18 September 2023, 23:17
Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of September 11-17, 2023
Verdict in Rostov-on-Don, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, elections in Russia, blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, Zarema Musaeva’s case, 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 September 11-17, 2023, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.
Verdict in Rostov-on-Don
On June 22, a public prosecutor requested a court to sentence Abdulmumin Gadjiev, a journalist of the Dagestani weekly newspaper “Chernovik” (Rough Draft), Abubakar Rizvanov, the head of the “Ansar” charitable foundation, and entrepreneur Kemal Tambiev to nineteen years of imprisonment. The defendants claimed that the public prosecution failed to present convincing evidence in court. On September 12, in Rostov-on-Don, the Southern District Military Court sentenced them to terms of 17 to 18 years of imprisonment.
The defence of the convicts has announced the intention to file an appeal against the court’s decision. Friends of Abdulmumin Gadjiev note that the harsh sentence has been pronounced with a lack of real evidence of guilt, which undermines the trust of Dagestani residents in the law enforcement and judicial systems.
Colleagues of Abdulmumin Gadjiev consider his criminal case to be political persecution and hold weekly pickets in Makhachkala in his support. They believe that Abdulmumin Gadjiev is being persecuted, because the newspaper “Chernovik” was voicing “inconvenient questions” to the authorities and law enforcement bodies.
Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia
The Primorsky District Court of Novorossiysk fined local resident Ivan Konstantinov 30,000 roubles, recognizing that the video he posted on the “TikTok” social network discredited Russian militaries.
The Kirovsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don fined local resident Alexei Kilko 45,000 roubles. The court’s website states that Alexei Kilko held an unsanctioned picket “in a public place,” at which he demonstrated a poster calling to stop the special military operation in Ukraine.
The Oktyabrsky Court of Novorossiysk fined local resident Vladimir Skalsky 30,000 roubles for his post on the “VKontakte” social network with a video condemning the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine. Vladimir Skalsky stated that he did not plan to disseminate the above-mentioned video, but only saved it on his page to watch it again later.
Elections in Russia
During the past elections, observers and activists recorded dozens of various violations, including ballot stuffing, arrests, and handing over of conscription notices.
In the Volgograd Region, the election of the head of the Moiseevsky rural settlement of the Kotovsky District was postponed, since two candidates withdrew from the election, leaving only one person on the list.
Employees of a precinct election commission did not allow Volgograd activist Vladimir Telpuk to place his ballot in a ballot box, and he had to scan his ballot in the electronic ballot processing system. The activist wrote a complaint.
In Kalmykia, the republican election commission refused to accredit for elections the representatives of the independent newspaper “Modern Kalmykia”, founded by journalist Valery Badmaev. Meanwhile, several articles with signs of illegal propaganda were posted in Kalmykia.
At the parliamentary elections in Kalmykia, observers reported that at some polling stations, their colleagues were banned from examining the voter lists and were not allowed to sign the bags in which the ballots were packed and record their numbers. At one of the polling stations, a signal seal on a ballot box was broken. At another polling station in Elista, an observer saw employees of the “Rostelecom” (the largest digital services provider in Russia) “turning off surveillance cameras at night.”
In Gelendzhik, officers of a military registration and enlistment office handed over conscription notices to observer Igor Ogorodnikov and Alexei Lobanov, a member of the election commission. Later, an administrative protocol was drawn up against Igor Ogorodnikov under the article on failure to obey a lawful request of a police officer due to the observer’s refusal to leave a polling station.
In Krasnodar, in violation of the law, representatives of the election commission stayed at one of the polling stations several hours before its formal opening. The police rudely expelled from the polling station a member of the territorial election commission (TEC) who arrived at the scene of the incident.
Blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh
The proposal for the parallel use of the Lachin-Khankendi and Agdam-Khankendi roads to unblock Nagorno-Karabakh has been promoted by Azerbaijan for a long time. On September 17, Azerbaijan received from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the preliminary information concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh’s readiness to accept humanitarian aid on the road through Agdam and is now awaiting an appropriate official note.
The Lachin Corridor has been blocked since December 12, 2022 by Azerbaijani pickets. On April 28, they suspended their protest action. An Azerbaijani border checkpoint has been built at the entrance to the Lachin Corridor. Stepanakert considers it a part of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh. The unrecognized republic suffers from a sharp shortage of fuel, medicine, and food.
The EU considered the opening of the Agdam-Askeran road, through which humanitarian aid from Russia arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh, an important step. US Assistant Secretary of State Yuri Kim called for the “immediate and simultaneous” opening of the Lachin and Agdam routes.
On September 16, 80 people left Nagorno-Karabakh through the Lachin Corridor for Armenia, including students of Armenian and foreign universities and workers, who lost their jobs because of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and could not return to their permanent place of residence. The “Turan” publication reported that on September 11 and 12, more than 500 people, mostly men, left for Armenia through the Lachin checkpoint, being accompanied by Russian peacekeepers.
Zarema Musaeva’s case
On September 12, the Supreme Court of Chechnya reduced the term of imprisonment for Zarema Musaeva to five years and replaced the term in a common-security penal colony with a settlement colony. Human rights defenders note that Zarema Musaeva has got the right to take into consideration the time served by her in a SIZO (pre-trial prison), as well as to ask for conditional early relief (CER).
According to the information released by the official website of the Supreme Court (SC) of Chechnya, the basis for the change in qualification was the injustice of the sentence. Zarema Musaeva’s chances for conditional early relief have become even more realistic, believes advocate Natalia Dobronravova.
Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine
By September 17, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 2537 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 1292 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 1245 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).
In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 613 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 506, in the Rostov Region – 284, in North Ossetia – 210, in the Krasnodar Territory – 192, in the Astrakhan Region – 189, in Stavropol Territory – 169, in Chechnya – 132, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 105, in Ingushetia – 40, in Adygea – 34, in Kalmykia – 33, and in Karachay-Cherkessia – 23.