Monday, July 7, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Security Situation Deteriorating Rapidly in the North Caucasus

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 7 – 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 today’s “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.

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