January 10, 2017

2016 outcomes in SFD: farmers' and miners' protests, spy mania and pressure on activists

Protests of Kuban farmers and miners in Rostov Region; disappointment in the Governor at the background of social problems in Volgograd Region; abolition of direct election of head of Adygea; interethnic conflict in Kalmykia; pressure on Circassian activists and environmentalists, – these and other events marked 2016 in the Southern Federal District (SFD) of Russia.
Kuban (Krasnodar Territory): spy mania, farmers' protests and pressure on ecologists
For the region and for the whole of Russia the end of 2016 was marked by a major aircraft catastrophe near Sochi, where the aircraft of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with 92 people on board crashed down on December 25. The aircraft was flying to Syria with militaries, journalists, artists of the Alexandrov Ensemble and Elena Glinka, the Executive Director of the International Public Organization "Fair Aid", also known as "Doctor Liza".
In 2016, the KrasnodarTerritory attracted attention to the resonant "spy" trial, which resulted in the conviction of Oksana Sevastidi, a Sochi resident, to seven years in prison for an SMS-message, reporting that she had witnessed transportation of military equipment in the direction of Abkhazia.
In 2016, Kuban farmers initiated a protest action that became known as the "tractor march". Farmers accused the authorities of inaction and connivance to seizure of their lands by large agrarian holdings.
In the area of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the year 2016 was marked by adding the "Ecological Watch for Northern Caucasus" (EcoWatch) to the list of the so-called "foreign agents. Environmentalists treated it as "a planned action aimed at liquidating the organization," but, according to Andrei Rudomakha, the coordinator of the "EcoWatch", they will not stop their activities.
Adygea: abolition of direct election of republic's head and pressure on activists
In 2016, one of the key political developments in Adygea was the abolition of the direct election of the head of the republic. This decision caused rejection of the public. On November 5, 2016, the founding congress of the organization "For Right to Choose" with the participation of about 200 persons took place. Its participants appealed to the President of Russia asking him to restore the direct election of the head of Adygea.
A real scandal evolved from the application to the police, submitted by Valery Brinikh, the branch chairman of the All-Russian Society for Environment Protection, with a demand to check the information about the theft of "Kadyrov's sheep" sent to Adygea on behalf of the head of Chechnya for the holiday of Eid al-Adha (Kurban Bayram). On December 12, 2016, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Adygea refused to initiate a criminal case.
Valery Brinikh, who also heads the Adyg regional branch of the "Green" Party, reported the pressure of power agents, who in December 2016 interrogated him and members of the party. According to Mr Brinikh, the interrogations had to do with the plan to liquidate the branch, which had stated violations at the September elections.
Circassian activists of the region also faced problems. Thus, in March 2016, the organization "Adyge Khase-Circassian Parliament" in Maikop twice failed to coordinate with law enforcement bodies the place of the planned rally on the Day of Circassian Language. In May, Adnan Khuade, a repatriate from Turkey, was detained.
Rostov Region: miners without wages
In the Rostov Region, the year 2016 was marked by protests of miners and pressure on participants of protest movements and public organizations.
Protests of miners, who are seeking payment of their wage debts, continued in the region throughout the year. By the end of the year, the situation began changing for the better, the debts were partly repaid, but most of the debts remain outstanding.
In 2016, the persecution of the Union "Don Women" continued. Investigators suspected Valentina Cherevatenko, head of the Union, of an attempt to bypass the law on "foreign agents", and began prosecuting her. Ms Cherevatenko denies all the charges.
In October 2016, after serving his term in colony, Sergey Reznik, a Rostov journalist and blogger, known for his critical publications, was set free.
Volgograd: disappointment in Bocharov at background of populism and social problems
In the Volgograd Region, the year 2016 was marked with population's disappointment in the regional Governor Andrei Bocharov at the background of abundant social problems.
In 2016, residents of the region repeatedly held protests, demanding from the authorities to solve problems with heat and power supplies and problem of bad roads. In May 2016, bad roads of Volgograd drew attention of the Russian Premier Dmitri Medvedev, who drove the roads personally and treated them as "dead."
Instead of solving the region's priority problems, the Governor "is engaged in building a temple worth billions of roubles", Volgograd residents used to say.
The Governor was also reproached for the absence of efficient dialogue with activists and public organizations. The year was notable for the persecution of Volgograd activists Igor Nagavkin, Temur Kobaliya and Alexei Ulyanov.
In 2016, the Russian Public Chamber criticized the Volgograd's preparation tempo for Football World Cup-2018; and Volgograd motorists criticized the quality of repairs of roads along the "guest routes" for the World Cup.
Astrakhan: reduction of social benefits and resonant sentences
For the Astrakhan Region, the year 2016 was marked by high-profile trials and protests against the law on reduction of benefits.
On December 2, 2016, Deputies of the Astrakhan Regional Duma adopted, in the first reading, the law that assumes a partial reduction of benefits for about 25,000 citizens. Residents of the region protested against the law by conducting a series of actions.
On June 30, 2016, the Privolzhsky District Court of the Astrakhan Region sentenced Ekaterina Lukyanenko, the Minister of Social Development and Labour of the Region, accused of bribe-taking. The total amount of bribes, which, according to the judgement, she had received, made 2,882,500 roubles. Ms Lukyanenko was sentenced to four years in a general-security colony and a fine of 52,065,500 roubles.
In May 2016, Igor Stenin, the leader of the movement "Russians of Astrakhan", was sentenced to two years in colony-settlement for reposting in the social network "VKontakte" an article about the war in Ukraine, which had been recognized as extremist. He refused to plead guilty. The Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" announced Igor Stenin to be a person, persecuted for political reasons.

Source: http://www.eng.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/38074/
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