23 December 2019, 12:37

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 16-22, 2019

President Putin's answers to questions on the problems of the southern regions of Russia; sentence to a Georgian doctor in South Ossetia; trials in cases against Ingush activists in the Stavropol Territory; attack on a son of the first president of Georgia in Tbilisi; opening of a monument to Stalin in Volgograd, and request of the Georgian Communists to restore the monument to the Soviet leader in Gori, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 16-22, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

President Putin's answers to questions on problems of southern regions of Russia

On December 19, Vladimir Putin held a big press conference during which he answered to journalists' questions, including those concerning the southern regions of Russia. Thus, Alkhazur Kerimov, a journalist of the "Grozny" TV Company, voiced a question about the President's attitude to the project on construction of a road to Georgia through Chechnya, which Ramzan Kadyrov spoke about. Vladimir Putin did not give a direct answer to the journalist's question and noted that so far, "there were no specifically calculated plans." In the course of the press conference, Sergey Komkov, President of the All-Russian Education Foundation, called war veteran municipal houses in Sochi "slums." Vladimir Putin said he was not aware of the situation with the war veteran housing in Kuban and promised to discuss the issue with the regional governor. During the press conference, journalists voiced a request for clemency for Said Amirov, the former Mayor of Makhachkala, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in the case on organizing murders, acts of banditry, and plotting of a terror act. In response, President Putin promised to think over the issue and stated that the Said Amirov's guilt had been proven by the court. Besides, Vladimir Putin mentioned the post-war restoration of Grozny and noted that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov deserved the title of Hero of Labour.

Sentence to Georgian doctor in South Ossetia

On December 20, in South Ossetia, the court found Vazha Gaprindashvili, the president of the Georgian Association of Orthopaedics and Traumatologists, guilty of violating the border and sentenced him to a year and nine months of imprisonment. A month earlier, Vazha Gaprindashvili was detained in the border region. Relatives of the doctor believe that he went to the Akhalgori District of South Ossetia to help a woman whom the local authorities did not allow to go for medical treatment to Tbilisi. However, the KGB of South Ossetia declared that the violation of the border by the doctor had been connected with the "hybrid operation" of the Georgian law enforcement bodies. After the court's verdict, the Georgian authorities announced they would seek mediation of international institutions in order to release Vazha Gaprindashvili. The demand to the South-Ossetian authorities to release Vazha Gaprindashvili has already been voiced by the US Embassy in Georgia. The sentence was also condemned by the European Union and the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

Trials in cases against Ingush activists in Stavropol Territory

Last week, the Zheleznovodsk City Court continued to consider cases against participants of a March rally in Magas. On December 12, the Court sentenced Ramazan Gagiev to four months of imprisonment in a settlement colony. The defendant confessed that he had kicked a shield of a fighter of the National Guard of Russia and told the court that he was repenting. On December 13, Seit-Magomed Nalgiev, who admitted that he had dropped a metal fence on a fighter of the National Guard of Russia, was sentenced to 16 months of imprisonment in a settlement colony. On December 16, the court sentenced Zelimkhan Tomov, who confessed that he had thrown stones in direction of fighters of the National Guard of Russia, to 17 months of imprisonment in a settlement colony. After the first court's decisions in the cases against the Ingush activists pronounced on December 12 and 13, advocate Andrei Sabinin suggested that the court formed a basis for sentences to protest leaders. It should be noted that last week, the court extended the detention in custody of several other activists. At the court hearings, the arrested persons claimed unacceptable conditions of detention at a SIZO (pre-trial prison) and transportation to the court, but the Federal Penitentiary Service (known as FSIN) declared that the conditions of the detention at the SIZO complied with the relevant regulations. The conditions for transportation of prisoners adopted in Russia should be equated with torture, human rights defenders say. On December 19, activist Mustafa Vyshegurov went on a hunger strike in protest against the conditions of detention at the Pyatigorsk SIZO and the warders' request to shave his beard. According to Mustafa Vyshegurov, Adam Badiev also refused to shave his beard, and he was threatened with a punishment cell.

Attack on son of first president of Georgia in Tbilisi

On December 19, Tsotne Gamsakhurdiya, a son of Zviyad Gamsakhurdiya, the first president of Georgia, was hospitalized after an attack on him in the centre of Tbilisi. According to eyewitnesses, several people attacked Tsotne Gamsakhurdiya when he left his home. Doctors said that Tsotne Gamsakhurdiya got injuries to his head and chest, and he underwent two surgeries. After the surgeries, the doctors said the patient stayed in a severe condition. The police instituted a case on attempted murder. The family associated the attack on Tsotne Gamsakhurdiya with the case on his father's death. According to his friends and relatives, Tsotne Gamsakhurdiya feared for his life, while seeking punishment for the alleged killers of his father. On December 20, the police detained five persons in the case on the attempted murder. Two detainees were charged with attempted murder, and three others were charged with not reporting the crime.

Opening of monument to Stalin in Volgograd, and request of Georgian Communists to restore monument to Soviet leader in Gori

The day of December 21 marked the 140th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Stalin. In Volgograd, members of the Communist Party erected a monument to the Soviet leader in front of their office on the occasion of his birthday. The opening of the monument took place amid solo pickets, participants of which recalled the Stalinist repressions. It should be noted that after the Volgograd Communists announced the erection of the monument to Joseph Stalin, many Facebook users criticized the idea, but some expressed their support.

On the birthday of Joseph Stalin, members of the Communist Party of Georgia and their supporters held a rally in his homeland in Gori. They demanded to restore the monument to the Soviet leader, dismantled nine years ago. At the rally, it was also announced that the Communist Party of Georgia planned to begin collecting signatures in support of the initiative to return the monument to Joseph Stalin.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on December 23, 2019 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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