31 December 2018, 15:01

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events on December 24-30, 2018

Five years after pre-New Year terror acts in Volgograd; new case against imprisoned Azerbaijani blogger Guseinov – see the review of these and other events that happened in the Caucasus during the week of December 24-30, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Five years after terror acts in Volgograd

Volgograd residents have commemorated the victims of the terror acts committed in the city five years ago. On December 29, 2013, an explosion was triggered at the Volgograd railway station, killing 18 people and wounding 45 others. On December 30, another explosion occurred in a trolleybus killing 16 people and wounding 28. Both explosions were committed by suicide bombers. On December 29, a commemoration rally was held at the railway station; its participants lit candles and laid flowers at the memorial sign. On December 30, a similar event was held at the venue of the trolleybus explosion. The participants said that even five years after the terror acts, they remained vigilant in crowded places; some townspeople still refuse to use public transport.

New case against imprisoned Azerbaijani blogger

In Azerbaijan, on December 26, a criminal case was opened against the blogger Mekhman Guseinov, the head of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), who is serving his term for slander, as he had reported that he was tortured after detention. Now, he is accused of violating the normal operation of a jail. The country's Penitentiary Service has stated that two months before the end of his prison term, Guseinov was trying to prevent a search and beat up a prison employee. Human rights defenders believe that the new case is an act of revenge for Mekhman's statements and an attempt to prevent him from getting at large. On December 26, Guseinov was placed into a dungeon (punishment cell), where he went on a hunger strike. On December 28, the blogger was visited by his advocates, who said that Guseinov's state of health had deteriorated sharply. On December 29, the working group on the unified list of Azerbaijani political prisoners condemned the new accusation against Guseinov and called on international organizations to urgently respond to the human rights situation in Azerbaijan. Guseinov had posted videos on corrupt high-ranking officials on the Facebook. Azerbaijani authorities deny political motives in his persecution.

Conviction of Valov, editor-in-chief of "BlogSochi" website

On December 26, the Sochi court found Alexander Valov, the editor-in-chief of the "BlogSochi" website, guilty of extorting money from Yuri Napso, a State Duma MP, and sentenced him to six years in prison. Valov declared his innocence and the customised character of his case. The defence has treated the verdict as too severe. The Valov's case is one of the many "signals" to journalists of the Krasnodar Territory and an obvious example of pressure on the freedom of self-expression, the trade union of journalists has stated. The pressure on media professionals is increasing, and the laws designed to protect them "are applied extremely rarely and selectively," said Nadezhda Azhgikhina, a Vice President of the European Federation of Journalists.

Deprivation of convict Musaev of authorities of Makhachkala Mayor

On December 27, the members of the city assembly of Makhachkala decided to dismiss Mayor Musa Musaev, who was convicted of abuse of his powers and announced the start of a contest for this post. The day before, the Supreme Court (SC) of Dagestan reported that the appeal complaint filed against the verdict to Musaev had been withdrawn, and the decision of the court that sentenced Musaev to four years in prison was in force. Musaev has questioned the objectivity of the consideration of his appeal by the Dagestani SC, and therefore decided to recall his complaint against the verdict, a source said. In the meantime, analysts assert that the contest procedures for electing a new Mayor are formal, since the head of Dagestan has already named Salman Dadaev, the head of the council of the Basmanny District of Moscow, as his candidate, while the abilities of others to fight for this post are limited.

Participation of Rostov residents in All-Russian protest action of real estate investors

On December 27, the real estate share holders of the Rostov Region joined the All-Russian rally #AndreevaNeOdna (Andreeva is not alone) and held pickets in streets. It is necessary to solve the problem of unfinished housing projects and punish all those responsible for them, they have stated. The share holders went out to solo pickets in different regions of Russia after the statement of Alla Andreeva, an activist from Saint Petersburg, at the press conference of Vladimir Putin. She asked him to solve the problem of deceived real estate investors throughout Russia. Mr Putin acknowledged Andreeva's rightness, but officials accused her of self-promotion and lies. Apart from the Rostov Region, among the regions of Southern Russia, defrauded housing investors of the Krasnodar Territory joined the campaign.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on December 31, 2018 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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