08 January 2018, 09:15

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of January 1-7

Celebration of the New Year and Christmas; verdict of guilty to Mikhail Saakashvili in Georgia; attack on a policeman in Chechnya and murder of suspected killer; unrest in Abkhazia after extradition to Georgia of prisoner Giorgi Lukava, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of January 1-7, 2018, prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Celebration of New Year and Christmas

Celebration of the 2018 New Year in the regions of the Caucasus did not avoid incidents. On January 1, in the capital of Armenia, six persons were brought to health care centres with injuries and burns caused by use of pyrotechnics. One of the victims lost his finger through traumatic amputation. There were two children among the injured people: they got injuries when using fireworks at home. Five persons were injured in Georgia when using pyrotechnics on the New Year's Eve. Three victims required partial or complete amputation of their fingers. In Chechnya, on the New Year's Eve, together with his colleagues, an agent of a federal agency shot in the air from his service arms and fatally wounded a minor girl, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) reported.

On January 6, residents of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh celebrated the holidays of Christmas and Epiphany. In the evening on January 6, believers of the Russian, Georgian, Jerusalem and Serbian Orthodox churches celebrated the Christmas Eve, the day of preparation for the holiday of Christmas, which was celebrated on January 7 and was preceded by long festive services in temples. The law enforcement bodies announced enhanced security measures in regions of Southern Russia, the Southern Federal District (SFD) and the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) during religious services and festivities. At night on January 7, Christmas services were also held in Orthodox churches in Azerbaijan, including in temples of Baku, Ganja, Sumgait, and Khachmaz.

Mikhail Saakashvili sentenced to three years of imprisonment in Georgia

On January 5, the Tbilisi City Court found former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili guilty of abuse of power when pardoning defendants in the case on the murder of businessman Sandro Girgvliani and sentenced him to three years of imprisonment. Mikhail Saakashvili himself treated the decision of the Tbilisi City Court as contradicting international norms and common sense. His advocate suggested that Mikhail Saakashvili was being prosecuted for political reasons. When commenting on the decision pronounced by the Tbilisi City Court, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili noted that the presidential right to pardon prisoners became a pretext for political persecution of Mikhail Saakashvili. Members of the "United National Movement" (UNM) Party suggested the former Georgian leader was sentenced for the use of power granted by the Constitution of Georgia.

A police officer and a suspected criminal killed in Chechnya

In the evening on January 3, in the Avtury village in the Shali District of Chechnya, Abubakar Ustarkhanov, the chief of the local police station, was shot dead. A killer fired at the police officer in a local shop and fled in an Abubakar Ustarkhanov's car, which law enforcers later found on the outskirts of the village. According to a source of the "Caucasian Knot" from the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), Khamzat Baimuradov, a 27-year-old local resident, was suspected of the murder. Earlier, he served in the law enforcement bodies and had criminal record for aiding and abetting militants. On January 4, Ruslan Alkhanov, Chechen Minister of Internal Affairs, reported that the man suspected of assassinating the police officer was blocked on the outskirts of the Avtury village, rendered resistance in detention and was killed by return fire. On the same day, a video was posted on the Internet, which, according to users of social networks, showed the body of Chechen resident Khamzat Baimuradov brought to the village square.

Unrest in Abkhazia after extradition of prisoner Giorgi Lukava to Georgia

At the extraordinary meeting held on January 3, Abkhazian MPs set up a commission to investigate the extradition of Giorgi Lukava to the Georgian authorities on December 25, 2017. In 2013, the man was sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment in a high-security penal colony, since he was found to be one of the leaders of the Georgian armed grouping "Forest Brothers". The creation of the commission was preceded by a rally in Sukhumi, when participants expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision to extradite Giorgi Lukava to Georgia. On January 5, at a new rally, Abkhazian President Raul Khadjimba reported that in January 2017, Giorgi Lukava was pardoned after the President of South Ossetia requested assistance in returning to Ossetia soldiers and officers imprisoned in Georgia. Raul Khadjimba suggested that those who were dissatisfied with the exchange completed might try to extract political benefits from the situation. According to the decision pronounced by the parliamentary commission, the issue on the eligibility of the decision to pardon Giorgi Lukava was sent for consideration to the Constitutional Court of Abkhazia. MPs from the commission also decided to prepare amendments limiting the practice of pardoning for prisoners sentenced for serious crimes committed in the territory of Abkhazia.

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