22 March 2021, 20:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of March 15-21, 2021

Public outcry provoked by the investigation into extrajudicial executions in Chechnya released by the newspaper “Novaya Gazeta”; return of Ingush activist Sautieva to SIZO; scheduling a date for parliamentary elections in Armenia, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of March 15-21, 2021, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Public outcry provoked by investigation into extrajudicial executions in Chechnya released by “Novaya Gazeta”

On March 15, the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta" made public a part of its investigation into extrajudicial executions in Chechnya, including a testimony of Chechen law enforcer Suleiman Gezmakhmaev. According to his story, residents of Chechnya, detained in January 2017, were tortured and forced to incriminate themselves before the extrajudicial killings. After the publication at the “Novaya Gazeta”, relatives of Suleiman Gezmakhmaev in Chechnya received threats: law enforcers demanded that Suleiman declared his story a fiction, otherwise his family would have problems. According to one of the Chechen law enforcers who voiced a video appeal, the fighters of the special-purpose police regiment are being forced to have one of them "take responsibility for stopping the insults to the entire personnel." Human rights defenders suggest that the readiness to "stop insults" to Chechen law enforcers should be regarded as a threat to the newspaper's correspondents. The Russian authorities should study the information made public by the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta" about extrajudicial killings in Chechnya, stated Dunja Mijatović, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

Russian President's press secretary Dmitry Peskov noted that the fighters from the Akhmat Kadyrov special-purpose police regiment should address their claims to a court, and not to President Putin. Ramzan Kadyrov argued that “citizens had every right to appeal to the president.” Ramzan Kadyrov is the only leader of the region who dares to object to the presidential press secretary, note human rights defender Oleg Orlov and journalist Maxim Shevchenko. Ramzan Kadyrov overestimates his importance, and next time the Kremlin will harshly bring him to his level, political analyst Alexei Malashenko suggests.

On March 15, an entrance to the building, which housed the editorial office of the newspaper “Novaya Gazeta”, was poured with chemical liquid of pungent smell. A source of the attack has not yet been identified.

Return of Ingush activist Sautieva to SIZO

On March 16, the Stavropol court pronounced a decision to return to custody Zarifa Sautieva, who had spent under house arrest less than a week. Thus, the court granted an appeal filed by the prosecutor’s office, although, according to advocates, the activist did not violate the conditions of her house arrest. The leaders of the Ingush protest, together with Zarifa Sautieva accused in the case on a rally in Magas in March 2019, declared a hunger strike and refused to participate in the trial. On March 17, they refused to leave their cells to attend the court hearing.

Scheduling a date for parliamentary elections in Armenia

On March 18, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that parliamentary elections would be held on June 20. He suggested the parliament would hold early elections in 2021 to test the level of confidence in the current authorities. The opposition called the Prime Minister’s readiness to go to early elections a result of protests demanding the Nikol Pashinyan's resignation after the conclusion of the ceasefire agreement in Karabakh on November 9, 2020. The protests intensified after on February 25, the General Headquarters of the Armenia’s Armed Forces called on the Prime Minister to resign, and Nikol Pashinyan considered the General Headquarters’ call an attempted coup d’etat. In response, he drew up a decree on the dismissal of Onik Gasparyan, the chief of the General Headquarters of the Armenia’s Armed Forces. The political crisis in Armenia not only led to the split in the opposition, but also exacerbated social and economic problems, so the agreement on parliamentary elections became the best solution, analysts note.

Problems with water supply to cities in Dagestan

On March 16, the authorities of Makhachkala banned residents of the city from using tap water. The water supplied to the Leninsky District of Makhachkala was polluted because of the descent of mudflows. Moreover, a serious accident occurred in the Miatli-Makhachkala water pipeline in the vicinity of the village of Gelbakh in the Kizilyurt District, reported Salman Dadaev, Mayor of Makhachkala.

The city residents criticized the Mayoralty for the poor organization of the distribution of bottled water. Those residents of Makhachkala, to whose apartments the water supply was later restored, complained that the water was muddy. The experts interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot” note that the main cause of accidents and pollution of tap water in Makhachkala is the exhaustion of the pipelines, which arises as a result of uncontrolled urbanization and inaction of the regulatory authorities.

On March 20, the authorities of another Dagestan city – Izberbash – reported that they had to cut off the water supply to the city, as melt water polluted Lake Rybye, used to supply Izberbash with water, and as the water level in the reservoir dropped after that. More than 42,000 adults and 18,000 children found themselves without water supply.

Law enforcers' reports on detention of terrorists and extremists in Kuban and Adygea

On March 17, the FSB announced the detention of a native of Central Asia, who, according to the law enforcement bodies, was a supporter of the “Islamic State” (IS, a terrorist organization, banned in Russia by the court, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”) and confessed to plotting a terror act in Maikop. The detainee “was plotting to commit an explosion in a shopping centre.” Experts called in question the version on the detention of the terrorist. The FSB video looks like a staged one, veterans of the special services point out. The version that terrorists decided to choose Maikop for an explosion in a shopping centre raises doubts, Caucasus experts believe.

On March 19, the FSB reported about the detention in Gelendzhik of members of a radical grouping, a unit of the Ukrainian youth radical neo-Nazi community “M.K.U.”. The grouping involved young people aged 16-30 years, who were plotting terror acts and killings, the law enforcement bodies reported.

Resignation of government in Stavropol Territory

On March 15, Vladimir Vladimirov, Governor of the Stavropol Territory, announced the resignation of the regional government in connection with the arrest of Alexander Zolotaryov, the deputy chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers, suspected of receiving bribes for the amount of 63 million roubles. Vladimir Vladimirov promises that each candidate for a seat in the new government will undergo an anti-corruption examination. The criminal proceedings against Alexander Zolotaryov in the bribery case were an episode in the fight against corruption in Northern Caucasus, following the model of “personnel clearings” in Dagestan, political analyst Anton Chablin notes.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on March 22, 2021 at 08:55 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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