10 February 2020, 13:30
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of February 3-9, 2020
Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan; attack on journalist Elena Milashina and advocate Marina Dubrovina in Grozny; new arrests of rally participants in Magas; resonance after a murder of a Chechen blogger in France; adoption of an anti-corruption law in Abkhazia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of February 3-9, 2020, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".
Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan
In the morning on February 9, in Azerbaijan, 5573 polling stations were opened, at which the voting in early parliamentary elections began. Let us remind you that on December 5, 2019, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev signed a decree on the dissolution of the Milli Majlis (parliament) and scheduled early elections for February 9. After more than 320 registered candidates had refused to participate in the elections, other 1314 candidates continued to run for seats in parliament, the Central Election Commission (CEC) reported. During the voting at the elections in Azerbaijan, there were cases of ballot-stuffing, "roundabouts," observers' exclusion, and other significant violations that prevented revealing the true will of the voters, said leaders of NGOs interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". The current election will be included in the history of Azerbaijan "as the election with a tense struggle," states Rovzat Gasymov, the deputy chairman of the Azerbaijani CEC. He declares that "the election process is going well," and no complaints have been received by the CEC. According to the preliminary information, the voters' turnout at the parliamentary elections reached 47.81 percent of the voters, and the ruling "New Azerbaijan Party" is leading.
The pre-election campaign was held in Azerbaijan with the restriction of political freedoms, the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) reported. Earlier, the "Caucasian Knot" has been told by voters and NGO activists that the parliament does not enjoy respect among the population, and the elections are not credible, since their results are predictable.
Attack on journalist Elena Milashina and advocate Marina Dubrovina in Grozny
Late in the evening on February 6, Elena Milashina, a correspondent of the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta", and Krasnodar advocate Marina Dubrovina were attacked in a lobby of the "Continent" Hotel in Grozny. Attackers ‑ a group of men and women ‑ beat them with arms and legs. Doctors diagnosed Elena Milashina with bruises of soft tissues and frontal lobe of her head and bruises and scratches on her shoulders and neck. The police reported launching an investigation into a complaint filed by Elena Milashina. The "Novaya Gazeta" correspondent believes that she and Marina Dubrovina were beaten in connection with attending the trial in a case against Islam Nukhanov, who shot a video about the luxurious life style of Chechen officials. 27-year-old Islam Nukhanov was tortured and then accused of storing rounds for firearms. A wife of Islam Nukhanov succeeded in seeking an investigation into her complaint about unlawful detention and imprisonment of her husband. The woman also complained about receiving threats on social networks.
To attack a woman and a guest is unacceptable for a Chechen native, Instagram users note in response to reports of local public accounts in social networks stating that residents of Chechnya allegedly support the beating in Grozny of Elena Milashina and Marina Dubrovina. The authorities stand behind the attack, residents of Chechnya suggest.
New arrests of rally participants in Magas
On February 4, in the villages of Ingushetia and North Ossetia, searches were conducted in a case on participation in a protest rally in Magas, and at least six persons were detained. One of them was released after an interrogation in Vladikavkaz, while detainee Amirkhan Bekov was brought by law enforcers to Nalchik. Like many other activists, he is suspected of using violence against a public officer. On February 5, the Nalchik City Court decided to detain four detainees. Information about the new detentions came as a surprise for residents of Ingushetia, noted advocate Magomed Bekov. Let us remind you that on March 26, 2019, opponents of the Chechen-Ingush border agreement, who also succeeded in demanding the resignation of Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Evkurov, did not leave the place after the rally in Magas sanctioned by the authorities. When the police tried to disperse them, clashes occurred between the protestors and the law enforcers. Since early April, there have been mass arrests of activists in the republic, and at least 29 people have been involved in criminal cases as defendants. Ordinary protesters are accused of attacks on law enforcers, while organizers of the protests are accused of creating an extremist community.
Resonance after murder of Chechen blogger in France
On February 1, a body of Imran Aliev, a native of Chechnya, known as blogger Mansur Old, was found with stab wounds in a hotel in the French city of Lille. The French law enforcement agencies put on the wanted list a person who rented a room together with Imran Aliev. According to sources, investigators consider a murder for political reasons as the main version of the blogger's death. Imran Aliev attracted people's attention with his shocking and rude statements addressed to the Caucasian nations, which he posted on Facebook and YouTube. Activists interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot" believe that the murder of Imran Aliev revealed a threat to critics of the Chechen authorities in Europe. Members of the Chechen Diaspora in Europe suggest that the Russian secret services might stand behind the Imran Aliev's murder. The Chechen Diaspora claims feeling a threat.
Imran Aliev was killed by a resident of the Gudermes District of Chechnya, who worked for a top-ranking Chechen official, and the killer has already returned to the republic, claims Chechen blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov. According to the blogger, the alleged killer spent a week together with Imran Aliev in Belgium, and after that he went to Lille together with him. At a hotel, the man "set Imran to sleep by adding sleeping pills to his drink and then killed him with several stabs," reported Tumso Abdurakhmanov. Chechen natives living in France and Germany told a blogger that they had assisted the alleged killer of Imran Aliev, since they were unaware of the purpose of his arrival in Europe. On February 7, protests in connection with the murder of Imran Aliev took place in front of the Russian Embassies in Austria and Germany. The picketers demanded from the law enforcement agencies of Austria and Germany to find and punish the persons responsible for the blogger's murder and ensure the safety of other Chechen refugees.
Adoption of anti-corruption law in Abkhazia
On February 6, members of the parliament of Abkhazia passed a final reading of the law on declaring income, expenses, and property by officials. The MPs decided that the anti-corruption law would enter into force on December 30, 2020, after the Law "On Civil Service" was adopted. The parliament has been considering the bill for more than a year, and over the past year, local residents held protest actions with the demand to pass the bill. And on February 4, supporters of activist Djansukh Adleyba gathered in front of the parliament of Abkhazia. The activist demanded from the Abkhazian MPs to adopt the anti-corruption law in final reading before the presidential election. The protesters announced holding a round-the-clock protest action. After the adoption of the law, they stopped their action in the centre of Sukhumi.
This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on February 10, 2020 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.