At the scene of the explosion in Makhachkala. Photo:

21 August 2023, 22:54

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of August 14-20, 2023

Tragedy in Makhachkala, Kadyrov beats a prisoner, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, victims of landslide in Georgia, and official data on the natives of Southern Russia who perished in Ukraine, – see the review of these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of August 14-20, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Tragedy in Makhachkala

On August 14, a fire at a car service centre resulted in a massive explosion at a saltpetre warehouse and at a nearby petrol station in Makhachkala. Thirty-five people were killed, and more than a hundred others were injured. The authorities declared a mourning in Dagestan.

Sixty-two people, including sixteen children, stay in hospitals, and their condition is assessed as severe and moderate. Four hundred buildings were damaged as a result of the explosion. The authorities of Dagestan promised to pay compensation to people.

According to Magomed Magomedov, a deputy editor-in-chief of the Dagestani weekly newspaper “Chernovik” (Rough Draft), one of the determinants for the tragedy was the chaotic development of the roadside, due to which traffic in the area was limited. In addition, some people began to film the fire on video out of curiosity.

On August 16, law enforcers detained Eldar Nasrulaev, a tenant of the warehouse with saltpetre, which exploded near the petrol station.

Kadyrov beats a prisoner

On August 16, Russian Ombudsperson Tatiana Moskalkova reported that Nikita Zhuravel complained being beaten by a son of the leader of Chechnya in a SIZO (pre-trial prison) in Grozny. Tatiana Moskalkova requested Chechen Ombudsperson Mansur Soltaev to verify the case. He stated the need to involve the investigating authorities in the verification.

On May 20, Nikita Zhuravel was detained in Volgograd after recording a video of the burning of the Koran. During the interrogation, the man stated that he had burned the Koran at the direction of the Ukrainian special services. The chief of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF) instructed his subordinates to transfer the Nikita Zhuravel’s case to Chechnya and explained such a decision by appeals from residents of Chechnya, who asked to be recognized as the injured party. On May 27, Nikita Zhuravel was taken to the SIZO in Grozny.

The beating of the arrested man was approvingly assessed by Russian State Duma member Adam Delimkhanov, the adviser to the leader of Chechnya, Magomed Daudov, the chairman of the Chechen parliament, and Akhmed Dudaev, Chechen Minister for National Policy, Foreign Relations, Press, and Information.

Eva Merkachyova, a member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, called on senior officials of the Federal Penitentiary Service (known as FSIN) to transfer Nikita Zhuravel to another region, since the statements of public and political figures in Chechnya indicated that the man had indeed been beaten in custody.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

In Vladikavkaz, a court found Batraz Tigiev, a blogger from Vladikavkaz, guilty in absentia of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces and fined him 45,000 roubles. The blogger stated that he was deprived of the right to defence, as he was not informed about the court hearing.

In Krasnodar, a court fined Pavel Karpenko 10,000 roubles for a picket held in front of the administration building, during which he was holding in his hands a poster criticizing Vladimir Putin. The police also drew up two protocols against Pavel Karpenko on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. The Volgodonsk Court of the Rostov Region fined local resident Nikolai Zakroev 30,000 roubles for shouting pro-Ukrainian slogans during a motor rally held on Russia Day.

The Zolsky District Court of Kabardino-Balkaria fined accountant Islam Mambetov 100,000 roubles under the article about repeated discrediting of the Russian Armed Forces. The reason for the persecution was the Islam Mambetov’s reposts on Instagram* with “anti-Russian statements by Laima Vaikule,” support for Ukraine, and criticism of Russia. The Soviet District Court of Krasnodar fined Victor Torba 40,000 roubles, recognizing that the post published by the man in a messenger discredited the Russian Armed Forces.

Blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh

On August 19, the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh reported that during the 250 days of the blockade by Azerbaijan, the economy of the unrecognized republic had been damaged in the amount of about 475 million US dollars. Seventeen thousand people lost their jobs and, as a result, their incomes.

Furthermore, during the period of the blockade, the supply of gas to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia was completely or partially interrupted for 183 days in a row, and the supply of electricity was completely disrupted for 221 days in a row. According to the information of the unrecognized republic’s authorities, during the period of the blockade, 1815 people were deprived of the opportunity to undergo surgeries in medical institutions of Nagorno-Karabakh. With the mediation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 710 patients were transported to Armenia, and Russian peacekeepers accompanied 70 patients.

On August 18, Nagorno-Karabakh students blocked the doors at the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yerevan. They requested the ICRC to demand a permission from Azerbaijan to transport to Nagorno-Karabakh the body of 21-year-old Helen Dadayan, who died in an accident in Armenia. At a protest action, in Stepanakert, relatives of Helen Dadayan called on the ICRC to ensure the transportation of the girl’s body.

Participants of the UN Security Council have urged Azerbaijan not to hinder the activities of the ICRC in Nagorno-Karabakh and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the region. The UN Security Council recalls that in accordance with the declaration of November 9, 2020, the Lachin Corridor should stay under the control of the Russian peacekeeping forces. Azerbaijan has also been reminded of the requirement of the International Court of Justice to take measures for the unhindered movement of persons and goods along the Lachin Corridor before a final decision is pronounced.

Victims of landslide in Georgia

On August 20, rescuers found the body of another person who was killed during a landslide in Shovi. Thus, the number of victims of the disaster increased to 28. The search for other five persons is underway.

The Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs clarified his words about why a helicopter was not used on the first night after the landslide. The leader of the ruling party apologized for his harsh statement about a survived man with a child. Archpriest David Isakadze called the tragedy in Shovi a God’s punishment for the festival, where satanic music sounded, drugs were used, and orgies were organized. The Patriarchate of Georgia called the Archpriest’s statement his personal opinion and called on religious figures to refrain from such assessments of the tragedy.

During several days, residents of Georgia raised money for a daughter of Sopho Bakuradze, who was killed during the landslide. Two public organizations announced raising money.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By August 20, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 2423 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1247 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1176 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 600 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Rostov Region – 283, in North Ossetia – 205, in the Krasnodar Territory – 178, in the Volgograd Region – 470, in the Astrakhan Region – 183, in Stavropol Territory – 164, in Chechnya – 118, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 98, in Ingushetia – 39, in Adygea – 33, in Kalmykia – 29, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 23.

*On March 21, 2022, the Tverskoi Court of Moscow banned the activities in Russia of the Meta Company, owning the Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, in connection with extremist activities.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on August 21, 2023 at 09:00 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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