North Caucasus: Three gunmen have been killed in an operation in Dagestan, the National Antiterrorism Committee said on Friday. According to law enforcement agencies, the gunmen who had been killed were involved in recruiting youths for the Islamic State terrorist organization [banned in Russia]. (ii) Press reports on an attack on police officers in Ingushetia on Saturday. Reportedly, one of the policemen later died in hospital. (iii) An activist has told The Moscow Times that at least two members of the LGBT community have been killed while being tortured in Chechnya. (Interfax, MT, RG, TASS)
Reports on persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya: Novaya Gazeta reports, with reference to the 'Russian LGBT Network' and other sources, on a new wave of persecutions of representatives of the LGBT community in Chechnya. On Monday, the 'Russian LGBT Network' said in a report that at least two people have been tortured to death in Chechnya. (Novaya Gazeta, MT)
Regions ask to write off debts for communal services: A number of Russia's regional legislatures sent letters to prosecutor's offices with the request to write off the household debt for heating and gas in their regions. Regional deputies refer to the precedent in Chechnya where the household debt for gas, totaling 9 billion roubles, was written off. (Kommersant, NG)
SerpomPo: Everyone liked the idea of writing off gas debts so much, that now it has become a mass movement. And so regional deputies, looking at Chechnya as an example, are asking to write off not only gas debts, but also debts for all public utilities. But what happened in Chechnya in fact? It was all legal, no need to prove the contrary. […] All debts older than 3 years have to be cancelled off […] Citizens must write themselves claims to the court in order to get the debts written off. In Chechnya the prosecutor's office acted on behalf of the population […] and won the case [against Gazprom-Mezhregiongaz-Grozny]. And even in our judicial system full of miracles, it is unlikely that Gazprom will manage to challenge this decision […] Another question is: to what extent it was legal not to pay….."
Criminal case against 'Open Russia' activist: Novaya Gazeta reports that a criminal case has been opened against activist of the 'Open Russia' opposition movement Anastasia Shevchenko in connection with 'repeated participation in activities of an undesirable organization'. The newspaper also mentions that on 17 January, Open Russia's coordinator in Pskov, Liya Milushkina, and her husband, Artyom Milushkin, were detained on suspicion of 'selling drugs'. (ii) In a separate article, Novaya Gazeta reports on court hearings of the case against the head of Memorial's office in Chechnya Oyub Titiev accused of 'drug possession'. (Novaya Gazeta)
Gazprom challenges court decision in Chechnya to write off gas debts: Gazprom has appealed against of the court decision in Grozny to write off 9.3 billion roubles of household debts for gas. (Vedomosti)
LGBT activist calls on Investigative Committee to check reports on persecution of gay people in Chechnya: The head of the 'Russian LGBT Network' Igor Kochetkov has submitted a request to the Russian Investigative Committee to check reports about the alleged persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya. Kochetkov says in his request that human rights activists have information about the detention of at least 14 people in Chechnya. (Novaya Gazeta)
Editorial lines & blog monitoring
Senator Rauf Arashukov's case
Media outlets widely focused on the arrest of Rauf Arashukov at a session of the Federation Council on Wednesday. Vedomosti points out that this is not the first case when a senator has been accused of serious crimes and, although it is still unclear how Arashukov managed to become a senator, it is not surprising that the Federation Council has lost its decisive role as it was foreseen by the Constitution and has become an arena for regional elites to defend their interests. Gazeta.ru also points out that, especially in the North Caucasus, senators represent the interests of influential regional clans that are constantly fighting for their supremacy in the local elite system. This, according to another article published by Gazeta.ru, could explain the arrest of Raul Arashukov, the father of Rauf Arashukov, in his Gazprom office in St. Petersburg. Raul Arashukov, known also as the 'gas king' in the North Caucasus, has been CEO of 'Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Stavropol' from 2002 to 2011 and today he is advisor to the CEO of 'Gazprom Mezhregiongaz'. Arashukov Sr. is accused of the theft of gas for more than 30 billion roubles from Gazprom. Interestingly, this 'gas deal' came out a few weeks after a controversy over the writing off of Chechnya's gas debts, and some sources hint at the fact that there could be a connection between the arrest of senator Arashukov, his father's activities, and Ramzan Kadyrov.