Prospects of peace and stability in the Caucasus remain

DEFENSE and SECURITY (Russia)
November 30, 2007 Friday

AFIELD:
PROSPECTS OF PEACE AND STABILITY IN THE CAUCASUS REMAIN QUESTIONABLE;
The Caucasus remains restive. The federal forces do what they can to
restore order but their efforts may only aggravate the situation.

Alyona Sedlak

News that started coming from the Caucasus in November began to
resemble news from the front-line. The titanic efforts of the federal
center and regional authorities to present the region as pacified are
frustrated by the almost daily reported explosions, attacks, and
hapless victims of special operations. Extremists become more active.
The federal forces strive to match them for activeness with the
result that the confrontation becomes completley vicious. Security
structures operate with the silent consent and blessing from regional
leaders who are expected to demonstrate loyalty to the federal center
in connection with the forthcoming parliamentary election.

Even a brief and incomplete chronicle of life in Ingushetia this
November is extremely alarming. Four Russian workers were riddled
with bullets in the Nazran district on November 4. Two engine
drivers, Armenians, were murdered in Nazran the following day. Three
employees of the Megafon Krasnodar office were attacked on November
12. The Ingushetian transport police commander was assassinated on
November 14. Some unidentified criminals fired a grenade launcher at
the movie theater in Nazran where a pop concert was under way the
following night.

Reports from Dagestan, Chechnya, and Kabardino-Balkaria are no
better. Bodies of nine forest rangers and hunters were discovered in
the woods in Kabardino-Balkaria on November 4. President Arsen
Kanokov’s comment was unusually stern. "The nature of the crime
indicates the involvement of gunmen whose splinter gangs still roam
the woods. Physical extermination without quarter is all these
bastards deserve," Kanokov said. "In fact, it is the only way of
dealing with the likes of them."

There was more to the episode than stern statements alone.
Predictably enough, special operations run by the federal forces
became even more rigorous.

It is only fair to say that the heads of the problematic republics
find themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea. On the one
hand, consent-signifying silence when the federal forces jump into
action costs them respect with the population of their respective
republics. Criticism of the methods deployed by security structures
on the other hand will definitely compromise the regional leader in
the eyes of the federal center and make the latter wonder the
strength of the leader’s commitment and loyalty. Colonel General
Mikhail Pankov, Chief of the Main Directorate of the Interior
Ministry in the Southern Federal Region, assured this correspondent
that federal security structures knew "no problems" at all with
presidents of the Caucasus republics. "Absolutely all heads of the
executive power structures in subjects of the Southern Federal Region
understand their duties – and responsibility – in the matter of
fighting extremism and terrorism," Pankov said. "We enjoy complete
understanding with them. Every Federation subject in the Southern
Federal Region has its own counter-terrorism commission chaired by
the regional leader. What problems could there be?"

All speculations on "stabilization in the Caucasus" are absurd at
this point because the region in question is essentially a combat
zone. Observers predict that extremist activity will dwindle again
once the Duma election is over but how much time does it take to make
a lot of blunders? Preciously little.

Source: Ekspert-Yug, November 27, 2007, EV

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