror act near mosque

On August 30, a car packed with explosives was discovered near the mosque in the Ingush village of Ali-Yurt. Law enforcers destroyed an explosive device. The car belonged to a resident of Chechnya. According to a source from the law enforcement bodies, unidentified criminals were plotting an attempt on Isa Tsechoev, Imam of the mosque in Ali-Yurt. The human rights defenders interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" associated the prevented terror act with the threats voiced by the Chechen authorities against Isa Tsechoev and Khamzat Chumakov, another religious figure, an attempt on whom was committed in this March. According to Isa Tsechoev himself, he had been warned about a suspicious vehicle by believers of the mosque.

Azerbaijan starts campaign on referendum on amendments to Constitution

On September 3, Azerbaijan started the campaign on the referendum on amendments to the Constitution, which were initiated by President Ilham Aliev and which were criticized by the opposition. The campaign is to be completed on the day before the voting, scheduled for September 26. The right to campaigning was granted to only three campaign groups, acting in support of the amendments to the Constitution. The number of the groups refused in registration includes the group "Republic" of the opposition "Musavat" Party. The opposition campaign group "Republican Alternative" (ReAl), created by the movement under the same name, will also not take part in the agitation. The movement "ReAl" has announced suspension of its participation in the referendum and mentioned the arrests of its activists among the reasons for such a decision.

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