24 July 2017, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of July 17-23

Guilty verdict to blogger Alexander Lapshin in Azerbaijan; re-election of Bako Sahakyan as the President of Nagorno-Karabakh; extradition to the homeland of Armenian citizen Grachya Arutyunyan, sentenced for a major road accident in Russia; appointment of the acting head of the Nogai District administration in Dagestan; adoption of the law on resort fee to be introduced in Kuban and in the Stavropol Territory; launch of an audit of the expenses for the wedding party for a daughter of Krasnodar Judge Elena Khakhaleva, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of July 17-23, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Azerbaijani court sentences blogger Alexaner Lapshin to three years of imprisonment

On July 20, the Baku court found blogger Alexander Lapshin guilty of illegally crossing the Azerbaijani border and sentenced him to three years of imprisonment in a common-security penal colony. Meanwhile, the Baku court found the charge of calls against Azerbaijan filed against the blogger as not proved. In his final speech, Alexander Lapshin repented that he went to Nagorno-Karabakh and thereby brought suffering to residents of the region. The defence asked the court to completely acquit the defendant, while public prosecutor requested to sentence Alexander Lapshin to 6 years and 6 months of imprisonment. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Azerbaijan to release Alexander Lapshin, believing that the blogger should not be jailed for visiting the region in dispute.

According to advocate of Alexander Lapshin, the decision to appeal against the verdict has not yet been made. The advocate himself believes that they should file an appeal for complete acquittal, and in case of refusal, they may count on the extradition of the blogger to Russia or Ukraine, since he is a citizen of that countries. On July 21, the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced its readiness to initiate the extradition of Alexander Lapshin to Russia, if there is such a request. The negotiations on the extradition of the Russian blogger are underway, reported Tatiana Moskalkova, Human Rights Commissioner for Russia.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, MPs re-elect Bako Sahakyan as President

On July 19, Bako Sahakyan, the current leader of the republic, was re-elected the President of Nagorno-Karabakh. His candidacy was supported by 28 out of 32 deputies of the National Assembly. After the adoption of the new Constitution of Nagorno-Karabakh, the President is elected for the transitional period until 2020, when the next parliamentary elections are to be held. Sociologist David Karabekyan believes the re-election of Bako Sahakyan as the President was expected, since he is supported by Yerevan. According to political analyst Tigran Grigoryan, the elections were unconstitutional, and the candidacy of Bako Sahakyan is not legitimate. The parliamentary majority believes Bako Sahakyan will justify the people's hopes for the development of the democratic and stable statehood. Meanwhile, the Baku authorities protested over the presidential election held in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Grachya Arutyunyan, sentenced for major road accident near Podolsk, extradited from Russia to Armenia

On June 20, Grachya Arutyunyan was extradited to Armenia from Russia. On August 4, 2014, the Troitsky District Court of Moscow found the man guilty of fatal road accident with 18 killed people and sentenced him to 6 years and 9 months of imprisonment in a penal colony. The press service of the Armenian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) reported that Grachya Arutyunyan will serve his remaining term of punishment in Armenia in accordance with the European convention on the transfer of convicts. In his homeland, Grachya Arutyunyan undergoes a medical examination in connection with his health problems, relatives of the sentenced man reported. They have also voiced their intention to ask the Armenian President for the amnesty.

Businessman suitable for Dagestani authorities and local residents appointed head of Nogai District

The conflict in the Nogai District of Dagestan, where the local residents protested against the appointment of Baimagomed Yarlykapov the acting head of the district administration, was peacefully solved. The local residents voiced their claims against the candidate, since two years ago, a local resident was killed in the building of the ROVD (District Interior Division) headed by Baimagomed Yarlykapov, and no one was punished for the crime. On July 18, it became known that businessman Mukhtarbiy Adjekov was appointed the acting head of the Nogai District. His candidacy suits both sides of the conflict, including deputies of the regional assembly and officials of the executive power, local residents reported. The appointment of Mukhtarbiy Adjekov was a compromise, suiting both local residents and the authorities of the republic. This opinion was voiced by representatives of the Nogai people questioned by the "Caucasian Knot".

Russian MPs approve introduction of resort fee in Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories

On July 19, deputies of the Russian State Duma adopted in the third reading a draft law on trial introduction of fees for using the resort infrastructure (resort fee) in four regions of the country, including in the Stavropol and Krasnodar Territories. According to the law adopted today, the experiment will last until late 2022. At present, the subjects are to adopt laws on introduction of a resort fee, the amount of which cannot exceed 50 roubles per person per night in a hotel in 2018 and 100 roubles in the remaining years of the experiment. The raised funds will be directed to the design, construction, reconstruction, maintenance, improvement, and repair of the resort infrastructure facilities.

Kuban judges audit expenses for wedding party for Judge Elena Khakhaleva's daughter and her diploma

On July 17, the Krasnodar Territory's Council of Judges began to verify reports of the expenses for the wedding party for a daughter of Elena Khakhaleva, Judge of the Krasnodar Regional Court. The public resonance was provoked by the reports that, according to Moscow advocate Sergei Zhorin, two million US dollars were spent for the wedding party for the Elena Khakhaleva's daughter. In response to the information about the inconsistency of her income to the costs of the wedding celebrations, Elena Khakhaleva herself stated that her former husband Robert Khakhalev took upon himself all the expenses for the daughter's wedding party. The Judge also called the wedding scandal to be ordered. Robert Khakhalev estimated the expenses for the daughter's wedding party in the amount not exceeding five million roubles. The commission of judges plans to complete the audit until July 24, and they have already found out that the wedding celebrations were indeed ordered by the former spouse of Judge Elena Khakhaleva.

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