EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third installment of our series from Dave Essel translating the latest issue of the Nemtsov White Paper condemning the Putin years. The first installment is here, the second is here, and the prior issues are here. Video of Nemtsov and Milov at the press release is here.
An independent expert report by
Vladimir Milov and Boris Nemtsov
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
CHAPTER FOUR: Dead End in the Caucasus
The Caucasus has played a key part in raising Putin to Olympian political heights. Immediately after he was appointed prime-minister in 1999, Putin initiated military engagements against Chechen separatists and memorably promised to “slaughter them in their outhouses” [TN: the Russian phrase “zamochit v sortire” is intended to sound crude but does not really have much meaning – I would have gone for “drown them in their own sh*t” in a literary translation. This manner of speech is much more “Putin”.] Riding the terrorism wave, Putin got the support of a large number of people and became president in Spring 2000.
For the rest of the decade, the myth has carefully been cultivated that Putin pacified the Caucasus and beat the terrorists. In 2007, Putin declared that “ international terrorists’ aggression has been stopped in its tracks thanks to the courage and unity of the people of Russia.”
Quite the opposite, however, is true. Below you will find a table listing numbers of acts of terrorism over the last decade. This table has been assembled by us from data officially promulgated by spokesmen for law enforcement and the specials services.
The table clearly shows that. starting in 2007, the number of acts of terrorism shot up, rising more than 12-fold between 2007 and 2008, and by half as much again in the following year.
That we are being lied to about having “beaten the terrorists” is plain for all to see from the fact that there were 135 recorded acts of terrorism in 2000 at the start of Putin’s reign but 786 in 2009-2010, a six-fold rise.
The Moscow metro explosions on 29 March 2010 demonstrated that the Russian special services are not just incapable of stopping terrorism in the countryside – they can’t even prevent it yards from their HQ!
The reasons for the special services’ lack of professionalism and general helplessness comes from the way they set their priorities.
The top priority is to maintain and secure Putin’s personal power and that of his group. This has led, for example, to the rebirth of political repression – witness the recently established and already infamous Dept. “E” to combat extremism, which is used to spy on and set up opposition leaders – and also to the fabulous increase in the numbers employed in the specials services and in the OMON riot police used to disperse opposition meetings and demonstrations wherever they may occur in Russia.
Their next priority is to provide protection for business, take part in raids, and engage directly in commercial activities.
A letter by some OMON servicemen to the New Times shockingly broke this story open. (Slaves of the OMON, New Times, 01.02.2010). It is evident that, for all their huffing and puffing to the contrary, combating terrorism is by no means a priority of Putin’s special services. This is despite the fact that federal budget expenditure on security and law enforcement has risen more than tenfold from $2.8 billion in the 2000 budget to $31.3 billion in 2009. Budget expenditure on the special services is more than three times as great as spending on public health and education taken together. The total number of people employed by the special services is now over 2 million, twice as many as there are servicemen in the military. Not even in Soviet times was such a thing ever seen.
Another reason for the striking rise of terrorism in Russia is the failure of Putin’s Caucasus policy. This policy is founded on the idea of using loyal and at the same time corrupt clans to run the Caucasian republics. Things work out a bit differently on the ground and in reality this amounts to “I give you money and you give me loyalty (including 99% voting for United Russia in the elections) and deal with terrorism”.
The result has been disappointing, to say the least. The Caucasian republics are de facto places when neither Russian law nor the Russian constitution rule, with unlimited power held by greedy and corrupt groupings whose loyalty is purchased with funds from the federal budget.
The Russian budget (which is the same as saying “you and I”) allocates stupendous sums – $4.5 to $6 billion a year – to régimes which have on the one hand become to all intents and purposes sovereign states but on the other have shown themselves incapable of ensuring security within their territories or further afield in Russia as well. (Federal Funding Accounts for 86% of the Budgetary Income of Ingushetiya, nearly 60% of Chechnya’s, about 75% of Karachaevo-Cherkesya’s, 75% of Dagestan’s, nearly 58% of Kabardino-Balkaria’s, 56% of Northern Ossetia’s, and 48.5% of Kalmykia’s, Lenta.ru). Not for nothing did London exile Akhmed Zakayev, former high official in Chechnya and now well-known separatist, declare publicly that Ramzan Kadyrov has realised the dream of Dzhokhar Dudayev and Aslan Maskhadov of creating an independent Chechnya that also receives vast sums of money from the federal budget. (“The Zakayev Romance“, S. Markedonov).
We link the increase in terrorism in Ingushetiya and Dagestan in the main with Putin’s major mistakes in his appointments of heads for these regions. KGB General Zyazikov’s many years of rule as president of Ingushetiya ended with a sharp rise in terrorism and islamic fundamentalism in that republic. The federal authorities for a long time managed to turn a blind eye to such events as the blowing up of a police HQ in Nazran, the murder of Magomed Yevloyev and other rights activists and opposition leaders. It was only when the situation in Ingushetiya finally began to spin out of control and there was already talk of Ingushetiya seceding from Russia that Zyazikov was removed from power, to be replaced by Yunus-bek Yevkurov, who soon himself became the victim of an attack. It is now evident that the metastases of terrorism and islamic extremism have spread so far and so deep that no Yevkurovs or Khloponins are going to solve the problem.
Much the same happened in Dagestan. Mukhu Aliyev was appointed president in 2006 but is clearly a weak figure, with a reputation for corruption. The republic now witnesses near daily attacks and terrorist incidents. Dagestan has to all intents and purposes been in a state of civil war for the last few years.
So what do we have today? The separatists’ aims have been essentially realised and islamic fundamentalism, fed by high levels of unemployment, poverty, total corruption, and complete unlawfulness, is on the rise in the Caucasus. For this, Russian meanwhile pays billions of dollars a year and sacrifices the lives of innocent civilian victims to terrorism.
The Northern Caucasus has become Russia’s Palestine. The situation is at en even deeper dead-end that it was at the start of our “national leader’s” rule.
We should also note that Putin has used the most shocking acts of terrorism to reinforce his personal power and to trample on human rights and freedoms. The Dubrovka theatre incident in October 2002 was used to excuse the closure of the independent TV channels NTV and TV6. After the Beslan tragedy of 2004, Putin abolished the election of governors and single-mandate standing for election to the State Duma. Repressive laws were passed to make things harder for the opposition and elections became a farce pure and simple.