Ramzan Kadyrov, Alexander Bastrykin. Photo: Grozny  TV and radio channel  https://grozny.tv/news/main/42078, press service of the Investigative Committee of Russia https://sledcom.ru/sk_russia/leaders/item/686/ Collage by the "Caucasian Knot"

02 July 2024, 22:54

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events of June 24-June 30, 2024

Terror acts in Dagestan, Georgian government under pressure, persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia, Ramzan Kadyrov at the federal level, 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 June 24-June 30, 2024, prepared by the “Caucasian Knot”.

Terror acts in Dagestan

On June 23, a synagogue and a church were attacked in Derbent, and a road-and patrol police service (known as DPS) checkpoint was shelled in Makhachkala. As a result, 21 people were killed and 46 others were injured. Six militants were also killed. Sources reported that the 22nd victim of the militants’ attack, a passer-by who happened to be near a synagogue in Derbent, died.

Veterans of the special services interviewed by the “Caucasian Knot” claimed that the militants’ attacks were a failure of the law enforcement bodies, who did not pay due attention to preventive work.

Five Omarov brothers, sons of Magomed Omarov, the former head of the Sergokalinsky District, recorded a video in which they asked for forgiveness from the families of the people who fell victim to the militants’ attack. Magomed Omarov was expelled from the “Edinaya Rossiya” (United Russia) Party and dismissed from his position. The former head of the Sergokalinsky District was arrested for ten days under the article on petty hooliganism. The leader of Dagestan announced that sons of Magomed Omarov and his nephew were involved in the militants’ attack.

Dagestani leader Sergey Melikov has announced that he stands against wearing niqabs by local women, since it is clothing alien to the Caucasian traditions. Radical sentiments are increasing in society, and it has become more difficult to identify extremists, the leader of Dagestan has emphasized.

Georgian government under pressure

On May 14, amid protests, the Parliament of Georgia adopted the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence”. On June 3, the above-mentioned law, which the opposition and their supporters called the “Russian law,” seeing in it a threat to the Georgia’s European path of development, came into force. The text of the draft law has been posted on the “Caucasian Knot”.

At the 56th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, representatives of 36 countries called on the authorities of Georgia to revoke the law on foreign agents and stop the persecution of activists. The statement claims that the above-mentioned law is intended to have a chilling effect on the activities of the media and human rights defenders in order to suppress their voices. The statement has been signed by 25 EU member countries, the USA, Great Britain, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Iceland, Ukraine, Albania, Montenegro, Monaco, and Liechtenstein.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has treated the Georgian law on foreign agents as a serious departure for Georgia from the steps envisaged for joining the EU. The PACE has also noted the worsening situation with pressure on journalists in the country. Negotiations on Georgia’s accession to the EU have practically stopped, politicians have noted.

The Parliament of Georgia has adopted a package of draft laws aimed against LGBT* propaganda. The main draft law “On the Protection of Family Values” and other amendments to the laws provided for in the law package were supported by 78 Georgian MPs. The opposition did not participate in the consideration of the draft law. Members of the parliamentary majority accused their opponents of supporting LGBT* propaganda. The Venice Commission (officially European Commission for Democracy through Law) recommended reconsidering the legislative initiative and not continuing to adopt it. The Venice Commission has noted that even the proposal to pass the above-mentioned draft law could “inflame a hostile atmosphere against LGBT* people in Georgia.”

The Venice Commission has also called on the authorities of Georgia to take measures to protect women’s rights in elections, but this step is not in the interests of the ruling party, analysts note. They believe that ignoring the recommendations of the European legislative bodies threatens Georgia with the suspension of financial assistance from the European Union (EU).

Meanwhile, neighbouring Azerbaijan supports the Georgian authorities. While Ilham Aliev’s law enforcers attack dissent in their country, pro-government Azerbaijani media supported the adoption of the law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” in Georgia, similar to the law on foreign agents, although it infringes on the rights of the Azerbaijani diaspora.

Persecution of pacifists and activists in Southern Russia

The Leninsky District Court of Krasnodar sentenced Marina Nasonova, a violinist of the Kuban Symphony Orchestra, to a day of arrest for posting in a messenger a phrase in support of Ukraine.

Vitaly Zhuravlyov, a resident of the Astrakhan Region, became involved as a suspect in a criminal case on discrediting the Russian Armed Forces, the publication “ASTRA” reported. The reason for the criminal prosecution was a comment criticizing the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine posted by Vitaly Zhuravlyov on a social network. Earlier, an administrative protocol had already been drawn up against Vitaly Zhuravlyov for “discrediting” the Russian Armed Forces. A court chose pre-trial restriction measure against Vitaly Zhuravlyov in a form of a recognizance not to leave the place.

In December 2023, a court sentenced Marina Melikhova to one and a half years of imprisonment, finding her guilty of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. On June 27, the Krasnodar Territorial Court considered an appeal filed by Marina Melikhova against the sentence and upheld the verdict.

The Church Court of the Ekaterinodar and Kuban Diocese has banned Archpriest Andrei Drugai from priestly service. Andrei Drugai has left his parish due to disagreement with the position of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) on the issue of the special military operation (SMO) in Ukraine. The court has indicated that the priest was summoned to court four times, but he never appeared in court. Andrei Drugai has been called on to return to the Diocese.

On June 25, journalist Ruslan Totrov filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee in connection with the decisions of Russian courts on two of his entries on social networks. One of the entries concerned a young woman who was reading a book in Ukrainian, and the second entry contained abstracts from a Ruslan Totrov’s conversation with the New York Times, which was accompanied by a caricature of Vladimir Putin. Both of the above-mentioned entries on social networks became grounds for fines imposed on Ruslan Totrov.

Ramzan Kadyrov at federal level

In his Telegram channel, Ramzan Kadyrov reacted to a statement voiced by Alexander Bastrykin, the chair of the Investigating Committee of the Russian Federation (ICRF), who called participants of the militants’ attacks in Rostov-on-Don and Dagestan “Islamists.” “I have said many times that Muslims have not committed and are not committing terror acts. At the same time, I really hope that Alexander Bastrykin will no longer compare Islam with terror,” the leader of Chechnya wrote.

On June 25, Ramzan Kadyrov called for a “hard response” to attacks on law enforcers, including bringing to justice blood relatives of a criminal. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov has announced that the official Kremlin has no doubt about the opinion voiced by the head of Chechnya. The mild reaction of the presidential press secretary to the threats voiced by Ramzan Kadyrov against relatives of militants demonstrated agreement with the methods applied by the leader of Chechnya, analysts pointed out.

Chechnya will be overwhelmed by a wave of declarations of blood feud if the authorities introduce a rule that an entire family clan must be held accountable for the actions of a militant. Caucasus experts believe that Ramzan Kadyrov’s statement contradicts Sharia and adats (local customary practices observed by a Muslim community, – note of the “Caucasian Knot”) and that his very behaviour is dictated by anxiety after the militants’ attack in neighbouring Dagestan.

At the same time, social media users questioned the legality of such calls for extrajudicial executions, drawing attention to double standards in the statements voiced by the leader of Chechnya. Some social media users feel that such statements voiced by the head of the region are unacceptable in the modern world, while others point out that Ramzan Kadyrov demonstrates double standards regarding the responsibility of relatives for the actions of a particular person.

Official data on natives of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine

By June 30, the authorities and the law enforcement bodies reported about at least 4309 residents of Southern Russia perished in Ukraine, including 2121 residents of the North-Caucasian Federal District (NCFD) and 2188 residents of the Southern Federal District (SFD).

In Dagestan, the authorities reported about 934 local residents perished in Ukraine, in the Volgograd Region – 797, in the Rostov Region – 468, in the Krasnodar Territory – 450, in the Stavropol Territory – 429, in the Astrakhan Region – 328, in North Ossetia – 293, in Chechnya – 191, in Kabardino-Balkaria – 146, in Kalmykia – 88, in Ingushetia – 65, in Karachay-Cherkessia – 63, and in Adygea – 57.

*On November 30, 2023, the Supreme Court (SC) of the Russian Federation declared the movement an “extremist organization” and banned the “international public movement of LGBT people.” With this decision, the court granted the claim of the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ), sent to the court on November 17, 2023.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on July 1, 2024 at 11:29 pm MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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