20 May 2019, 17:31

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events on May 13-19, 2019

Elections in Georgia; start of trial of second president of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan and his release from custody, – read about these and other events in the weekly review of the main events in the Caucasus that happened during the week from May 13 to 19, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Elections in Georgia

On May 19, some cities of Georgia voted at interim parliamentary elections and elected their local self-governments.

Violations during the voting were reported by various observers and political forces. The oppositional alliance "Strength in Unity", which includes the United National Movement (UNM) Party, registered 120 violations in Zugdidi, while the ruling "Georgian Dream" Party claimed provocation attempts in this city. NGO activists reported the so-called "voting carousels" and pressure on voters in Zugdidi and other regions. A shooting broke out at one polling station in Zugdidi. According to the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), two people were detained. Let us note here that 16 candidates ran for the post of Zugdidi Mayor. An acute struggle was observed between Giorgi Shengeliya, a candidate from the ruling "Georgian Dream-Democratic Movement" Party, and Sandra Roelofs, a nominee of the oppositional alliance, the wife of the ex-President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili.

The voting in the city of Chiatura, where they also elected the Mayor, was held amid a strike conducted by miners, who demanded to raise their salaries and improve working conditions. 15 miners went on a hunger strike, and on May 18, protesters partially blocked the roads, refusing to pass the trucks of the "Georgian Manganese" Company. The bosses of the company stated that protests were initiated from outside to influence the results of the election of the Mayor. However, in the opinion of the experts, interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot", miners' protests are not directly related to the election of the Mayor.

According to preliminary outcomes, candidates of the ruling "Georgian Dream" have won in the overwhelming majority of polling stations. In Zugdidi, Giorgi Shengeliya is in the lead.

Start of Robert Kocharyan's trial and his release from custody

On May 13, a Yerevan court began considering the case of the second president of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, about a clash of law enforcers with oppositionists on March 1-2, 2008. Besides, Kocharyan is accused of receiving a bribe of three 3 million US dollars. The first court session began against the background of protests staged by Kocharyan's supporters, who demanded his release. The following sessions were accompanied by actions of both his supporters and opponents.

In the above clashes on March 1-2, 2008, of law enforcers with the protesters, who disagreed with the victory of Serzh Sargsyan in the presidential election, ten people were killed. The police explained the crackdown by the fact that activists "had brought illegal weapons with them." According to the Human Rights Watch, the rally as a whole was peaceful. Rights defenders believe that in many cases policemen opened unnecessary fire on the protesters.

On May 18, the court decided to release Robert Kocharyan from arrest under the guarantee of Bako Saakyan and Arkady Gukasyan, the incumbent and one of former presidents of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), respectively, who guaranteed the court that Kocharyan would not hide from the trial, and paid 500,000 drams (about 1100 US dollars) of bail for him. Opponents of the ex-president demanded to put him back into custody and threatened with acts of disobedience if the General Prosecutor's Office failed to revoke the judgement.

Wave of false messages about bombs planted into buildings in Southern Russia

Last week, across the whole country, including Southern Russia, people were evacuated from schools, hospitals, shopping centres, marketplaces and administrative buildings after received messages about planted bombs. On May 13, in Makhachkala, after such messages, the railway station and the airport were evacuated. On May 14, a gymnasium and a shopping centre in Cherkessk were evacuated for the same reason. On the same day, in Nalchik, three schools were evacuated after bomb messages. On May 15, after anonymous calls about planted bombs, airport passengers and visitors to at least seven shopping centres were evacuated in Krasnodar. On May 18, a false bomb report caused evacuation of the central mosque of Makhachkala.

Adding "Terek" special unit and Ruslan Geremeev to the list of US sanctions

On May 16, the USA supplemented the "Magnitsky List" of sanctions, which bans entry to the USA, with two confidants of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the "Terek" special rapid reaction squadron. The list was added with Ruslan Geremeev, a former commander of the "Sever" (North) battalion, who is associated with Boris Nemtsov's murder, and Abuzaid Vismuradov, the commander of the above "Terek". The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) threatened to respond to US sanctions, and Ruslan Alkhanov, the head of the Chechen MIA, suggested including his entire ministry into the sanctions list. Abuzaid Vismuradov treated his inclusion into the list as "good news" and linked it with successful fight against terrorism. With their statements, law enforcers confirmed their loyalty to the head of Chechnya, local residents believe. Let us remind you that the USA added Ramzan Kadyrov to the "Magnitsky List" in December 2017, calling him responsible for extrajudicial executions, torture and other human rights violations in Chechnya.

Arrest of the head of the Dokuzparin District of Dagestan

On May 16, searches were conducted at the administration of the Dokuzparin District of Dagestan; and its head, Abduragim Aliskerov, was detained. A court in Moscow arrested him for two months within a bribe-giving case. According to investigators, bribes in the amount of 23 million roubles were given to the adviser to the head of Dagestan and other officials "for promoting appointments and general patronage." Aliskerov himself refused to plead guilty.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 20, 2019 at 08:35 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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