15 April 2019, 14:45

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 8-14, 2019

Criminal prosecution against activists detained in Ingushetia; cancellation of the decision to write off debts for gas in Chechnya; arrest of the head of the Derbent District in Dagestan; mass protest action of taxi drivers in Tbilisi; criminal case against a Krasnodar activist for participating in an undesirable organization; evacuation of people in Volgograd, Astrakhan, and Bataisk after reports of bombs, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of April 8-14, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Criminal prosecution against activists detained in Ingushetia

Despite the fact that the administrative arrests in Nalchik of three protest leaders in Ingushetia ‑ Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, and Barakh Chemurziev ‑ expired on April 13, none of them was released from custody. Musa Malsagov was detained on suspicion of calling for mass riots and violence against a public official, Barakh Chemurziev was suspected of attempting to use violence against a law enforcer. Elder Ahmed Barakhoev is also involved in a case on the use of violence against a public official. On April 14, Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, and Barakh Chemurziev were arrested for two months.

Starting from April 4, Akhmed Barakhoev was on hunger strike at a special detention centre. The Akhmed Barakhoev's hunger strike is a unique case for Ingushetia, since the Elder seeks respect not only of his rights, but the rights of other people, human rights defenders note. On April 13, the Ombudsman for Kabardino-Balkaria convinced the Elder to stop his hunger strike and accept food.

Let us remind you that on March 26, residents of Ingushetia, whose rally turned into a protest action demanding the resignation of Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Evkurov, stayed in a square in Magas without a sanction from the authorities, and that led to clashes with law enforcers on the other day. According to the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), ten law enforcers were injured during the clashes.

Cancellation of decision to write off debts for gas in Chechnya

On April 11, the Supreme Court (SC) of Chechnya cancelled a decision pronounced in January by the Zavodskoy District Court of Grozny to write off the gas debt from residents of the republic. Thus, the Chechen SC granted a complaint filed by the "Gazprom". Let us remind you that on January 16, the Prosecutor's Office of Chechnya reported that the Zavodskoy District Court of Grozny granted its claim and ordered the "Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Grozny" to write off the "population's bad debts" in the amount exceeding 9 billion roubles. The "Gazprom" challenged the resonant decision of the court, which release provoked requests from other regions of Russia to write off debts. Large losses of gas in Chechnya fall on the years of combat actions, and therefore the state and the "Gazprom" are to write off the debt of the republic, stated Ramzan Kadyrov when commenting on the decision of the Supreme Court of Chechnya. The Chechen authorities do not abandon the idea of writing off debts for gas even after the appeal of the "Gazprom" had been granted, local residents noted. The Chechen SC cancelled the decision to write off gas debts of the republic for political reasons: the reaction of other regions to the precedent created problems for the Kremlin, and Ramzan Kadyrov was persuaded to play back under guarantees of receiving subsidies, believe the analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot".

Arrest of head of Derbent District in Dagestan

On April 10, searches were conducted in the administration of the Derbent District of Dagestan. After the searches, policemen took Magomed Djelilov, the head of the Derbent District, away with them for questioning. Later, it became known that Magomed Djelilov was taken to Makhachkala and then sent to Moscow, where he was detained. On April 11, the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) reported that Magomed Djelilov was accused of allocating for free three land plots to his relatives in 2015, with the cadastral value of more than 3 million roubles and the possible market value exceeding 20 million roubles. The official was charged with embezzlement on a large scale using his official position, and the Basmanny Court of Moscow decided to arrest Magomed Djelilov for two months.

Mass protest action of taxi drivers in Tbilisi

On April 11, in Tbilisi, more than 300 taxi drivers arrived at the Bidzina Ivanishvili's residence with the demand to cancel the new regulations of the taxi market in the capital. The requirement to repaint taxi cars in white is one of the measures to monopolize the market, state the protesters. Earlier, Tbilisi taxi drivers have already held protests against the reform on March 20 and 27, but the Tbilisi authorities refused to make concessions to the protestors. It should be noted that the taxi drivers on protest are supported by the Labour Party, which leader Shalva Natelashvili offered the taxi drivers to start an indefinite protest rally in front of the parliament, if the city authorities did not meet their demands.

Criminal case against Krasnodar activist for participating in undesirable organization

On April 9, in Krasnodar, law enforcers searched an apartment of activist Yana Antonova, who until March 30 was the coordinator of the regional branch of the all-Russian movement Open Russia*. On the same day, Yana Antonova learned that a criminal case was instituted against her under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for participating in an undesirable organization. The activist is a suspect and is sent home under the obligation to come to investigators at the first summoning.

Evacuation of people in Volgograd, Astrakhan, and Bataisk after reports of bombs

On April 11, in three cities of Southern Russia, law enforcers had to evacuate people from various buildings in connection with reports of explosives allegedly planted there. In Volgograd, evacuation was organized from 30 buildings, including 18 schools, as well as seven city hospitals, five shopping centres and two administrative buildings, including the Volgograd City Duma. On the same day, law enforcers had to evacuate people from the building of the Astrakhan City Mayoralty and the city administration of the Bataisk in the Rostov Region. In all cases, the information about bombs in buildings, which finally turned out to be false, was reported in messages received by e-mail.

*The General Prosecutor's Office of Russia recognized activities of two organizations registered in the UK and containing the words "Open Russia" in their names as undesirable in the Russian Federation.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on April 15, 2019 at 09:05 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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