06 May 2019, 20:48

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of April 29-May 5, 2019

Demonstrations on May Day; release of journalist Zhalaudi Geriev; aggravation in the Karabakh conflict zone, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of April 29-May 5, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

May Day demonstrations

On May 1, demonstrations on the occasion of the Spring and Labour Day were held in all regions of Southern Russia. In Volgograd, participants of a May Day rally spoke about low wages, unemployment, and severe working conditions. The rights of workers are violated, and organizations designed to protect them do not work, residents of Dagestan claim. Residents of Chechnya complained of being obliged to attend actions on May 1.

On the International Workers' Day, in Tbilisi, more than 1000 people gathered at a rally organized by the United Trade Union of Georgia. Activists demanded from the authorities to strengthen labour safety control at work. In Yerevan, Armenian communists demanded changes after the "velvet revolution."

Release of Zhalaudi Geriev

On April 30, Zhalaudi Geriev, a correspondent of the "Caucasian Knot", was released from a Chechen penal colony. He had fully served his three-year term of imprisonment under the charge of marijuana possession. The "Caucasian Knot" treats the case against Zhalaudi Geriev as fabricated and the accusations of drug use as far-fetched. The Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" recognized Zhalaudi Geriev as a political prisoner, and 14 human rights and journalistic organizations condemned his prosecution. After his release, the journalist said that he would "look at life with optimism" and that he "felt free" in prison. Let us remind you that in September 2018, the district court pronounced the conditional early relief (CER) of Zhalaudi Geriev, but the Supreme Court (SC) of Chechnya cancelled the decision of the district court. In March, Zhalaudi Geriev was placed in a punishment cell for 15 days, since the prison authorities punished him for refusing to leave his cell because of his health problems.

First "Monstration" in Dagestan and arrest of Dagestani Minister of Economic Development

On May 1, in Makhachkala, the first "Monstration" led to courts and complaints of beatings. The action was not sanctioned by the authorities. Law enforcers detained eight people, and five persons, including an organizer, were fined. According to the intersexual activist Olga Moskvitina, who was also detained during the action "Monstration", law enforcers threatened her with murder and forced her to take off her clothes. The human rights organization "Amnesty International" (AI) recognized all fined activists as prisoners of conscience.

On April 30, at the airport, law enforcers detained Osman Khasbulatov, Minister of Economic Development of Dagestan, and searches were conducted in his house and office. Osman Khasbulatov is suspected of creating a criminal grouping, which members overestimated the costs of procurement for multifunctional centres, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reports. Osman Khasbulatov faces up to 10 years of imprisonment under the charge of fraud for 20 million roubles.

Appointment of new government chair in Kalmykia

On April 30, members of the People's Khural of Kalmykia voted to appoint the chairman of the Kalmyk government Yuri Zaitsev, the former general director of the Interregional Electricity Distribution Network Company of Northern Caucasus. The decision was criticized by the opposition and local experts. Yuri Zaitsev is not familiar with the specifics of the republic, believes Batyr Boromangnaev, the head of the Kalmyk branch of the "Yabloko" Party.

In Abkhazia, opposition confirm plans to nominate Aslan Bzhaniya for president

On May 2, in Sukhumi, the council of the opposition forces of Abkhazia reported that after medical treatment, MP Aslan Bzhaniya would be nominated for president. The election is scheduled for July 21. Like the incumbent President Raul Khadjimba, Aslan Bzhaniya is a potential favourite of the presidential race. On April 18, in serious condition with viral pneumonia, Aslan Bzhaniya was taken to a Moscow hospital. Users of social networks expressed a version of the oppositionist's poisoning and drew attention to the fact that one of his bodyguards suffered from similar symptoms. Doctors did not find signs of poisoning of Aslan Bzhaniya, but his colleagues launched a check, the opposition reported. The Abkhazian opposition has no political figure, around whom it would be able to unite at the election, except for Aslan Bzhaniya. His illness jeopardized the election campaign plans, journalists claimed.

Aggravation in Karabakh conflict zone

Last week, the reports on aggravation of the situation came from the Karabakh conflict zone. On April 29, according to the Armenian side, a section of the Yerevan-Tbilisi road near the village of Baganis in the Tavush District of Armenia was shelled from the Azerbaijani positions. On April 30, during the shelling in the area, an Armenian soldier was wounded to his head. On May 2-3, the Azerbaijani armed forces made 330 shots at the positions of the Karabakh army near the village of Madagis, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for Nagorno-Karabakh reported. On May 4, according to the Nagorno-Karabakh MoD, a soldier of the Defence Army of Nagorno-Karabakh was seriously wounded as a result of a shot from the Azerbaijani side. Azerbaijan also regularly claimed violations of the ceasefire and registered 159 shelling attacks on its positions in the period from April 28 to May 4.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 6, 2019 at 09:05 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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