20 September 2021, 16:11

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 13-19, 2021

Elections of the leaders in Chechnya, Karachay-Cherkessia, and North Ossetia; elections of members to the State Duma of Russia and members of various levels of power in Southern Russia; ECtHR’s decision on a complaint from Azerbaijani oppositionist Tural Abbasly; arrest of a Lieutenant Colonel of the Armenian army in a case on capture of 64 soldiers, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of September 13-19, 2021, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Elections of leaders in Chechnya, Karachay-Cherkessia, and North Ossetia

On September 19, members of the parliament of Karachay-Cherkessia unanimously re-elected current republic’s leader Rashid Temrezov for a new term. He has been heading the region since 2011. His rivals were Oleg Zhedyaev, an MP from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and Renat Akbaev, an MP from the “Spravedlivaya Rossiya” (Fair Russia) Party.

Besides, on September 19, members of the parliament of North Ossetia also unanimously supported the candidacy of Sergey Menyailo for the post of the leader of the republic. His rivals in the elections were MP Medeya Eldzarova and Valery Balikoev, the chair of one of the parliamentary committees.

On September 17-19, Chechnya held voting to elect the leader of the region at the direct election. Current republic’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov was registered as a candidate from the “Edinaya Rossiya” (United Russia) Party. His rivals were Khalid Nakaev, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), and Isa Khadjimuradov from the “Spravedlivaya Rossiya-Patriots-For the Truth” Party. In August, experts interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot” noted that there was no campaigning in the republic. However, in September, at rallies with the participation of public sector employees held in different regions of Chechnya, Salakh Mezhiev, Mufti of Chechnya, and other religious leaders called on people to come to the election and support the policy pursued by the republic’s authorities. Analysts noted that the participation of the religious figures in campaigning for Ramzan Kadyrov directly violates the federal law, but it is a long-standing and widespread practice in Chechnya. According to the political analysts, the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion. The Ramzan Kadyrov’s 14-year experience as the leader of Chechnya is the longest among the leaders of the Russian regions.

Elections of members to State Duma of Russia and members of various levels of power in Southern Russia

On September 17-19, Southern Russia held voting on the elections of members to the State Duma, to the parliaments of six regions and three administrative centres, leaders and members of the city, district and rural levels of power. The elections of the State Duma members of the 8th convocation were held in all constituent entities of Southern Russia.

Violations were reported from almost all southern regions of Russia. In Vladikavkaz, observers from opposition parties reported that they detected at polling stations the attempts to let vote persons who had no right to vote at those very polling stations and the issuance of an unreasonably large number of ballots for on-site voting. In the Volgograd Region, massive violations were registered during the on-site voting. In Astrakhan, observers also complained about fraudulent voting at home. In Sochi, observers pointed to attempts to inflate votes.

In Stavropol, a member of the precinct election commission reported that there were no seals on a box with ballots. The chair of the Central Election Commission (CEC) expressed indignation about the scale of violations in Pyatigorsk, where at one of the polling stations, a CCTV camera was covered with a mop and a rag at night and thus the conditions for fraud with safes were created in the absence of video recording of violations. Besides, in the Stavropol Territory, a candidate for the State Duma and a candidate for municipal administration were injured and taken to hospital after being beaten by a group of men suspected of multiple voting in the elections, a representative of one of the candidates reported.

During the voting, observers were attacked in Makhachkala, Anapa, Novorossiysk, Astrakhan, and Kalmykia.

ECtHR’s decision on complaint from Azerbaijani oppositionist Tural Abbasly

On September 16, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) pronounced a decision on the complaint filed by politician Tural Abbasly against the government of Azerbaijan in September 2013. In his complaint, the politician pointed to the violation of his rights under Article 6.1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Strasbourg Court obliged the Azerbaijani authorities to pay Tural Abbasly 4500 euros in compensation for the illegal persecution, taking into account the conclusion of a settlement agreement by the parties. The complaint concerned the Tural Abbasly’s administrative punishment for participating in a rally in Baku on January 12, 2013, held in protest against non-combat losses in the army. The politician, who was then the leader of the youth organization of the “Musavat” Party, was first sentenced to a fine of 600 manats (780 US dollars at the then current exchange rate), but later, the fine was replaced by 220 hours of community labour. Tural Abbasly was accused of failure to serve his punishment and was arrested for 15 days, but the oppositionist denied the charge and considered his arrest unfounded and unfair.

Arrest of Lieutenant Colonel of Armenian army in case on capture of 64 soldiers

On September 14, in Armenia, a court upheld the investigators’ request to arrest Lieutenant Colonel Arsen Kazaryan, involved as a defendant in a case on the capture of 64 soldiers in two Karabakh villages. Let us remind you that in December 2020, a month after the cessation of the full-scale hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, 64 soldiers were captured at several Karabakh military checkpoints located in the area of the villages of Khtsaberd and Khin Takher (the Azerbaijani names are Chailakkala and Kyokhne Taglar, respectively, – note of the "Caucasian Knot"). Most of the prisoners of war were residents of the Shirak Region of Armenia. Of them, 24 returned to their homeland, while others were prosecuted in Azerbaijan in cases on espionage, terrorism, and illegal border crossing. In July, the Baku Court on Grave Crimes sentenced 39 Armenian prisoners of war to six years of imprisonment. According to the investigators’ version, the Armenian soldiers were taken prisoner due to the negligent attitude towards the service of Arsen Kazaryan, the chief of staff of the battalion. Arsen Kazaryan himself pleads not guilty. Earlier, he did not rule out that the Armenian villages had been deliberately surrendered to the Azerbaijani side and that there were attempts to make him responsible for what had happened.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on September 20, 2021 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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