05 June 2017, 09:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of May 29-June 4

Guilty verdict in the Caliphate case in Kabardino-Balkaria; failed evacuation of population because of threat of a dam failure in the Stavropol Territory; arrest of Astrakhan activist Igor Stenin, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of May 29-June 4, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Court pronounces guilty verdict in Caliphate case in Kabardino-Balkaria

On May 31, in Rostov-on-Don, in the case of an attempt to create a Caliphate in Kabardino-Balkaria, the North-Caucasian District Military Court sentenced the defendants to 6-16 years of imprisonment. The case against eight natives of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic (KBR) was considered since August 2016. According to public prosecutors, the defendants were members of an illegal armed formation (IAF) in order to establish a Caliphate with a Sharia form of government in the KBR. The defendants were also accused of reburying their friend Alexander Popov's body under the Muslim custom. Investigators considered their actions as an insult with regard to the deceased man. Besides, the defendants were accused of an assassination attempt on a Police Colonel committed on December 26, 2013, which failed, since an improvised explosive device (IED) did not detonate. The majority of the defendants stated that they had testified under torture. The sentenced men intend to appeal against the Court's decision.

Failed evacuation of population because of threat of dam failure on reservoir in Stavropol Territory

On May 29, after heavy rains, which resulted in the flooding of about 1700 houses in the area of Mineralnye Vody, the authorities of the Stavropol Territory decided to evacuate residents of seven villages and towns, including the town of Zelenokumsk with population of 35,000 people. The time of the evacuation was postponed several times, and in the evening, the decision on evacuation was abolished, since the dam of the Otkaznensky reservoir was strengthened. The damage from the flooding has been preliminary estimated at the amount of 2.37 billion roubles. The authorities promised to grant one-percent microloans to businessmen affected by the flooding and about 300 housing certificates to the people who lost their housing as a result of the flooding.

Journalist Afghan Mukhtarly kidnapped in Tbilisi

On May 29, journalist Afghan Mukhtarly disappeared in Tbilisi. On May 30, it was reported that he was brought to Baku. According to the journalist, in Tbilisi, he was seized by unidentified people in uniforms, who forced him into their car and took him away in the direction of the Azerbaijani border. In Baku, Afghan Mukhtarly was accused of violating the state border, smuggling and rendering resistance to a border guard. On May 31, the court pronounced the decision to arrest the journalist. According to Afghan Mukhtarly, he was beaten in the course of his kidnapping. The "Amnesty International" (AI) has recognized the journalist as a "prisoner of conscience." Azerbaijani activists claimed the damage to the Georgia's image in connection with the kidnapping of Afghan Mukhtarly. Giorgi Mgebrishvili, Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs, has excluded the involvement of the law enforcement agencies of the country in the journalist's kidnapping. In Azerbaijan, experts associated the arrest of Afghan Mukhtarly with his journalistic investigations and his involvement in protest actions. In Tbilisi, colleagues of Afghan Mukhtarly held an action in his support.

Court acquits activist Igor Stenin sentenced in Astrakhan

On May 30, in Astrakhan, the Presidium of the Regional Court closed the case against Igor Stenin, the leader of the movement "Russians of Astrakhan", in connection with the absence of corpus delicti and cancelled the verdict pronounced against him on May 16, 2016. Igor Stenin was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for reposting in a social network an article about the war in Ukraine. He was found guilty of spreading calls for extremism. The defence tried to explain that it was not a repost, but a comment written by another user under the Igor Stenin's post. The Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" recognized the nationalist as a political prisoner. On June 2, Igor Stenin was released from a penal colony in the Tambov Region, where he was serving his sentence. According to Damir Gainutdinov, Candidate of Legal Sciences, a co-founder of the Internet Users Association, Igor Stenin has the right to expect a public prosecutor's apology on behalf of the state and compensation for damage for unlawful persecution.

Russian MoD reports on pilot's mistake as cause of Tu-154 crash in Sochi

On May 31, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the completion of the investigation into the crash of an aircraft, which left for Syria and collapsed in Sochi on December 25, 2016. As a result of the crash, 92 people were killed. According to investigators, the disaster might occur because of a failure in the spatial orientation of the aircraft's commander, which resulted in his erroneous actions. Meanwhile, the commission did not reveal any violations in refuelling of the aircraft or any external factors that could lead to its collapse.

Native of Grozny, suspected in Russia of assassination attempt on Vladimir Putin, wounded in Kiev

On June 1, in Kiev, an assassination attempt was committed against Adam Osmaev, a native of Grozny, and his wife Amina Okueva. The killer himself was seriously wounded by shots of Amina Okueva who opened fire in return. The assassination attempt was committed by Arthur Denisultanov (Kurmakaev), a native of Chechnya, involved as a suspect in the case of the murder in Vienna of Umar Israilov, a personal bodyguard of Ramzan Kadyrov, who complained to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) about torture in Chechnya. This was reported by several Ukrainian and Russian media. The authorities put Adam Osmaev on the international wanted list on suspicion of plotting terror acts and an attempt to assassinate President Vladimir Putin. Adam Osmaev was detained in Odessa on February 4, 2012. In November 2014, the Ukrainian court found him guilty of illegal handling of explosives, destruction of other people's property and forgery of a document and sentenced him to 2 years 9 months and 14 days of imprisonment. However, Adam Osmaev was released in the courtroom, since he had already served his imprisonment term at SIZO (pre-trial prison). After his release, Adam Osmaev led the "Dudaev's Battalion", created by a former Chechen field commander fighting in the east of Ukraine. Amina Okueva is a press officer of the "Dudaev's Battalion".

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