21 August 2017, 09:00

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 14-20

Story about detention of lezginka dancers in Gelendzhik; fires in Southern Russia and Armenia; political hunger strike declared by activists of "Communists of Russia" Party in North Ossetia; mass repentance action in Chechnya; departure of first pilgrim groups from the North-Caucasian regions for Hajj; emergency situation caused by mudflow in the Kabardino-Balkarian city of Tyrnyauz, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 14-20, 2017, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Dancing lezginka in Gelendzhik resulted for Nalchik resident in arrest and criminal proceedings

Last week, a public response was triggered by the incident with the detention of lezginka dancers in Gelendzhik after a video with the policemen's actions had been posted on YouTube. According to eyewitnesses, during the detention of the lezginka dancers on August 12, the policemen stated that "dancing lezginka was banned in the Krasnodar Territory." The policemen used a gas spray, and one of the tourists was injured. As it turned out, the detained lezginka dancers were residents of Kabardino-Balkaria. The court found two of them guilty of petty hooliganism and failure to obey to the policemen and arrested them for five days. After his release from the IVS (temporary detention facility), Salim Akhobekov was summoned for interrogation to the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF). A criminal case was instituted against him for using violence against a policeman, his advocate reported.

In connection with the detention of the lezginka dancers in Gelendzhik, the ICRF's Investigating Department for the Krasnodar Territory promised to investigate the actions of both sides to the conflict. Earlier, Circassian activists have claimed that the policemen who detained the lezginka dancers should be brought to justice. According to them, the young people did not do anything illegal during their detention. The policemen claimed that the lezginka dancers failed to obey their legitimate demands to produce their IDs and then rendered resistance. Meanwhile, one of the patrol policemen was injured.

Fires cover large areas in Southern Russia and Armenia

In the regions of Southern Russia and the countries of South Caucasus, hot dry weather provoked several severe fires in the above territories.

In the evening on August 17, a landscape fire began in the area of the Cossack village of Ust-Bystryanskaya in the Ust-Donetsk District of the Rostov Region. On August 18, an emergency regime was introduced in the territory of the Ust-Donetsk District. The fire affected villages and towns, in particular, several residential houses in the Cossack village of Verkhnekundryuchenskaya were burnt down. Rostov rescue teams were joined by units of the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) from neighbouring regions. In the Ust-Donetsk District, residents of the villages complained about the delayed reaction from the MfE units to the fire. In the afternoon on August 20, rescuers reported that the area covered by fire in the territory of the Ust-Donetsk Forestry reached 4870 hectares. A major fire occurred in the Volgograd Region. On August 19, dry grass and bushes caught fire near the village of Kamenny Buerak in the Dzerzhinsky District of Volgograd. The fire was extinguished by the evening on August 20, and it covered the area exceeding 900 hectares. On August 18, two landscape fires occurred on an area of 190 hectares in the Soviet District of Volgograd.

In Armenia, a fire in the Khosrov Natural Reserve which began on August 12 was not completely extinguished until August 18. The fire was extinguished with the involvement of a Russian MfE's aircraft. According to the preliminary information released by the Armenian MfE, 1600 hectares of green territory in the Khosrov Natural Reserve were affected by the fire, including 360 hectares occupied by forest. Another major fire affected relic forests in the Vayots Dzor Region of Armenia. Rescuers extinguished it on August 16, on the sixth day after its occurrence. According to the WWF Armenian branch's information as of August 14, the fire in the Vayots Dzor Region affected about 670 hectares of territories, including 252 hectares of forest.

In North Ossetia, activists from "Communists of Russia" Party go on political hunger strike

On August 14, in Vladikavkaz, four members of the "Communists of Russia" Party in North Ossetia started a hunger strike in connection with the court's decision to withdraw the Party from the parliamentary elections. They were joined by activists in Moscow and other regions of Russia. By August 20, the total number of the protestors on hunger strike reached about 40 people. On August 17, hunger-strikers in Vladikavkaz declared deterioration of their health state. On August 19, in the capital of North Ossetia, the "Communists of Russia" Party held a rally, during which activists demanded to disband the republican Central Election Commission (CEC).

"Novaya Gazeta" reports on organized repentance action in Chechnya

On August 18, in Grozny, law enforcers organized mass repentance of local residents who signed an appeal to the Russian General Prosecutor with a request to bring to justice the persons who tortured relatives of Magomed Taramov and Djamalai Tazbiev, suspected of involvement in the ranks of militants. This was reported by the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta". At trial, Magomed Taramov and Djamalai Tazbiev pleaded not guilty and complained of torture. They are residents of the Krasnaya Turbina village located on the outskirts of Grozny, and a large number of relatives and neighbours came to the court to support the defendants. An appeal to General Prosecutor Yuri Chaika, signed by 150 residents of Chechnya, was sent on August 17. That was preceded by reports of local residents that relatives of Magomed Taramov and Djamalai Tazbiev were detained and subjected to beatings at one of the Grozny police stations. According to the "Novaya Gazeta", an action of mass repentance was held in the centre of Grozny. The people who signed the appeal to Yuri Chaika were gathered at a law enforcement building and brought to the place of the action in a bus.

Pilgrims from North-Caucasian republics go to Hajj

Last week, residents of Northern Caucasus began to go to the Hajj to holy places in Saudi Arabia. On August 17, 114 residents of Karachay-Cherkessia left for the Hajj. On the same day, the first group of 43 pilgrims from Kabardino-Balkaria flew from Nalchik. On August 18, the first group of 150 pilgrims from Chechnya left for the pilgrimage to the Hajj. Despite the rise in price of the trip in comparison with the past year, the above republics, like Ingushetia and Dagestan, have fully filled the quota for the Hajj.

Tyrnyauz residents twice evacuated after mudflow in Kabardino-Balkaria

On August 14, in the Elbrus District of Kabardino-Balkaria, an emergency situation regime was introduced in the town of Tyrnyauz after the descent of a mudflow along the river. On the same day, 978 people were evacuated, and they returned to their houses in the morning on August 15. However, by the evening of the same day, the authorities again began evacuating the population from the flooding zone, and 420 people were evacuated. According to the head of the Elbrus District, all the evacuated people living in houses located near the Baksan River returned home on August 16. Local residents criticized the authorities' actions after the descent of the mudflow and complained of regular problems with flooding.

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