MINELRES: Caucasus Reporting Service No. 280: excerpts

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WELCOME TO IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, No. 280, 01 April, 2005

CAUCASUS NEWS UPDATE APRIL 01

CHECHNYA: RUSSIAN CONVICTED OF ABUSES  Ground-breaking prosecution of
Russian soldier may herald further similar trials.  By Kazbek Tsurayev
in Grozny

INGUSHETIA: PROTEST OVER PRIGORODNY BLOCKED  Authorities insist
territorial dispute will only be resolved by negotiations.  By Malika
Suleimanova in Nazran

GEORGIAN RESETTLEMENT SCHEME BLAMED FOR TENSIONS  In an ethnically mixed
part of Georgia, tensions are high as locals blame new settlers for
crime wave.  By Zaza Baazov in Tsalka, southern Georgia

AZERBAIJAN: A MATTER OF LIFE AND LIMB  A shortage of insulin has left
many unable to buy the drug privately at risk of amputation.  By Gulnaz
Guliyeva in Baku

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INGUSHETIA: PROTEST OVER PRIGORODNY BLOCKED

Authorities insist territorial dispute will only be resolved by
negotiations. 

By Malika Suleimanova in Nazran

Ingush protesters claiming ownership of the contested Prigorodny
district of North Ossetia were prevented from staging a demonstration
earlier this week when police blocked a square near the town of Nazran,
where the protest was scheduled to take place. 

"The idea of holding a rally emerged after the Ingush parliament
recently announced that they would not recognise official documents
which state that [the Prigogodny district] historically belonged to the
Ingush," a representative of the Akhki-Yurt public movement, who
organised the rally, told IWPR. 

The Ingush parliament is adamant that the territory will not be
reclaimed by popular protest. Ingush president Murat Zyazikov told the
Russian media, "The issue of the borders of the Ingush republic can be
resolved only by legal means. The authorities will not allow rallies and
other illegal actions." 

Originally an Ingush territory, Stalin gave the Prigorodny district to
North Ossetia in 1944. When the Ingush republic was created in 1992,
borders with North Ossetia and Chechnya were not legally defined and
violent clashes between Ossetian and Ingush forces broke out over
possession of the territory. There were 500 deaths, and 800 people are
still missing. It's estimated that up to 70,000 Ingush were forced to
flee the Prigorodny district. 

Although there has not been any conflict between Ingush and Ossetians
over the past decade or so, relations between the two communities have
become tense since it was revealed that Ingush were among the
hostage-takers in the Beslan school siege last year.

Speaking after police prevented their rally from going ahead on March
28, Akhki-Yurt's leader, Boris Arsamakov, insisted Ingush claims on
Prigorodny were beyond doubt, saying his party had legal proof that the
territory should be returned.

Formal discussions about ownership of the region began in December last
year, when the Ingush parliament adopted Kremlin-drafted local
government legislation, which stated that Ingushetia should define the
borders of its municipalities before March 31 this year. 

Parliamentary deputies have suspended any decision on this issue, saying
it could prejudice the resolution of the Prigorodny conflict.

"This issue is very delicate and it should be approached in a way that
will not endanger the lives of the tens of thousands of Ingush who have
returned to their homes and are now living in North Ossetia," said
Ruslan Gagiyev, parliamentary deputy and member of the Yedinaya Rossiya
(United Russia) party. 

"The border problem with North Ossetia should of course be resolved but
only through legal and civilised methods. This is why we have approached
[Moscow] with a proposal to create a government commission that will
make a decision in accordance with Russian legislation."

Because of the continuing land dispute, many of Prigorodny former
residents have little hope of returning. In Chermen, which, like many
other villages in the district, was badly scarred by the fighting in the
early Nineties, less than a third of the Ingush who once lived there
have gone back to their burnt out homes, according to Manas officials. 

"Since the start of the conflict, [Moscow] and the local authorities
have failed to resolve the problem of how to return forcibly displaced
people to their previous homes," said Magomed Pliyev, deputy head of
Ingushetia's State Committee for the Affairs of Refugees and Forcibly
Displaced People.  

A representative of a local branch of a Russian party, who spoke on
condition of anonymity, told IWPR, "More than 15,000 forcibly displaced
people are now living in Ingushetia because the North Ossetian
authorities do not consider it possible for them to live together with
the Ossetians. Those who have returned to their homes have absolutely no
rights - they do not have jobs or any guarantees of security. The
problem of the borders with Ossetia has been brewing for years, as no
one is occupied with resolving it."

Ingush residents of the Prigorodny district appear divided over the
merits of trying to sort out the territorial dispute. 

A Chermen resident told IWPR,  "We are living on a time bomb here. Any
provocation could lead to another tragedy like the one that took place
in 1992. In the meantime, attempts to resolve the problem add fuel to
the fire. [The protesters in Nazran] should stop reopening old wounds."

A resident of the village of Kartsa Sultan disagreed, "Both the
Ossetians and Ingush know that, historically, this land belonged to the
Ingush. Our grandfathers and forefathers lived here. I think that
attempts to hush up the problem will lead to no good. The issue should
be resolved peacefully through agreements with the Ossetian side and
mutual concessions."

Analysts believe that it will be some time before the issue is resolved.
An Ingush public figure and politician, who preferred not to be named,
told IWPR, "Neither the Ingush, Ossetians nor [Moscow] can propose a
clear-cut mechanism for the political settlement of the conflict." 

Malika Suleimanova is a correspondent for the Kavkazski Uzel website.


GEORGIAN RESETTLEMENT SCHEME BLAMED FOR TENSIONS

In an ethnically mixed part of Georgia, tensions are high as locals
blame new settlers for crime wave. 

By Zaza Baazov in Tsalka, southern Georgia

Ethnic issues are playing a part in growing communal frictions in a
region west of the Georgian capital. But both the government and local
residents say the tension is more about crime, poverty and bad policies
than real animosity in this diverse part of the country. 

Rising crime has worsened relations between original residents in the
Tsalka district - mostly Armenians and Greeks - and newcomers from other
parts of Georgia. 

Feelings run so high that Tbilisi deployed a ten-man unit of crack
police in the village of Avranlo after an inter-communal clash. 

The police's job is to keep the Armenians and Georgians in check, not to
make peace between the communities. 

"They haven't been dispatched here as peacekeepers to reconcile the
Armenians and Ajarians," said a local resident. "Instead, they are
operating at night - combating criminals, and checking the documents of
everyone they meet on the streets."

The trouble began when an elderly Greek couple, the Kaloyerovs, were
victims of a violent mugging which left them both in hospital.

The couple's relatives, who are Armenian, took matters into their own
hands and attacked Ajarian newcomers in Avranlo, beating up about 15 of
them and damaging a local school.

The clash was serious enough for Georgian interior minister Vano
Merabishvili to come to the village himself.

Tsalka district has always been ethnically diverse, with most villages
there inhabited by Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Greeks.

The demographics shifted radically in the Nineties: after Georgia became
independent in 1991, the collapsing economy drove many people to leave
the country. As in other parts of Georgia, many opted for Russia, but
the minorities in this district also emigrated to Armenia and Greece. 

By the mid-Nineties, the area received an influx of people resettled
from landslip-prone mountainous areas of Ajaria, in southwest Georgia,
and Svanetia, high in the Caucasus mountains, under a government
programme to offer such vulnerable rural communities a more secure
future. 

The arrival of the settlers soon created frictions between old and new
residents of Tsalka district. And because the newcomers belonged to the
ethnic majority, the media started talking about inter-ethnic violence. 

Svans are closely related to the Georgians, while Ajarians are
ethnically Georgian, differing only in that they have a Muslim rather
than Christian heritage. 

Many Armenians here believe the resettlement policy is a deliberate
government attempt at social engineering, to create a more Georgian
population mix. 

Not all Armenians agree with this analysis. Razmik Anesyan, from the
village of Ozni, said, "The people who have described this as an ethnic
problem are journalists who've spent one hour here and drawn some odd
conclusions." 

Leila Metreveli, Georgia's deputy minister for refugees and
resettlement, says the assertion that the government has embarked on
some kind of ethnic project is nonsense. "Tsalka district was chosen
[for resettlement] because there's a lot of abandoned houses and
uncultivated land there, not because of its ethnic composition," she
told IWPR.

Guram Svanidze of the Georgian parliament's human rights committee, sees
ethnic differences as incidental to the real problem.

"I wouldn't describe these conflicts as ethnic," he told IWPR. "They are
due to another reason - social disorder and economic problems. The
local, established population consists of Greeks and Armenians, while
the ethnic Georgian newcomers have not settled in."

Slavik Kuchukyan, who heads the Armenian community in Tsalka, says no
one is against Georgians coming into the area. "On the contrary, it is
actually better for us. We can learn the Georgian language from contact
with them. If you don't know Georgian, you won't be accepted into public
service."

However, language differences have proved a barrier to good relations,
since many young people in the area do not know Georgian, while their
counterparts from Ajaria often cannot speak Russian - a common lingua
franca - and certainly would not understand Armenian.

Many Armenians told IWPR they believed religious differences played a
part, with the Muslim Ajarians at odds with local Armenian and Greek
Christian practices. 

Razmik Anesyan says that Ajarians in his village of Ozni "go to pray in
a mosque in an Azerbaijani village several kilometres away, and they
can't bury the dead in Christian graveyards. It's rumoured that there
have been acts of vandalism [of cemeteries. It all increases the
tension".

Attempts by the local authorities to build bridges between communities
have often failed to overcome the hostility. A friendly football match
between local lads and migrants in the village of Kizil-Kilisa descended
into a massive fistfight.

Many Armenians and Greeks are conscious that they too were once
newcomers - the two communities began arriving as refugees from Ottoman
Turkey two centuries ago. 

Hayk Meltonyan, a local member of the Georgian parliament, says the
longstanding residents just want to see some order imposed to a chaotic
migration process. "The only thing that we want is to stop the mass
resettlement temporarily," he said. "We need to take a look at the
issues, and provide legal arrangements for the lives of those who have
already moved to Tsalka." 

Other local officials also believe the resettlement programme has been
mismanaged. The scheme to move communities away from mountain areas
prone to landslides and avalanches started up in 1988, when Georgia was
still part of the Soviet Union. 

The demand remains high - the ministry for refugees and resettlement
estimates that about 200,000 people in the highlands of Ajaria alone
need to be relocated to lower-risk areas.

But not enough new homes have been built for the settlers, and it is
only in the last six years that the authorities have started buying
existing houses. Impatient settlers have simply moved into unoccupied
homes, often in Greek villages, and tilling the farmland.  

As a result, desperate migrants started illegally occupying houses and
farmland, mostly in Greek villages. Others find themselves in a
subordinate position as tenants on land owned by the original residents,
and the situation is worsened by the lack of clearly regulated ownership
and distribution of farming land

There has also been an upsurge in crime, which gets blamed on the
newcomers.

"The fact is that both the local population and the migrants are
hostages to the government's lack of professionalism and concern," said
Tsalka district administration chief Mikheil Tskitishvili.

According to district police chief Zurab Keshelashvili, "There is zero
criminality among the local population, with the exception of minor
brawls. It is the migrants who are mostly involved in thefts, robberies
and brigandage. Visitors, as they are called, were involved in the two
most recent attacks on Greeks."

Some villagers draw a distinction between the earlier migrants who have
now established themselves and more recent arrivals, whom they blame for
much of the trouble.

Vardo Yegoyan, from Kizil-Kilisa, recalled that after a couple of
difficult years, original residents and the early wave of settlers
became good neighbours. "The current conflicts have to do with a new
group of migrants, most of whom did not move here as part of the
environmental resettlement," he said. "Robberies and bandit attacks have
become regular occurrences."  

Yegoyan added, "No one would justify beating people or smashing things
up, but when the police stand idly by, the only thing people can do is
to resolve their own problems themselves."

Police chief Keshelashvili said it had been hard to cope given the few
resources he had before Tbilisi sent down the extra ten-man squad,
"Fifteen policemen with two cars can hardly cope with the crime
situation in 42
villages."

Settlers say they are being unfairly branded as troublemakers because of
offences committed by a small number of criminals.

"We're peasant farmers. Most of us never even leave our land holdings,"
said an Ajarian settler who gave his name as Jumber, "but the rules
round here are that if one person commits a crime, everyone gets beaten
for it. Property left behind by [emigrating] Greeks is being stolen, and
Ajarians are getting the blame. 

"So it's the robbers who are fomenting trouble, setting people against
each other." 

Zaza Baazov is a freelance journalist in Tbilisi.

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ISSN: 1477-7959 Copyright (c) 2005 The Institute for War & Peace
Reporting 

CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE No. 280