30 December 2019, 16:59
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of December 23-29, 2019
New verdicts for Ingush activists and tougher charges against protest leaders; Catholic Christmas celebrations in Southern Russia and Southern Caucasus; pardon of a Georgian doctor in South Ossetia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of December 23-29, 2019, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
New verdicts for Ingush activists and tougher charges against protest leaders
The court continued to consider cases against Ingush activists detained after a March rally in Magas, which ended with clashes between protestors and policemen. On December 24, the court sentenced Musa Pliev, a participant of the March rally, to 18 months of imprisonment in a penal colony, and Eliskhan Azhigov was sentenced to 17 months of imprisonment. On December 27, the court sentenced activist Mustafa Vyshegurov to a year and five months of imprisonment. All the defendants were recognized as participants in clashes with law enforcers during the March rally. On December 27, Zelimkhan Tomov, who was sentenced in the same case to 17 months of imprisonment, left the SIZO (pre-trial prison), since the term of his sentence had expired.
On December 28, it was reported that a criminal case was instituted against activists Musa Malsagov, Akhmed Barakhoev, and Malsag Uzhakhov under the charges of creating an extremist grouping, while Barakh Chemurziev, Zarifa Sautieva, Akhmed Pogorov, Bagaudin Khautiev, and Ismail Nalgiev were suspected of participating in the above grouping. According to Djabrail Kuriev, an advocate of Malsag Uzhakhov, the law enforcement bodies want to involve every person called a protest leader in the new case on an extremist organization. It should be noted that Akhmed Barakhoev, Musa Malsagov, and Barakh Chemurziev, as well as Zarifa Sautieva, were recognized by the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" as political prisoners.
Catholic Christmas celebrations in Southern Russia and Southern Caucasus
On December 25, in Russia, Catholics celebrated Christmas. The festive prayer services were attended not only by local Catholics, but also by foreign guests. Catholics did not face pressure because of their religious beliefs, residents of Kabardino-Balkaria report.
Remembrance events for victims of Kalmyk deportation
The date of December 28 is a day of national sorrow for the Kalmyk people. On that day, several events took place to mark the anniversary of the Kalmyk deportation in 1943. Prayer services held in the Central Khurul "Golden Abode of Buddha Shakyamuni" were dedicated to the memory of all victims of the deportation. It should be noted that the operation to deport Kalmyk people to Siberia and the Far East took place on December 28, 1943. The total number of Kalmyks evicted, including soldiers and officers, amounted to about 120,000 people. The exile lasted 13 years.
Pardon of Georgian doctor in South Ossetia
On December 28, Vazha Gaprindashvili, the president of the Georgian Association of Orthopaedics and Traumatologists, sentenced in South Ossetia for violating the border, was pardoned and returned to Georgia. Anatoly Bibilov, President of South Ossetia, explained his decision by saying that Vazha Gaprindashvili collaborated with investigators and personally asked for a pardon. Vazha Gaprindashvili was set free thanks to the actions of the Russian authorities, Georgian political analysts believe. After the detention of Vazha Gaprindashvili, activists held actions in Tbilisi and on the border with South Ossetia with the demand of his release. Relatives and friends of the doctor believe that he went to South Ossetia to help a woman whom the local authorities did not allow to leave for medical treatment in Tbilisi. However, the KGB of South Ossetia associated the violation of the border by the doctor with an alleged "hybrid operation" of the Georgian law enforcement bodies.
Resonant statements voiced by leader Chechnya at press conference
On December 23, Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, held a press conference at which he voiced several resonant statements. The Chechen leader approved the murder in Berlin of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, although stated that the authorities of Russia and Chechnya were not involved in the murder. When answering a question about an alleged conspiracy against him, Ramzan Kadyrov mentioned Ibragim Temirbaev, the former Mayor of Argun, as his ill-wisher. The Chechen leader also commented on the territorial disputes of Chechnya with neighbouring republics. So, Ramzan Kadyrov expressed his willingness to hand a disputed plot of land over to Dagestan "as a gesture of charity." The leader of Chechnya also voiced claims on seven villages in Ingushetia. The public claims voiced by Ramzan Kadyrov provoked indignation in Ingush society, states human rights defender Magomed Mutsolgov.
Municipal elections in Azerbaijan
On December 23, a vote was held at the municipal elections in Azerbaijan. Analysts note the absence of any acute struggle between candidates. The elections were accompanied by massive violations of the law, claim independent candidates and activists. In particular, blogger Mekhman Guseinov spoke about "carousels of voters" and ballot stuffing. Following the results of the elections, he failed to enter the municipal council of the Garachukhur village. The blogger found the voting results to be falsified. Vafa Nagi was the only candidate of the opposition activists who won the election. The outcome of the municipal elections in Azerbaijan does not reflect the free will of citizens because of numerous violations, the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies (EMDS) Centre states.
This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on December 30, 2019 at 09:15 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.