06 February 2017, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 30 to February 5

Decision of European Parliament to abolish visas for Georgia; heavy snow on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus; armed clash in the Chechen town of Shali; appointment of a new head of the RPF Dagestani branch; start of nominating candidates for president of South Ossetia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 30-February 5, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

European Parliament approves abolition of visas for Georgia

On February 2, the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) supported, by the majority of votes, the introduction of the visa-free regime for citizens of Georgia in the countries of the European Union (EU). Now, this regime should be formally approved by the EU's Council of Ministers; then, the respective agreement should be signed by the President of the European Parliament and the appropriate representative of the country-chair of the EU's Council (now, Malta). The Agreement will enter into force 21 days after the publication in the EU's Official Journal. The Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili has stated that the citizens of Georgia, living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, will benefit from the abolition of visas to the EU. In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Abkhazia has accused the Georgian leadership of political manipulations, recalling the cases, when citizens of the republic were not let abroad, since their documents were not issued by the Georgian party. Georgian political analysts have suggested that the Georgia-EU visa-free regime may not last long, if law violations by illegal Georgian migrants and provocations of opponents of European integration frequent in Europe. They estimate that about 20% of Georgian citizens are ready to enjoy the visa-free regime.

Heavy snowfall creates problems for residents of Black Sea coast of the Caucasus

Last week, the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus was hit by a heavy snowfall, rather unusual for the region; and the temperature dropped below zero. In Sochi, on January 30, classes were reduced in a number of educational establishments. In the city centre, traffic was hampered in several streets; not all the public transport could service its routes. Many streets were not cleared of snow and ice; it is dangerous to walk on, residents of the city complained. On January 31, the head of the City Public Health Department reported 24 Sochi residents hospitalized with injuries received when falling on slippery roads; 79 other persons turned for outpatient treatment. The snowfall on January 30 and February 1 caused suspension of classes at schools and kindergartens in the territory of Abkhazia. A snowfall also complicated the life of local residents in the neighbouring Adjara (Adzharia) – in Batumi, the work of the airport and seaport was disrupted, and power lines were damaged; in mountainous areas of the republic two persons perished as a result of house collapse under the weight of snow.

Power agents state disruption of terror acts after shootout in Shali with seven casualties

At night on January 30, a shootout broke out in the centre of the Chechen town of Shali, as a result of which two policemen perished, three local residents were killed, announced by power agents as militants, and two civilians were wounded. According to the law enforcement source of the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, the three young men, killed in Shali, had been instructed to attack policemen and commit terror acts by Magomed Rashidov, a native of Shali, who has lived in Syria for three years. However, the versions voiced out by different sources have contradictions, which do not allow concluding whether the incident in Shali was a successful special operation of power agents, who prevented a large-scale diversion, or they only just make the appearance of such a success.

On the same day, on January 30, the official channel of Ramzan Kadyrov in the Instagram posted a statement telling that in Shali the head of Chechnyahad met Magomed Rashidov's father named Movsar, who had disowned his son. However, on February 2, relatives of Movsar Rashidov said that he was kidnapped back on January 11 by power agents; and since then, his whereabouts was unknown. His relatives suggest that Rashidov is kept by Kadyrov's men. As for the casualties, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) issued a ban on giving out their bodies to relatives. On January 30, Shali hosted a rally, which demanded to evict the families of killed militants out of the republic, after which the men of their families left their homes. The day before they reported that relatives of the three casualties had been detained.

New boss appointed to Dagestani branch of RPF

On February 1, the new head was presented to the staff of the Dagestani branch of the Russian Pension Fund (RPF), namely, Magomed Isaev, who had headed before the Ministry of Tourism of Dagestan. The powers of his predecessor Sagid Murtazaliev were stopped on November 12, 2015, in connection with the criminal prosecution, since Murtazaliev, whose whereabouts are unknown, is accused of financing terrorism and organizing assassination attempts. The appointment of Isaev was the result of the struggle for the post of head of the RPF branch of two groups: one relying on resources of the businessman Suleiman Kerimov, and the other, supporting the businessmen Magomed and Ziyavudin Magomedov. The decision to appoint Isaev may be treated as a sort of a "trade-off" of the political elites of Dagestan, believes the lawyer Biyakai Magomedov.

Seven persons want to run for South-Ossetian presidency

South Ossetia has begun nominating candidates for the post of the president of the republic, the election of which is scheduled for April 9. By February 1, seven persons expressed their desire to run for the presidency, namely: the incumbent president Leonid Tibilov; Anatoly Bibilov, the Speaker of the Parliament; Eduard Kokoity, a former president; Alan Gagloev, a KGB officer; Alan Kozonov, a doctor- endoscopist and an MP; Amiran Bagaev, a resident of the Republic; and Vladimir Guliev, the deputy head of the administration of the Leningor District of South Ossetia. Three of them – Tibilov, Kozonov and Kokoity – have been already nominated by their initiative groups. Registration of candidates will start after all of them have been nominated at meetings of their initiative groups.

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