Wednesday, 19 January 2011

19 January 2011 News Digest

Published in News Digest

By Alima Bissenova (1/19/2011 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Russian police kill 4 in Dagestan

5 January

Russian police kill 4 in Dagestan

5 January

Russian police said they trapped four suspected Islamic militants Wednesday in a house in Khasavyurt, Dagestan, and shot them when they refused to surrender. The siege was the second in 48 hours in the North Caucasus federal republic, the BBC reported. Two people were killed Tuesday in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan. Three police officers were wounded in the exchange of gunfire Wednesday. The National Anti-Terrorist Committee said the militants used a grenade launcher in their attempted breakout. Two of the dead were suspected of homicide and robbery. Police said they found guns, ammunition, grenades, components that could be used for bombs and another grenade launcher. (UPI)


U.S. calls upon Kazakhstan not to infringe Constitution of the country

10 January

The U.S. calls upon Kazakhstan Parliament not to infringe its Constitution, having initiated referendum to introduce amendments to the Constitution of the country, the agency reports citing the U.S. Embassy press statement. "We understand that today President Nursultan Nazarbayev has vetoed legislation that would, in effect, have cancelled the constitutionally-mandated 2012 presidential election. We are grateful that the President of Kazakhstan has played his role as a statesman and as the protector of the constitution, and that he has made clear his view to all of those who respect him as Leader of the Nation and who also believe in the sanctity of the Constitution of the Kazakhstani nation", the agency reports citing the U.S. Embassy press statement. "At the same time, we understand that Kazakhstan's parliament could possibly over-ride President Nazarbayev's veto, if they can assemble an 80% majority." The American Embassy does not wish to - and cannot! - interfere in the internal political affairs of Kazakhstan. But we do want to remind that this current "referendum issue" also has profound international implications, especially because of Kazakhstan's internationally historic and successful 2010 chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the personal role that President Nazarbayev played to achieve the final declaration of that summit that reaffirmed the Helsinki Document of 1975. It was, in fact, the Helsinki Document of 1975 that eventually led to the independence of the Kazakhstani people and the establishment of the independent nation of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan, under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has proclaimed its adherence to "The Path to Europe." It was the first post-Soviet Union nation ever to lead the OSCE. It has just assumed the chairmanship, as a moderate Muslim-majority nation, of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Kazakhstan is increasingly confidently moving onto the world stage, which we firmly support. With all due respect, we would like to ask that those who might have special and personal interests regarding the current "referendum issue" not take any short-term steps that would violate the constitution of Kazakhstan and, more importantly, that would undercut the historic legacy of Nursultan Abishevich. (Kazakhstan Today)


Georgian FM to visit Azerbaijan

10 January

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze on January 17 will realize his first official visit in 2011 to Azerbaijan. The visit will last till January 19, the Georgian media said, quoting the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze, as saying.  During the visit Mr. Vashadze will meet with officials of Azerbaijan government. The sides are said to discuss the issues on bilateral cooperation and economic relations. (AzerTAc)

Afghan Government says international operations have caused 100 million in damage 11 January

An Afghan government delegation says Afghan and foreign troops have caused more than $100 million damage to fruit crops and homes during security operations in the southern province of Kandahar during the past year. Led by President Hamid Karzai's adviser, Mohammad Sadiq Aziz, the delegation said international coalition forces had caused unreasonable damage to homes and orchards just as the harvest was about to begin. But Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, said Taliban fighters had booby-trapped the orchards and empty houses of people who fled ahead of security operations, leaving troops no choice but to blow up those sites. Ayoubi also said claims by villagers about the cost of damages were highly exaggerated. International Security Assistance Force spokesman Brigadier-General Josef Blotz said he could not comment as he had not yet seen the delegation's statement. (RFE/RL)


OSCE holds monitoring on troops contact line

12 January

In accordance with the mandate of special envoy of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the OSCE mission conducted a monitoring on troops contact line near Tartar region. According to Azerbaijan`s Defense Ministry, the monitoring was held by field assistants of Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office Hristo Hristov and William Pryor. From the opposite area, internationally recognized as a territory of Azerbaijan, the monitoring was conducted by OSCE Office Coordinator Imre Palatinus and his field assistant Antal Herdich. (AzerTAc)


Azerbaijan, Iran sign natural gas agreement 12 January Baku and Tehran have signed a five-year agreement on the supply of Azerbaijani natural gas to Iran, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports. The agreement was signed today by representatives of Azerbaijan's State Oil Company (SOCAR) and Iran's National Gas Export Company (NIGEC) with the participation of Iran’s visiting Oil Minister and current OPEC Chairman Seyid Masud Mirkazemi. SOCAR spokesperson Nizameddin Quliyev told RFE/RL the agreement envisages the export of 1 billion cubic meters of gas to Iran during 2011, beginning February 1. He said the volume of gas in subsequent years is subject to negotiation.  Quliyev did not disclose the price for the exported gas, saying only that it was a world market price "acceptable for Azerbaijan." Azer Mansimli, spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Energy, told RFE/RL today that Azerbaijan and Iran may also establish an energy bank for implementing and financing joint oil and gas projects. The proposal was discussed in a meeting between Mirkazemi and Azerbaijan's Industry and Energy Minister Natiq Aliyev. In February 2008, Iran received 30 million cubic meters of gas from Azerbaijan on the basis of a short-term commercial contract. At the time, the price was $292 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas. (RFE/RL)


Tajik lower house ratifies border demarcation protocol with China

12 January

The Tajik parliament's lower house has ratified a border demarcation protocol with China, the privately-owned Tajik news agency Asia-Plus reported on 12 January. At today's regular session of the lower house, the Tajik foreign minister presented the border demarcation protocol to the MPs for ratification, the report said. "Presenting the protocol to the MPs, Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi noted that the ratification of the protocol was an important political event and would promote further development ofTajikistan's relations with 'the great neighbour'," the report noted. It went on to quote Zarifi as saying that the disputed area on the border stretched over some 28,500 sq. km., which is nearly 20 per cent of Tajikistan's current territory. "After the signing of the protocol, about 3 per cent, in other words 1,000 sq. km, of the disputed area will be ceded to China. I believe that the signing of the protocol is a great victory for Tajik diplomacy," Zarifi said, as quoted in the report. However, the leader of the Islamic Rebirth Party of Tajikistan, MP Muhiddin Kabiri, expressed disagreement with the foreign minister, the report said. "The ratification of the protocol contradicts the Tajik constitution whose Article 7 says the territory of our state is one and indivisible. After the ratification of the protocol, about 1,000 sq. km of Tajik territory will go under the jurisdiction of China. And this is a defeat for Tajik diplomacy," Muhiddin Kabiri was quoted as saying.

"Following discussions, members of the lower house ratified the protocol by a majority vote," the report concluded. (Asia-Plus news agency)


EU has Azerbaijan 'support' for gas pipeline project

14 January

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, visiting Azerbaijan to secure gas supplies for the EU, said on Friday that Baku has expressed support for an ambitious European pipeline project. The proposed Nabucco pipeline between Turkey and Austria is an important part of the EU's Southern Gas Corridor project to bring Caspian Sea and Middle Eastern gas to Europe, reducing its dependence on Russian energy. "From a political perspective, it's clear that the European Commission supports Nabucco and from discussions with the President of Azerbaijan, I understood that Azerbaijan also supports the project," Barroso said at a press conference in Baku. Doubts had been raised about the future of the multi-billion-dollar Nabucco project because it has not so far secured enough supplies of gas to make it viable, so backing from energy-rich Azerbaijan represents a significant boost. On Thursday, Barroso signed what he described as a "breakthrough" agreement with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev which commits the ex-Soviet state to providing substantial long-term gas supplies to EU countries. Barroso said it was an important step towards creating the Southern Gas Corridor, which envisages the construction of several pipelines including Nabucco. The EU sees the Southern Gas Corridor project as vital to future energy security after disputes that disrupted supplies of Russian gas to some European countries. The declaration stated that Azerbaijan will be a "substantial contributor" to the Southern Gas Corridor but did not specify the volume of gas that would be provided, when supplies might begin, or whether they would be destined for the Nabucco pipeline. Azerbaijan's large energy resources are coveted by its neighbours Russia and Iran as well as by the West. Baku agreed in September to increase gas exports to Russia to two billion cubic metres this year and increase them further from 2012. On Wednesday, Baku also agreed a five-year deal with Tehran to supply the Islamic republic with a minimum of one billion cubic metres of gas each year. Later on Friday, Barroso is expected to travel to Turkmenistan, which also has large gas reserves and is another potential source for the proposed new fuel transit route to Europe. (AFP)


90 gunmen physically “destroyed” in Chechnya in 2010

15 January

Some 90 gunmen were physically destroyed in Chechnya in 2010, Chechen Interior Minister Lieutenant General Ruslan Alkhanov told Itar-Tass. “As a result of joint search operation and special counterterrorist operations on the territory of Chechnya, some 90 gunmen were killed, who were offering armed resistance,” he said. At the same time, Alkhanov stressed that, despite the attempts of the crime groups to destabilise the situation, the Republic of Chechnya continues to be under the control of law enforcement agencies. “Ramzan Kadyrov said that terrorists and extremists should be persecuted and physically destroyed all the time, without interruptions even for a minute, 24 hours a day. We are working in this way. Of course, the numerical strength of the gunmen is far smaller today than five or six years ago, by we shall continue to fight them until the last gunman is either killed or captured,” Alkhanov said. According to his information, 2010 became a difficult year for officers of the law enforcement agencies, a time of trial for them. After the regime of the counter-terrorist operation was lifted, the security of the population and the situation in the republic became for the first time full responsibility of the local Interior Ministry bodies. “In my opinion, the results of the work of the Interior Ministry in 2010 show that the law enforcement agencies measured up to the tasks facing them,” Alkhanov stressed. (Itar-Tass)

Afghanistan criticizes Iran for fuel blockade amid protests 16 January Some 300 people protested for a second day in the Afghan city of Herat against Iran's weeklong blockage of fuel tankers seeking to enter Afghanistan. The protesters marched to the Iranian consulate carrying banners with slogans including "Death to Iran." In Kabul, Afghan Commerce Minister Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi said nearly 2,000 fuel trunks were waiting at a border crossing some 100 kilometers away from Herat, and that only 40 were allowed to leave Iran each day. "The stopping of our tankers on the Iranian border has caused big damage to our private sector. We are in continued negotiations with Iran. Their reasons are not convincing us and are not justified reasons," Ahadi said. Ahadi said Kabul had asked Kazakhstan to sell Afghanistan some 200,000 tons of fuel immediately. Iran says the slowdown is due to "technical problems" related to the reduction of Iranian fuel subsidies. (Reuters)


No facts to prove Russia's most wanted terrorist dead - source

16 January

Russian special services had no facts to confirm rumors that Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov was killed in a special operation in Chechnya, a high-ranking source told RIA Novosti on the condition of anonymity. "There were reports that he [Umarov], along with a group of militants, was hit by an airstrike two weeks ago. Currently, several special force units are combing woodland in a remote Chechen region... The reports were not confirmed up to the moment," the source said. In the past years, there were several reports about the death of Umarov, currently Chechnya's most wanted terrorist leader, but all they proved to be false. The majority of notorious North Caucuasus militant leaders, inlcluding Shamil Basayev, Khalim Saidullayev, Aslan Maskhadov, Emir Ibn al Khattab and others, have been killed in the past ten years. (RIA Novosti)


Terrorist group detained in Kyrgyzstan planned blasts at embassies

17 January

Members of the terrorist group detained in Kyrgyzstan planned a chain of blasts at diplomatic missions situated in capital Bishkek as well as blasts at Transit Centre at Manas (formerly Manas Air Base), the chairman of the State National Security Committee, Keneshbek Duishebayev, said on Monday. “The detainees have already confessed to a number of blasts,” he said. “Also during the questioning they told about plans of their terrorist activity.”  According to him, members of that terrorist group are involved in blasts at Bishkek synagogue last autumn and at the Sports Palace in December. Only by a lucky accident there were no casualties during those terrorist acts.  Besides, members of that group say it was them who brought a car stuffed with explosives to the building of Bishkek’s chief police department several days ago. However, police found the vehicle and defused it. Duishebayev said that it was that vehicle that the criminals had planned to blast at Transit Centre at Manas.  “It has been established by the present moment that 11 people are active members of the Jaishul Mahdi terrorist organisation, and eight of them have already been detained,” Duishebayev said. The search for three other terrorists continues.  The leader of the group, Sovetbek Islamov, was shot dead during a special operation. Duishebayev did not rule out that there could be many more people in the group. According to preliminary data, the detained terrorists and their accomplices could be involved in the killing of three policemen in one of Bishkek’s districts. (Itar-Tass)


Karimov's European Visit Confirmed

17 January

Uzbek President Islam Karimov will visit Belgium on January 24 to meet the President of the European Commission (EC), Jose Manuel Barroso, the Belgian authorities and officials at NATO HQ, a spokesman for the EC has confirmed. The visit marks Uzbekistan's official return to the European fold since the European Union (EU) lifted sanctions imposed on the Central Asian state after government troops fired on protestors in Andijan killing hundreds of people in 2005. Uzbekistan resisted all calls for an international investigation into the event, and human rights groups have expressed concerns about the implications of EU recognition of Karimov's dictatorship. But officials at the EU deemed the sanctions ineffective and they were lifted in 2008, a move which prompted sharp criticism from human rights organizations. A year later an arms embargo was also removed.  Within days of the arms embargo being scrapped, Uzbekneftegaz announced the EU was “ready to develop cooperation on mutually beneficial terms” with the state-owned gas and oil company. Uzbekistan’s strategic importance continues to grow as US and NATO forces become increasingly reliant on goods delivered via the Northern Distribution Network, a logistics line stretching from Western Europe to the Uzbek-Afghan border. However, Jose Manuel Barroso, seems to gearing up to meet as many resource-rich but democracy-poor autocrats as he can in the month of January; by next Monday he’ll be able add Karimov to a list that includes Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. (Eurasianet)


Kazakh council to rule on extension of Nazarbayev’s rule

17 January

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev today asked the country's Constitutional Council to examine a proposed referendum that would prolong his rule to 2020. Last week, parliament unanimously approved the proposed referendum, which would allow Nazarbaev to bypass elections in which his rule could potentially be challenged. Analysts say Nazarbaev's latest move is an attempt by the president to officially distance himself from the plan, which has been criticized by both the United States and the European Union as a setback for democracy. The 70-year-old Nazarbaev has ruled Kazakhstan for more than 20 years. The Constitutional Council is made up entirely of presidential and parliamentary appointees and is itself headed by the president. (RFE/RL)


Turkey will not join EU unless it normalizes relations with its neighbors – Armenian president 18 January Armenian President Serzh Sargsian said that Turkey will not be able to enter the European Union unless it normalizes relations with Armenia. "Armenia has nothing against neighboring Turkey's accession to the EU. But we are confident that Turkey will be unable to make it into the EU unless it establishes constructive relations with its direct neighbors," Sargsian said at a joint press conference with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias on Monday. "Like friendly Cyprus, we are not in the habit of tackling problems through the language of threats and political speculations. You know, despite Armenia's readiness to normalize Armenian-Turkish relations, the border between our two countries remains closed. Up to now, there are no diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey," the Armenian president's press service quoted him as saying. Sargsian and Christofias discussed, among other things, prospects for settling the Nagorno-Karabakh and the Cypriot conflicts. "We agree that any conflict should be solved with regard for the historical past and peculiarities. That's why we support each other's positions on ways of handling those conflicts. Also, we do not think that the principles of self-determination of nations and territorial integrity contradict each other", the Armenian president said. (Interfax)


Tajik officials say four IMU suspects killed in north last year 18 January A Tajik Interior Ministry official says four suspected members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) were killed and some 50 others arrested in northern Tajikistan last year, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports. General Sharif Nazarov, Interior Ministry head in the northern Sughd Province, said on January 17 that militants were particularly active in the autumn when the Tajik Army conducted operations against them in the country's central Rasht district. Nazarov said some IMU activists and members of the banned Islamic movement Hizb ut-Tahrir provide financial support to those groups by working abroad and sending remittances. He noted that at least five suspected IMU members working in Russia were arrested there last year, while three others are still being investigated. A resident in the northern Tajik town of Isfara told RFE/RL the IMU and Hizb ut-Tahrir provide financial support to their members. He said there are IMU members in his town and poverty is a main reason many young people join the banned movements. Tajik affairs analyst Jura Yusufi told RFE/RL that the Tajik government does not use the state media in an effective manner against the Islamic groups. (RFE/RL)


Probe puts Kyrgyz leader on defensive

18 January

The ruling by a Kyrgyz commission investigating ethnic unrest last year between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz is insulting, a former defense minister said. A national commission in Bishkek named Kyrgyz Gen. Ismail Isakov as one of the government officials who allowed clashes between the two ethnic groups last summer to take place. Isakov was defense minister under Roza Otunbayeva, who served as interim president after her supporters ousted Kurmanbek Bakiyev from power in an April coup. Isakov said the commission's findings were "superficial and groundless," adding he was filing a lawsuit against the commission to preserve his dignity, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports. He served as defense minister under Bakiyev but resigned to join the opposition. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2010 on corruption charges but was absolved after the April coup. An official investigation examining the ethnic violence that gripped parts of southern Kyrgyzstan after the coup blamed Uzbek leaders and Bakiyev backers for the conflict. Washington said it was concerned about allegations of torture during the unrest and analysts said Bishkek wasn't ready to conduct "an honest investigation" into the June conflicts. (UPI)


Russia, Kazakhstan may join WTO simultaneously – Medvedkov 18 January Russia and Kazakhstan may join the World Trade Organization (WTO) virtually simultaneously, Maxim Medvedkov, the head of the Russian delegation in the negotiations on Russia's accession to WTO, said. "I think Russia and Kazakhstan will join WTO simultaneously because Kazakhstan has made considerable headway in the negotiations," Medvedkov told a press conference in Moscow on Tuesday. Medvedkov said the intervals between Russia's and Kazakhstan's accession to WTO will not be very long. "We are talking about several months, not years," he said. Medvedkov believes Belarus will join the WTO much later. At the same time, he said Belarus also intends to step up the process on the country's accession to WTO. Russia may complete the technical part of the negotiations as early as in April 2011, which will enable it to complete all procedures in 2011 and become a full-fledged WTO member in 2012, Medvedkov said. (Interfax)


Azerbaijan: Soldier killed in Karabakh skirmish 18 January One Azerbaijani soldier has been killed and two Armenian conscripts wounded recently in skirmishes at the Armenian-Azerbaijani "line of contact" around the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said Mamed Azadaliyev, 21, was shot dead on January 17 just northeast of the disputed territory, Trend news agency reported. The ministry said Azerbaijani troops deployed there came under fire from Armenian positions before "silencing the enemy." The area where Azadaliyev was killed has been the most volatile section of the front line over the past year. More than a dozen soldiers from both sides have been killed since June. There was no immediate reaction to the Azerbaijani report from the Armenian side. Military authorities in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh reported earlier in the day that two Karabakh Armenian soldiers were wounded at other front-line sections on January 14. They said both men required hospitalization.  One of the servicemen, Vartan Harutiunian, remained in the intensive care unit of a military hospital in Stepanakert on January 17. The Armenian Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijan of deliberately breaking the cease-fire to scuttle international efforts to resolve the Karabakh dispute. Ministry spokesman Davit Karapetian said Baku is using the incidents to try to "boost morale" in the Azerbaijani military. Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Teymur Abdullayev dismissed those claims and blamed the Armenians for the truce violations. "The Azerbaijani side is committed to observing the cease-fire on the front line," he told Trend. Former Armenian Foreign Minister Alexander Arzoumanian, an opposition politician, said on January 17 that preventing renewed fighting will be the Armenian government's No. 1 challenge this year.  "We already went down that path once," Arzoumanian said. "We already proved on the battlefield the Nagorno-Karabakh people's right to live in freedom. They won their independence, and all we have to do now is to get into various diplomatic processes and skillfully find some solution." Arzoumanian was skeptical about near-term prospects of a breakthrough in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. He said the governments of Russia and the United States, the main mediating powers, will be increasingly distracted by preparations for domestic presidential elections in 2012. (RFE/RL)


Georgia, U.S. presidents to have meeting in enlarged format

18 January

The U.S. and Georgian Presidents, Barack Obama and Mikheil Saakashvili, will meet in expanded format, Georgian President's spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze said at a briefing today. "The work is now underway to organize the meeting and clarify all the details," she said. Manjgaladze stressed that the preparatory work will decide when and where to hold the Obama-Saakashvli talks. Obama and Saakashvli decided to hold an expanded meeting at the talks in Washington on Jan.15. (Trend)


EU simplifies visa regime with Georgia

18 January Today, the European Union signed the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Georgia. Both agreements will enter into force on March 1, the EU said. The negotiations between EU and Georgia on visa facilitation were launched in 2008. They completed in the first half of last year. The agreement was signed in June. The European Parliament gave its consent in December last year. The agreement on visa regime facilitation will simplify getting short-term visas to the EU countries, which are designed to stay up to 90 days and are issued for a period of 180 days. The EU citizens have been exempt from the need to get a visa when traveling to Georgia or transit through Georgia since 2006. The agreement rather simplifies visa procedures for businessmen, scientists, students and journalists, as well as for those visiting relatives who are citizens of Georgia, but living in the EU countries.

The EU member-states will issue long-term multiple entry visa for certain categories of people traveling often and under certain conditions. People with diplomatic passports are exempted from visa obligations. The agreement provides for the issuance of visas within 10 calendar days. The fee for a visa is also decreased from 60 to 35 euros for all citizens of Georgia. The certain categories of citizens are fully exempted from payment. These categories include pensioners, children under 12, handicapped, scholars, students, journalists, and people visiting relatives in Europe who are citizens of Georgia.National visa is required to travel to Great Britain and Ireland as these countries do not participate in the agreement. The visa facilitation is directly related to the readmission agreement between theEU and third countries. The readmission agreement clearly prescribes the obligations and procedures for returning people illegally residing in the territory of a country-participant of the agreement. It includes not only the illegally staying citizens of both parties, but also citizens of the third countries and people without citizenship illegally staying in the country. Ireland and Denmark do not participate in the readmission agreement with Georgia. (Trend)


Afghanistan delays parliament opening by a month 19 January President Hamid Karzai's office says that the inauguration of Afghanistan's new parliament has been delayed to February 22, amid allegations of fraud by some losing candidates. The move follows a request by a special tribunal set up to rule on allegations of vote fraud after elections in September. The head of the special court, Sadiqullah Haqiq, told a news conference in Kabul today that the inauguration should be delayed "at least one month" to give the court time to further investigate allegations of vote fraud. "In order to have clarity and accuracy, in order to implement justice in the country and to respect the members of parliament who are winners and those who did not win," Haqiq said, "it is necessary to ask His Excellency President Karzai to postpone the inauguration of the parliament." The September 22 parliamentary election has been marred by allegations of massive fraud. Electoral authorities disqualified more 24 early winners, and threw out about a quarter of some 5 million votes cast. The opening of the new parliament was expected to take place on January 23. The date for the opening session is set by the Afghan president. (RFE/RL)


Roadside bomb kills 13 civilians in Afghanistan 19 January Afghanistan's Interior Ministry says a roadside bomb has killed 13 civilians in eastern Afghanistan. In a statement, the ministry said the victims were traveling in a motorized rickshaw in the Khoshamand district of Paktika Province when their vehicle was blown up by the bomb. Women and children were among the dead. Further details were not immediately available. (RFE/RL)


Georgian ex-minister’s son gets three-year prison sentence for illegal border crossing – source 19 January A court in the Krasnodar territory has sentenced Givi Kutateladze, a son of former Georgian State Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze, to three years in prison for illegally crossing the Russian-Abkhaz border, a law enforcement source told Interfax. Kutateladze and another Georgian, Alexander Vepkhvadze, on Wednesday were found guilty of illegal border crossing by the court, he said. "The court sentenced Kutateladze to three years in prison and Vepkhvadze to two years and six months in prison," the source said. Law enforcement authorities were not immediately available to confirm this report. In November 2010, territory prosecutors stated that in April 2010 the Tbilisi police launched a criminal case against Vepkhvadze and Kutateladze over crimes against public order and ordered their remand in custody. The men were put on the national wanted list. Investigators found that Vepkhvadze and Kutateladze absconded and were first hiding in Georgia, then in Abkhazia before deciding to move to Russia without an entry permit. (Interfax)
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