14 August 2017, 09:05

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 7-13

Putin's visit to Abkhazia; conviction in terror act plotting case in Rostov-on-Don; indignation of North-Caucasian republics’ authorities regarding release of “Matilda” movie, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 7-13, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Putin promises 6 billion roubles to Abkhazia and speaks on tourists’ safety

On August 8, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Abkhazia and met its President Raul Khajimba, promising to invest 6 billion roubles in this republic by 2019. Mr Putin pointed out that the concerted work of Russian and Abkhaz power agencies "would improve the tourists’ safety level in the republic." He expressed support to President of Abkhazia in the context of latest events in the republic, said the political analysts interviewed by the "Caucasian Knot". Putin's visit to Sukhumi coincided with the anniversary of outbreak of 2008 hostilities in South Ossetia. The Georgian authorities condemned this visit, calling it a testament to Russia’s "occupation" of the Georgian territory. The US State Department treated Putin's visit to Abkhazia as "unacceptable", and violating the principles of the Geneva discussions on the Caucasus.

Court passes guilty verdict on plotting terror act in Rostov-on-Don

On August 11, the consideration by the North-Caucasian District Military Court of the case related to the preparation of a terror act in Rostov-on-Don ended in a conviction. The court sentenced Arthur Panov, a citizen of Ukraine, to 8 years, and Maxim Smyshlyaev, a resident of Rostov-on-Don, to 10 years, both – in a high-security colony. The 19-year-old Panov, who moved to Rostov in November 2015, was accused of plotting a terror act and of publishing three articles in the social network “VKontakte” that justified terrorism. The 34-year-old Smyshlyaev was accused of complicity to Panov. Smyshlyaev refused to plead guilty; while Panov admitted his guilt in part. In September 2016, the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" recognized Smyshlyaev to be a political prisoner. After the sentencing, the defence of Panov and Smyshlyaev announced its intent to appeal against the verdict as too severe.

Railway to Southern Russia, bypassing Ukraine, is ready

On August 11, the Open Joint-Stock Company (OJSC) "Russian Railways" (know as RZhD) reported the completion of the construction of a railway in the Voronezh and Rostov Regions, bypassing Ukraine. The construction began on April 25, 2015, and took 56.6 billion roubles from the federal budget; the authorities estimated the cost of the 75-kilometre section across the Rostov Region at 30 billion roubles. The RZhD has started testing individual sections and plans to open passenger train traffic on the new railway by the end of autumn.

Checkpoint "Verkhni Lars" in North Ossetia works with long queues

Last week, the situation at the checkpoint "Kazbegi-Verkhni Lars" at the entrance from North Ossetia to Georgia got complicated. According to the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE), as of 9:00 p.m. Moscow time on August 6, the queue was 800 cars. Since August 9, the checkpoint worked without queues. However, in the morning on August 13, the MfE again reported a traffic queue of 80 cars and 70 trucks. The waiting time was 3 hours. The situation is complicated by hot weather. On August 10, Georgian media reported the death of a woman, who was waiting in the traffic queue at the checkpoint, noting that doctors could not help her. The Russia authorities associate the queues with tourist activeness during the holiday season and promised to speed up customs procedures, expand the passage and equip additional transport control lines.

Release of "Matilda" outrages authorities of three North-Caucasian republics

On August 10, the Russian Ministry of Culture issued a rental certificate for the screening of the film "Matilda" by Alexei Uchitel, telling about the fate of ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya, with whom Nicholas II, the future emperor, was in love. The spokesperson of the “Druzhba” Cinema in Nazran, the only film distributor in Ingushetia, said that the movie would not be screened in the republic, since it can offend believers’ religious feelings. Prior to that, the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the Dagestani First Vice-Premier asked the Russian Minister of Culture to exclude their republics from the above certificate on “Matilda” for the same reasons. The movie was criticised also by the head of Ingushetia Yunus-Bek Evkurov, who confessed that had not watched the movie. He said that the appearance thereof makes him think about the need for censorship.

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