Crisis in the Caucasus

Paul Goble reports:

The recent increase in attacks on religious leaders and ordinary citizens in the North Caucasus, the editors of Nezavisimaya Gazeta say, highlights a dangerous new development in that region: the increasing role of radical extremists who do not feel themselves limited by any moral considerations.  As a result, the Moscow paper says in an unsigned editorial, the conflict in the North Caucasus bears all the signs of “a civil war” in which everyone is a potential victim, a development, the paper continues, that Moscow in recent months appears to be almost entirely oblivious.

Terrorism in the region, the paper says, has moved into “a religious-political phase” very different from the one it had been in during recent years and equally very different from the one that most people among the Russian powers that be have assumed that it should be discussed and defeated. This change, the editors continue, is reflected in the murder last Sunday of Ismail Bostanov, the deputy head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Stavropol kray, and in the decision of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov to pull down a mosque bearing the name of one of his earlier opponents Dzhabrail Yamadayev.

Attacks on Muslim leaders are nothing new, the paper points out, “but in recent times such attacks are taking place with stupefying regularity,” the result experts say, of the entrance into the ranks of the militants of “a large group of radically inclined young people who decide on their own [rather than relying on religious authorities] who is right and who is guilty” What that means, the paper continues is that what is now going on in the North Caucasus is “not only a religious conflict between supporters of radical Islam and those who support traditional views on the faith” but also a reflection of the end of any “protected” zones in the “hot republics” of the region.

In short, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says, there are now “no limits” in the North Caucasus regarding who may be attacked and no place where anyone there can feel safe. “If earlier the militants carried out terrorist attacks mostly against the military, militiamen and bureaucrats and attempted to avoid losses about the civilian population, then today, ever more often are collateral victims,” the result of suicide bombers who are not concerned about the number of dead be they soldiers, civilians or Muslim leaders.

This trend, the paper says, bears “obvious signs of a civil war, a war which has passed into a new phase” and which is occurring in Chechnya, “despite all the successes of Kadyrov in restoring the city of Grozny.” In that republic too, “the militants are becoming more active,” and “the civil war is a political stage of the conflict.” What Moscow should do “in order that the North Caucasus will cease to be called a bubbling cauldron remains an open one,” because “at the federal level, there is only one order – immediately liquidate the militants. And that is not happening.” Instead, their number is increasing, and their attacks are becoming more unlimited.

Indeed, the paper notes, there is widespread disagreement among the expert community. Some analysts say that what is taking place is a response to “the excessive application of force by law-enforcement agencies.” Others say that in the North Caucasus, there is “a well-organized terrorist network with which the siloviki are not capable of coping.”
And still a third group, the paper notes, “are talking about a religious war” which has arise as the role of traditional.

Islam has declined and “the influence of radical Islam has grown.” Each of these has something to say, the paper suggests, but even taken together, they do not provide a complete understanding or comprehensive guide to action. But what is most unclear of all, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” concludes is just what the Russian powers that be in Moscow think regarding what is going on. Up to now, the impression has been that in the North Caucasus, they are simply living “in hope that everything [there] will sort itself out on its own” – a hope, the paper implies, that appears increasingly a vain one.

7 responses to “Crisis in the Caucasus

  1. Meanhwile in Strasbourg,

    EU court orders Russia to pay $132,200 over Chechen lawsuits

    PARIS, September 24 (RIA Novosti) – The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay 90,000 euros ($132,200) in compensation to the relatives of two people who disappeared in the Russian North Caucasus republic of Chechnya in 2002 and 2003.

    The applicants filed suits over the disappearances of their relatives with Russian courts in early 2003, but Russia failed to investigate the cases, the court said in a statement.

    Akhmed Rezvanov disappeared in Chechnya’s central town of Urus-Martan in December 2002, when he was taken from his home by a group of armed men, who also took household appliances and property.

    Ramzan Babushev disappeared in Chechnya’s southeastern village of Mahkety in February 2003. He was also detained by a group of armed men. The kidnappers took electrical equipment, jewelry, components and property.

    The Strasbourg court said Russia failed to provide it with the required documentation concerning the cases. The court also said the kidnappers were members of Russia’s security services, and ruled that the Russian authorities were guilty of the deaths of the missing people.

    The statement said the Russian authorities had infringed several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered them to pay the victims’ relatives 9,500 euros ($14,000) in material damages, 75,000 euros ($111,000) in moral damages, and 5,000 euros (over $7,000) in costs.

    Russia has lost the majority of cases brought against it in the Strasbourg-based court. In 2008, the court ruled against Russia 245 times. Overall, around 20% of all complaints made to the court in the past decade have involved Russia.

    Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia pay 210,000 euros ($309,540) in compensation to the relatives of people who have disappeared or died in Russia’s North Caucasus in 2003 and 2004.

    In July, the court ordered Russia to pay 39,757 euros ($58,618) in compensation to a Chechen woman whose husband went missing in 2001.

    In June, the Strasbourg court ordered Russia to pay 160,000 euros ($224,000) in compensation to the relatives of five Chechens who disappeared in 2001, and 42,600 euros ($59,370) to a prisoner as compensation for his inhumane treatment.

  2. Antonio was here 9/25/09

  3. Robert,
    Do you have any stats on the payment record of Russia towards any of the above orders you cited?

    • And more than 100 others:

      I don’t know which were paid if any, but I guess they at RJI shall know.

      • Btw, I think interested are cases of Russian crimes against Chechen policemen:

        On 14 January 2004 around 12 p.m. Bekman Asadulayev, a police officer, arrived at the Chechnya Department of the Ministry of the Interior in Grozny with two colleagues. Having passed through security and entered the building they were approached by several armed servicemen. The servicemen checked their identity cards and apprehended Bekman. They put him in their VAZ car and drove past security without being stopped. Bekman has not been seen since.

        On 30 December 2002, Adlan Dovtayev was driving from Grozny to Urus-Martan with four acquaintances. Sharpuddin Israilov followed the same route accompanied by three police officers. At about 5.00 p.m. when Dovtayev’s car was approaching a federal military check-point, two armoured personnel carriers (“APCs”) crossed its path. The APC crew of Russian military servicemen fired at the car and forced it to stop. Dovtayev and his passengers were forcibly loaded into the APCs. At about 5.30 p.m. Israilov’s car approached the same military check-point. Not far from the check-point, a group of Russian military servicemen forced the car to stop. The servicemen fired at the car with machine-guns wounding Israilov and two of his passengers. The apprehended men were thereafter driven to the woods. On the way, one of the wounded passengers died. All others, including Dovtayev and Israilov, were driven to the Khankala military federal base. The servicemen interrogated the detainees, beat and tortured them with electricity forcing them to confess to participation in a terrorist attack. On 31 December 2002, Dovtayev and Israilov were blindfolded and put in an UAZ vehicle that drove away. They have not been seen since. The criminal investigation into their case has not produced any results.

        On 26 November 2000, Aslanbek Kukayev, a Chechen OMON officer, was detained along with other policemen of Chechen origin during a “sweeping-up” operation conducted by Russian military forces at Grozny central market. Some of the policemen were released later that day, whereas Kukayev disappeared after being apprehended. On 22 April 2001, two corpses bearing signs of a violent death were found in a basement located close to the spot where Kukayev was last seen alive. One of the bodies was identified as Aslanbek Kukayev. The criminal investigation into his death has not produced any results.

        Khozh-Akhmed Akhmadov worked as a police officer in the police patrolling unit of the Chechnya MVD. At about 11.30 p.m. on 19 November 2004 Khozh-Akhmed and his colleague were driving their car in the Leninskiy district of Grozny. They were eventually stopped by a large group of servicemen from the OMON (special task unit) of the Chechnya MVD. In the following, the OMON servicemen opened gunfire and Khozh-Akhmed received a number of gunshot wounds. He was taken to Grozny town hospital where he died on 21 November 2004. No one has been held accountable for his killing.

        And so on.

        • Robert, you seem to be spot on about what’s happening, but didn’t Russia withdraw from some sort of treaty just a bit ago. I thought withdrawing from this ‘treaty’ meant that the International Courts basically were whistling Dixie because Russia was no longer obliged to follow their rulings. Do you recall anything like this? It would have been within the last six months here. Thanks for info.

          • I believe they officially didn’t quit the ECHR. If they did there would be no new verdicts.

            And the high-profile Moscow & Beslan massacres complaints are waiting in the line. Well, there were also other “Beslan cases”, too:

            On the night of 16 December 2001 between 2 and 3 a.m. a number of armed men in camouflage uniforms burst into the houses of the Khutsayev and the Didayev families in the village of Gekhi. The servicemen beat several family members, searched the houses and seized all valuables. Upon leaving, they took Beslan and Movsar Khutsayev and Adam Didayev with them. None of the three men have been seen since. The investigations into their disappearances have not produced any results.

            Early in the morning on 20 July 2004, a group of armed men burst into Beslan Arapkhanov’s house in the village of Galashki, Ingushetia. They searched the house and dragged Beslan to the court-yard. His wife who had been locked into one of their rooms heard machine-gun fire shortly thereafter. Beslan was later found dead in the courtyard. Zelimkan Arapkhanov, Beslan’s cousin, who lived close by heard the shots and went outside. The armed men started to interrogate him and beat him before leaving. The investigation into Beslan’s murder has not yielded any results.

            Or actually involving the town of Beslan:

            On 28 December 2004 Zhamalayla Yanayev was supposed to take the flight Beslan-Moscow and checked in at Beslan airport. Before the flight took off several servicemen, identifying themselves as officers of the regional Directorate for Combating Organised Crime of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation by showing their service certificates, entered the secure airport premises. The servicemen arrested Yanayev and left the airport with him. Yanayev has been missing since.

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