26 September 2016, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 19-25

Summary of the outcome of the elections to the Russian State Duma; accommodation in Volgograd of tenants of dismantled high-rise building in new apartments; new sentence of Vano Merabishvili, the former Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 19-25, 2016, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Results of elections to Russian State Duma summed up

On September 23, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) recognized as valid the elections of deputies to the Russian State Duma, the voting on which was held on September 18. Under the party lists, the seats in the State Duma of the seventh convocation went to four parties, including the "Edinaya Rossiya" (United Russia) Party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), the Liberal Democratic Party of Russian (LDPR), and the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" (Fair Russia) Party. Following the outcome of the elections, the "Edinaya Rossiya" Party received 343 mandates and the constitutional majority, the CPRF 42 mandates, the LDPR 39 mandates, and the "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" Party 23 mandates.

Ella Pamfilova, the chair of the Russian CEC, reports that in the period of September 19-21, they received 331 complaints about alleged violations. According to her, most of the complaints came from the Rostov Region and the Stavropol Territory. Ella Pamfilova has also added that the election results were cancelled at nine polling stations, including in Rostov-on-Don and in Dagestan. In Rostov-on-Don, observers registered an attempt of ballot stuffing, and in the Dagestani village of Gotsatl, several young men broke a ballot box and initiated a fight.

In most regions of southern Russia, election commissions reported absence of violations during the voting; however, some candidates did not agree with that. So, human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina claimed that in Chechnya, the local authorities had arranged the results of the elections in advance. According to her, people should not believe the official results of the voting, reporting that the "Yabloko" Party gained 0.03% of votes. Ecologist Evgeny Vitishko, another candidate from the "Yabloko" Party, decided to challenge the election results in Tuapse. In the Krasnodar Territory, Igor Vasiliev, the leader of the Sochi branch of the CPRF, also claimed violations during the voting. According to him, the violations were associated with the use of absentee ballots and administrative resources. In the Volgograd Region, the opposition believes that it failed to convince the voters to go to the elections.

In Volgograd, residents of dismantled high-rise building receive keys from new apartments

On September 22, in Volgograd, people attended the ceremony of granting the keys from new apartments in the high-rise building, constructed at the place of the house in No. 47 in Cosmonauts Street dismantled after the explosion of December 20, 2015. Tenants have inspected the house and signed the acceptance certificate, and now, they can enter their apartments. An alley of 30 trees, called "Nadezhda" (Hope), is planted around the house. According to the tenants, the new apartments are almost the same as those that they used to have. The people have also pointed out that during all the time since the destruction of their building they lived in the rented apartments, paid by the city authorities.

Vano Merabishvili, former Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs, sentenced in case of beating of MP

On September 22, in Georgia, the court sentenced Vano Merabishvili, the former Ministry of Internal Affairs, to 6 years and 9 months of imprisonment in the case of beating of MP Valery Gelashvili in 2005. The MP, who had earlier published an article criticizing then-President Mikhail Saakashvili, got a cranial trauma. Two other defendants in the case were sentenced in absentia to 9 years of imprisonment. The criminal case also involves Mikhail Saakashvili himself; however, his case is being considered separately. Vano Merabishvili is already serving his sentence in three criminal cases, including the case for organization of a murder. The defence of Vano Merabishvili claims political nature of his prosecution.

Dagestani policeman posthumously awarded Hero of Russia

On September 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to award Dagestani policeman Magomed Nurbagandov the title of Hero of Russia. Under the threat of violence, the policeman refused to urge his colleagues to quit the law enforcement bodies. That became known after on September 7, during a special operation in Izberbash, three militants were killed. In a mobile phone of one of the killed militants, law enforcers found a video of the murder of the policeman in the forest near the village of Sergokala on July 10. On September 22, Vladimir Putin handed over the star of Hero of Russia to the parents of Magomed Nurbagandov. A residential district in Grozny is named after the killed policeman. In Makhachkala, the authorities made the decision to build a monument to Magomed Nurbagandov.

In Azerbaijan, UN Special Rapporteur discovers restrictions on activities of NGOs

On September 22, Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council, ended his visit to Azerbaijan. Starting from September 14, he was collecting the information on the problems of civil society in the country and he was interested in the situation with the media. Michel Forst called on the authorities of Azerbaijan to release the arrested activists, lift the restrictions on their departure from the country, and abandon the persecution of their relatives. The expert has noted that he will present his report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017. An assistant to the President of Azerbaijan has treated the Michel Forst's report as "biased".

Russian Ministry of Agriculture listens to Kuban farmers

On September 23, in Moscow, Kuban farmers, who recorded a video appeal to Vladimir Putin with a request to solve problems with raiders' seizure and corruption in Kuban, took part in the meeting held in the Ministry of Agriculture. The meeting was not attended by Vladimir Putin or Alexander Tkachov, Minister of Agriculture. Victoria Abramenko, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, listened to farmers and promised to support them. As a result of the meeting, it was decided to establish a federal working group, about which Kuban farmers talked to members of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on September 22. Besides, the activists have agreed with Victoria Abramenko that each month, they will meet the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and report to him about the progress in solution of their problems. Alexei Volchenko, the leader of the Kuban farmers, has expressed his dissatisfaction with the facts that the meeting was not attended by the Russian President and that no deadline was determined for creation of the working group.

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