12 September 2016, 09:02

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 5-11

Competitions of Paralympic Games, which bring together athletes from the countries of Southern Caucasus; resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Ovik Abramyan; two special operations and detentions of top-ranking police officers in Dagestan; verdict to journalist Geriev, pronounced by the Chechen court, which resulted in condemnation by human rights defenders; military exercises at training grounds in Georgia and Southern Russia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 5-11, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Athletes from countries of Southern Caucasus win several medals at Paralympic Games

On September 7, Rio de Janeiro opened the Paralympic Games, which involved 32 athletes from the countries of Southern Caucasus. Azerbaijan brought to the Paralympic Games the most numerous national team - 27 athletes. Georgia is represented by three athletes, while Armenia - by two athletes. Athletes from the above countries have already become the medallists. So, on September 10, the gold medal was won by Georgian judoka Zviad Gogochuri in the weight category of 90 kg. On September 9, judoka Ramil Gasymov won for Azerbaijan the first gold medal at the Paralympic Games in the weight category of up to 73 kg. Rovshan Safarov, another Azerbaijani judoka, won the bronze medal in the weight category of up to 81 kg. On September 8, their teammate Bairam Mustafaev, won the silver medal of the Paralympic Games in the weight category of up to 66 kg. Besides, Azerbaijan has already celebrated the silver medal at the Paralympic competition in the women's 100 meters, which was won by Elena Chebanu.

It should be noted that the athletes from Russia were not allowed to take part in the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In this connection, three released quotas were to go to Azerbaijan; however, the country refused to use the licences won by Russian Paralympic athletes.

Armenian Prime Minister Ovik Abramyan lodges resignation application

On September 8, Ovik Abramyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, announced that he wrote a letter of resignation. According to Ovik Abramyan, his resignation should pave the way for the creation of a government of national consent, which was a month ago mentioned by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. The Armenian leader has made such a statement on the day after the armed supporters of the "Constituent Parliament", who held the building of the patrol-and-post service police regiment in Yerevan from July 17 to July 31, had surrendered to the authorities. Serzh Sargsyan has accepted the resignation of the Prime Minister and instructed members of the government to perform their duties until the formation of the new Cabinet of Ministers. At the meeting of the Executive Board of the Republican Party of Armenia held on September 8, Serzh Sargsyan put forward for the post of the Prime Minister the candidacy of Karen Karapetyan, the formerly Mayor of Yerevan and the former director of the Close Joint-Stock Company (CJSC) "ArmRosgazprom". As a result, the ruling party has approved Karen Karapetyan for the post of the Armenian Prime Minister.

Dagestani law enforcers carry out two special operations in parallel

In the morning of September 7, the counterterrorist operation (CTO) legal regime was introduced in Izberbash and the Kirov District of Makhachkala. Law enforcers have cordoned off the houses, which, according to them, were hiding members of the armed underground, involved in the attack on policemen near the town of Izberbash committed on August 12. Then, unidentified persons shelled inspector of the road-and-patrol service (known as DPS). As a result of the shootout, two policemen were killed. In Makhachkala and Izberbash, the CTO legal regime was lifted in the evening of September 7. According to the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC), six people were killed in Makhachkala and Izberbash, including Magomed Khalimbekov, the leader of the local grouping of militants. In addition to Magomed Khalimbekov, the law enforcement bodies initially mentioned among the men killed in Izberbash the names of Rinat Osmanov and Bagaudin Magomedov, and in Makhachkala Rashid Umakhanov, Aziz Djamaludinov, and Nazir Kasumov. Later, the law enforcement bodies have clarified that in the course of the special operation in Makhachkala, Amalatbek Bogatyrov, and not Aziz Djamaludinov, was killed.

In Dagestan, two top-ranking police officers detained on suspicion of money extortion

On September 5, in Dagestan, two top-ranking police officers were detained: Rasul Saduev, the chief of the Criminal Investigation Department of the OVD (Interior Division) of Khasavyurt, and Gimbat Lakhiyalov, the deputy chief of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) for Dagestan. After the information had been reported, the sources well aware of the situation stated that the police officers were detained in the same criminal case. No official information has been reported about that. According to unconfirmed reports, Rasul Saduev and Gimbat Lakhiyalov may have connections with Askhabali Zairbekov, who used to lead the Kizilyurt OVD and who is accused of formation of a criminal grouping. Rasul Saduev and Gimbat Lakhiyalov were detained as the persons suspected of extortion of money, reported sources from the law enforcement bodies in the evening of the same day. The sources have also noted that the searches were carried out not only in the offices of the detained police officers, but also at their places of residence.

Chechen Court finds journalist Zhalaudi Geriev guilty of drug possession; human rights organizations express their condemnation

On September 5, the Shali District Court of Chechnya sentenced Zhalaudi Geriev, a correspondent of the "Caucasian Knot", to three years of imprisonment. The journalist was convicted on the charge of illegal possession of marijuana. According to the defence, the prosecutors' version found no confirmation at trial. Zhalaudi Geriev himself retracted his confession made during the preliminary investigation and claimed that he had made a confession under pressure. On September 9, the advocates filed an appeal against the Zhalaudi Geriev's sentence and pointed out to numerous examples of falsification in the case materials, clear contradictions in the prosecutors' version, and involvement of "hired" witnesses by the police.

The statements in support of Zhalaudi Geriev were released by the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", the human rights organization "Human Rights Watch" (HRW), the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the "Front Line Defenders". In particular, the HRW has called on the Russian authorities to ensure an immediate review of the case against Zhalaudi Geriev, taking into account his complaint about kidnapping and ill-treatment. The "Front Line Defenders" associates the case against Zhalaudi Geriev and his sentence pronounced by the Court with the journalist's coverage of human rights violations in Chechnya. Members of the HRC "Memorial" also believe that Zhalaudi Geriev is deprived of his liberty for the performance of his professional duties. The human rights defenders have promised to recognize the journalist as a political prisoner in the near future.

Military exercises held at training grounds in Georgia and Southern Russia

On September 1-10, in Georgia, military training grounds "Orpolo" and "Vaziani" hosted the multinational NATO military exercises "2016 Agile Spirit". During the military exercises, which primary trained defensive tactics, the new US military equipment was involved. The military exercises were attended by about 1200 soldiers and officers from Georgia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, Ukraine, and the United States. Turkey has refused to participate in the military exercise and explained such a decision by an attempt of an armed coup in the country. The scenario of the military exercises was developed yet in 2015, and during the training, a lot of attention was paid to tactical exercises, and the main goal was to achieve interaction with partners, as well as synchronization of tactics used by the NATO member countries.

For the first time, the NATO exercises in Georgia were carried out almost simultaneously with the military training of the Russian Army "Kavkaz-2016". The exercises of the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), which took place on September 5-10 at the military training grounds of the Southern Military District, as well as in the waters of the Black and Caspian Seas, were also attended by soldiers of the Russian military bases deployed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The military exercises involved about 12,500 soldiers and officers, aviation, military vehicles and ships. The military exercises, held at the training grounds "Molkino" in the Krasnodar Territory and "Tarskoe" in North Ossetia, included the training of tactical episodes of joint raid manoeuvring actions of the Southern and Western Military Districts to cordon off and destroy the opposing force.

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