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Friday, July 11, 2008

Putin has Failed in Chechnya

Paul Goble reports:

The security situation is deteriorating across the entire North Caucasus, with local officials blaming foreign financing of the anti-government bands, human rights organizations blaming the oppressive actions of local officials, and Moscow officials blaming the unwillingness of local security officials to do what is necessary. A lengthy article in a recent edition of “Nezavisimaya gazeta-Regiony” entitled “The North Caucasian Arc of Instability” suggests that the situation there is very different from and far more threatening than the one the Kremlin and its supporters have been offering the world in recent months. FSB General Vladimir Pronichev told the paper’s Vladimir Mukhin that the situation in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Daghestan remains “very unstable,” as a result of the efforts of “definite forces” to “destroy our [Russian state] by means of destabilizing the social-political situation in the region.”

His remarks follow a statement by Chechen Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov last week who linked what he described as the “activization” of the militants to the “financial assistance” the Grozny official said they were receiving from “their Arab sponsors.” In order to get more such funds, he continued, the militants seek to “demonstrate their military power.”

“Unfortunately,” Alkhanov acknowledged, “periodically they are able to do so.”

But regardless of whether Alkhanov’s explanation is correct, Mukhin underscores that now the militants are able to act more than “periodically” not only within Chechnya but elsewhere in the North Caucasus and possibly into central regions of the Russian Federation itself. Indeed, he says, “the raids of the militants are becoming a regular phenomenon.” The situation in Daghestan is particularly worrisome from Russia’s point of view. Last week, that republic’s Interior Minister Adil’gerei Magomedtagirov admitted that security there had “sharply deteriorated and the members of the illegal armed formations had increased” in recent months.
The minister said that law enforcement personnel there were doing everything they could but what he called “destructive forces, acting in the North Caucasus, are prepared even at the cost of the lives of hundreds of innocent people” to deceive the people of Daghestan and “impose on them alien views.”

But “Nezavisimaya gazeta-Regiony” reports that many in Moscow “doubt that the law enforcement organs of Daghestan are working to capacity,” a failing that they quite obviously believe has given a new opening to the militants. Meanwhile, the security situation in other formerly quieter regions of the North Caucasus is deteriorating as well, the Moscow paper reports. Ingushetia, as a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report pointed out, is becoming ever more destabilized, with officials engaged in arbitrary abductions and killings that are fueling the violence. And in Kabardino-Balkaria, the paper continued, the law enforcement authorities appear to be “ignoring a possible sharpening of the situation,” failing to draw the necessary conclusions from their discovery of bomb-making equipment last weekend and portraying various actions there as simply the work of criminals.

Mukhin concludes his article with the following words: “Thus, the situation in many regions of the North Caucasus has now become more serious. Unfortunately, objective factors have promoted this development,” including aid to the militants from abroad and poverty at home.
But, he points out, “a fact remains a fact: the intensiveness of the attacks of the extremists in the south of the country is growing. And judging from what is going on, the federal force structures still have not figured out how to neutralize the heightened activity of the militants” operating against them. Should there be a military clash between the Russian Federation and Georgia, that situation would undoubtedly become even worse. But even if such a conflict is avoided, conditions in the North Caucasus will remain explosive, however much Moscow claims otherwise and however little the rest of the world pays attention.

Reuters reports:

An armed group raided a village in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia overnight, killing three men linked to the security forces, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday. The raid on Tuesday night adds to growing instability in the republic -- which borders restive Chechnya -- where assassinations, bomb attacks and kidnappings are a weekly occurrence. "Victims of the attacks include a policeman, a local teacher of basic military skills and an ex-interior ministry officer," Interfax news agency quoted an Interior Ministry spokesman as saying. News agencies said between 10 and 30 men came from the Caucasus mountains, stole vehicles and drove to the homes of the four men, killing three and injuring the fourth in a small southern village of the republic. Last year the central government in Moscow boosted the number of its soldiers in Ingushetia and declared a counter-terrorist operation in the region to combat increased rebel activities. Now military helicopters fly hourly over Ingushetia and the army sweeps the roadsides daily for bombs. Gunmen have tried to kill the unpopular president of Ingushetia and have assassinated one of the republic's top judges.

Reuters also reports:

Three policemen were shot and killed early on Tuesday in Baksan, a small town in Russia's North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria, news agency Interfax said quoting local law enforcement. "Criminals attacked a highway patrol post situated in the so-called Baksan circle and shot dead three members of the police with an automatic weapon," police said. Two wars in nearby Chechnya since 1994 have impoverished and scarred the North Caucasus, and sporadic violence across the region happens almost daily, but attacks in Kabardino-Balkaria are less frequent than other provinces. In January unidentified assailants in Kabardino-Balkaria attacked and killed the regional head of a police unit charged with fighting organised crime. Another police officer from the same unit was shot dead in May at a car wash. It is unclear if these attacks are linked to a wider low intensity rebellion across the north Caucasus against Russian forces or to local criminal groups.

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