25 October 2021, 20:37

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of October 18-24, 2021

Scandal with applicants for maroon berets from Chechnya; deterioration of the Mikhail Saakashvili’s health state during hunger strike; abduction of Dagestani women from a shelter in Kazan, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of October 18-24, 2021, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Scandal with applicants for maroon berets from Chechnya

One of the most discussed news of the week was a conflict among fighters of the National Guard of Russia during a march when passing standard exams for the right to wear maroon berets. Fighters of the Special-Purpose Centre “Vityaz” claimed that law enforcers from Chechnya received maroon berets, although they were removed from the distance for deception: their friends gave them a lift in cars during the march.

The deception resorted to when passing exams for the right to wear maroon beret confirmed the unprofessionalism of Chechen special forces fighters, claimed blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov. He also recalled the death of a person during a shelling attack on the House of Press in Grozny. In contrast to military ranks, the right to wear maroon berets was usually granted deservedly, so the injustice caused a sharp reaction from the militaries, experts note. Law enforcers believe that if Ramzan Kadyrov does not punish the violators, he will provoke a sharply negative attitude towards himself in the army. However, the Akhmat Kadyrov Foundation donated Mercedes Benz cars to two of the seven Chechen law enforcers who were granted the right to wear maroon berets after the exams in question.

Tightening of restrictive measures in connection with COVID-19 spread in Southern regions of Russia

The Russian authorities continue to tighten restrictive measures in connection with the increase in the number of people infected with coronavirus. On October 20, President Vladimir Putin declared non-working days from October 30 to November 7. Starting from October 26, North Ossetia introduces mandatory QR codes when visiting public institutions, including gyms, cafes, and cinemas. The requirement for QR codes has been also introduced in other republics of Northern Caucasus, including Kabardino-Balkaria.

It should be noted that the restrictions imposed by the authorities sometimes meet dissatisfaction of local residents. So, residents of Volgograd began collecting signatures under an appeal to the prosecutor’s office against the introduction of QR codes for visiting theatres, sports clubs, and beauty salons.

Deterioration of Mikhail Saakashvili’s health state during hunger strike

Last week, the health state of Mikhail Saakashvili, the third president of Georgia, has worsened. He is being kept in a prison in Rustavi, where he has been on a hunger strike since October 1. The former Georgian president demands to release him. The doctors’ council recommended that Mikhail Saakashvili be placed in a clinic for intensive observation, and the politician’s supporters insisted on the same during their protest actions. Mikhail Saakashvili himself said that he did not intend to stop his hunger strike, but agreed to medical assistance as a last resort. On October 22, on the 22nd day of the hunger strike, Mikhail Saakashvili underwent a blood transfusion in the prison in Rustavi because of the deterioration of his health detected by blood tests. The politician’s hunger strike is entering a critical phase, the doctors note. They insist that Mikhail Saakashvili be hospitalized in a multidisciplinary civilian clinic. However, the Georgian authorities have denied the need to transfer the former president of the country to a civilian clinic: they suggest that he could be treated in the prison clinic, which Mikhail Saakashvili himself refuses.

Abduction of Dagestani women from a shelter in Kazan

On October 18, two young women who fled from their relatives in Dagestan were forcibly taken by law enforcers out of the “Mother’s House” crisis centre in Kazan. The young women spent only one night in the shelter, they fled from their hometown in order to start a new life, and they signed agreements for provision of assistance to them, reported Aliya Bainazarova, the founder and the head of the “Blagie Dela” (Good Deeds) charity foundation. The young women were tracked down and taken away by Kazan law enforcers, Dagestani human rights defenders Svetlana Anokhina reported. About an hour after they had been taken out of the shelter, the young women posted messages on social media, assured that everything was fine with them, and called on their friends not to look for them. Those statements were made under pressure, Svetlana Anokhina believes. The human rights defender clarified that during a year before escaping from their families, the young women asked for help to leave the Caucasus. One of the young women complained about regular harassment by her husband and relatives, and the other complained about beatings. According to Svetlana Anokhina, the “good connections” of the father of one of the young women, who is a well-known religious preacher in Dagestan, has helped to find them. On October 19, it became known that both fugitives were returned to Makhachkala. After returning to their husbands, the young women face a risk of falling victim to so-called “honour killings,” note Caucasian experts interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Let us remind you that earlier, on June 10, in Dagestan, law enforcers took out of an apartment shelter for victims of domestic violence Chechen young woman Khalimat Taramova, who fled the republic, complaining about domestic violence. According to Khalimat Taramova, her relatives tried to change her sexual orientation through a ritual to “expel genies.” The incidents highlighted the vulnerability of crisis centres, human rights defenders suggest. They note that Russia needs a special law to ban relatives from approaching victims of domestic violence or returning them to their families with the help of the police.

Law enforcers report prevention of a terror act in Stavropol Territory

On October 22, the Russian FSB reported about the detention in the Stavropol Territory of a supporter of the “Islamic State” (IS, a terrorist organization, banned in Russia by the court, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”). According to the investigators’ version, the suspect was plotting a terror act on transport infrastructure facilities in the region. According to the law enforcers, explosives and striking elements for making an improvised bomb were found and seized during a search in the house of the suspect. A criminal case was instituted against him under articles on preparation for a terror act and illegal manufacture of explosives or explosive devices. The Leninsky District Court of the city of Stavropol pronounced with regard to the detainee the pre-trial restriction measure in the form of detention for a period of two months.

ECtHR’s decision on disappearance of Salman Tepsurkaev

On October 19, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found the Russian authorities responsible for the disappearance and torture of Salman Tepsurkaev, a native of Chechnya, and awarded him the compensation in the amount of 26,000 euros. Let us remind you that in September 2020, the wide public outcry was provoked by a video in which naked Salman Tepsurkaev was sitting down on a bottle and explaining that he was doing that as punishment for cooperation with the 1Adat Telegram Channel, which criticized the Chechen authorities. Relatives of Salman Tepsurkaev believe that after his kidnapping in Gelendzhik, he was taken to a law enforcement body in Grozny. A complaint to the ECtHR was filed by Russian human rights defenders, and the Strasbourg Court communicated it within very short period of time. Earlier, while answering the questions from the ECHR, the Russian authorities claimed that the law enforcement bodies had not been involved in the disappearance of Salman Tepsurkaev. Meanwhile, human rights defenders presented to the ECtHR the evidence of the involvement of Chechen law enforcers in Salman Tepsurkaev’s kidnapping.

Loss of ruling party during local elections in Armenia

In Armenia, the ruling “Civil Contract” Party was defeated by the opposition in a number of large cities and towns during local elections held on October 17. So, the pro-government candidates won in Dilidjan, Teg, and Tatev, but lost in Gyumri, Goris, and Megri. Observers noted the use of administrative resources at the elections, organized transportation of voters to polling stations by supporters of the ruling party, and violation of the requirements for visual campaigning. The Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s party failed to nominate influential candidates in a number of communities and lost the elections. Meanwhile, the opposition has proved that it is capable of resisting the ruling party, political analysts suggest.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on October 25, 2021 at 09:32 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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