19 March 2018, 09:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 12-18

Russian presidential election in South of Russia amid violation reports; nomination of eight candidates for Azerbaijani presidency; tourists injured at cableway failure in Georgia; conviction of Dagestan woman-returnee from Syria; protests of deceived housing investors in Gelendjik and Rostov-on-Don; military exercises in Azerbaijan and NKR – read about these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 12-18, 2018, in the review prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Russian presidential election in Russia's South accompanied by violation reports

On March 18, Russia voted to elect its president. The process was accompanied by reports about pressure on observers in the capital of Dagestan; at one of the Makhachkala polling stations, a ballot stuffing (throw-in) was recorded; and in the village of Endirey – a massive multiple vote. In Sochi, employees of budget-funded organizations told that they were forced to vote at certain polling stations under threat of sanctions and hand over special flyers that were given to them after the voting against their signatures. Reports were received from Rostov-on-Don that at one of the polling stations long-dead people were found in voters' lists; at the psycho-neurological dispensary, they took away passports from bedside patients and voted instead of them; and the Navalny's office stated an "abnormal" number of voters wishing to vote at home. Violations were also reported by observers from the Volgograd Region and Kalmykia, while Stavropol ones noted the absence of gross violations.

According to preliminary vote tabulation, as of 7:37 a.m. Moscow time on March 19, when 99.79% of protocols received from precinct election commissions (PECs) had been processed, Vladimir Putin was in the lead with 76.67% of the votes.

List of Azerbaijan presidential candidates closed

On March 17, the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Azerbaijan has completed registration of candidates for the country's presidential election to be held on April 11. Eight candidates have been registered, namely, the incumbent head of the state Ilham Aliev; a non-party MP Zakhid Orudj; Araz Alizade, the leader of the Social Democratic Party of Azerbaijan; Gudrat Gasanguliev, the head of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA); Faradj Guliev, a nominee of the National Revival Party; Khafiz Gadjiev, the chairman of the "Muasir Musavat" Party; Sardar Mamedov (Djalaloglu), the chairman of the Democratic Party; and Razi Nurullaev, the leader of the initiative group of the Popular Front. The National Council of Democratic Forces (NCDF), the "Musavat" and "Umid" Parties refused to participate in the early election, while the Republican Alternative (ReAl) and "Nida" movements warned that they would not recognize the voting results. The movement "For Democracy and Prosperity" (FDP) urged the Azerbaijani authorities to cancel the early presidential election.

Tourists injured at cableway in Georgia

In the afternoon on March 16, as a result of an emergency halt of the cableway in Gudauri, tourists were injured. According to the Georgia's Ministry of Public Health, six tourists from Russia, four Ukrainian citizens and a Swedish woman were injured. Seven of them were delivered for treatment in Tbilisi. Doctors reported that the Swede needed a backbone surgery. After the surgery, she was placed into an intensive care unit; her condition is treated as stable. By March 17, two patients were already discharged from the hospital.

Dagestan court sentences Kurbanova, a returnee from Syria, to 8 years in colony

On March 12, the Sovietsky District Court of Makhachkala sentenced Muslimat Kurbanova, a resident of Dagestan, who had voluntarily returned from Syria, to eight years in colony with a suspension of enforcement until her baby is 14 years old. Her advocate has stated that the court could have appointed a softer sentence to Kurbanova by using the earlier wording of the criminal article on participation in illegal armed formations (IAFs), and that he would challenge the verdict. A family life with an IAF member should not be equated to terrorist activity, Rinat Gamidov, a lawyer, has commented on the verdict to Kurbanova.

In Gelendjik and Rostov-on-Don, deceived housing investors demand from the authorities to solve their problems

Throughout the past week, the city of Gelendjik hosted actions of defrauded real estate investors of several unfinished houses with a demand to dismiss the city mayor. The solo picketers in Gelendjik claimed that they had lost their money and apartments after their house No. 79 in Krasnogvardeiskaya Street, where they had bought their flats, was doomed for demolition. On March 18, they went to a protest rally at the gates of the city cemetery. Two investors had planned to hold solo pickets in Krasnodar on March 12, but were detained by policemen even before they managed to unfold their posters. On March 13-15, solo pickets at the government building in the Rostov Region were held in Rostov-on-Don by investors into the Housing Cooperative "Barrikadnaya". They had twice gone on hunger strikes, blaming the authorities for inaction and demanding to complete their house.

Azerbaijan and NKR report major military exercises

On March 12, Azerbaijan launched military exercises involving 25,000 servicemen, armoured vehicles, aviation and missile installations. Azerbaijani military experts have noted that some new weapons are used. In their turn, Armenian military observers have stated that Azerbaijan showed no new types of weapons that could cause any Armenia's concern. It is noteworthy that on March 12, the militaries of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) also started their exercises, where they pay special attention to methods of delivering fire and specificities of defeating conventional enemy's targets by tank fire.

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