Rising Russian nationalism forces Putin to reassess financing for North Caucasus

North Caucasus Financing Takes Back Seat to Putin’s Political Agenda
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 202November 2, 2011 01:17 PM Age: 2 days
By: Valery Dzutsev

Vladimir Putin and Dagestani President Magomedsalam Magomedov meeting in Moscow, October 31 (Source: kremlin.ru)
On October 31, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with the head of Dagestan, Magomedsalam Magomedov, in Moscow. Discussed in the meeting was the grand Russian program to spend nearly $200 billion to modernize the North Caucasus over the period 2012-2025. “If adopting the North Caucasian program is delayed until 2015, we would still like to ask you to have a special program for our republic to overhaul the social sphere,” Magomedov told Putin in the meeting, The Russian prime minister did not reassure the Dagestani leader (http://premier.gov.ru, October 31).

Gazeta.ru followed up on the news and discovered that the North Caucasus development program requires Moscow to spend $12 billion from 2012-2014, but the projected national budget under consideration in the Russian State Duma allocates less than $4 billion for the same period. A source in the administration of the Russian envoy to the North Caucasus, Aleksandr Khloponin, confirmed that the North Caucasus program would not be approved in 2011. The source claimed there were several problems with the program, including its financing. Currently, there are only two regions in the North Caucasus that receive extra funds from Moscow for developmental purposes – Chechnya and Ingushetia. The program for Chechnya, worth $4 billion, is coming to an end this year (www.gazeta.ru, October 31). The program for Ingushetia envisaged spending $500 million on the republic’s development in 2012-2014, but only $100 million is currently allocated in the projected Russian budget for this program (http://fcp.economy.gov.ru/uploaded/301/redaction_02Nov10_12-24-59).

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Airport Attack Shows Russian Government’s Failure to Provide a Clear Road Map to a Safer Future

On January 29, Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, announced that investigators had determined the identity of the perpetrator of the bombing of Domodedovo airport in Moscow, which took place on January 24. According to official information, a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the international arrivals section of the airport, Russia’s busiest, killing 35 people and injuring over 120, including foreign nationals. Markin said investigators had established the identity of the 20-year-old male bomber, who originated from one of the republics of the North Caucasus. But the spokesman declined to name him or the republic he was from, citing the ongoing investigation. Markin said the terrorist attack specifically targeted foreigners (RIA Novosti, January 29).

While the Investigative Committee refused to disclose the name and the exact origins of the Domodedovo airport suicide bomber, it effectively ruled out a Dagestani link. In the same statement, the committee said that another terrorism-related crime which took place in Moscow had been solved. On December 31, 2010, an explosion took place at a Moscow hotel, killing only a suspected female suicide bomber. The blast reportedly took place when her suicide belt loaded with explosives accidently detonated. According to the Investigative Committee, a group had been preparing an attack in Moscow and several of its members were arrested in Dagestan. The committee emphasized that this group had no connection to the Domodedovo bombing and came from a different republic of the North Caucasus (www.sledcom.ru, January 29). On the same day, the Russian Antiterrorist Committee announced that the members of the terrorist group behind the failed December 31, 2010 attack originated from Dagestan (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 29). Continue reading

A Crack in the Caucasus Wall – Transitions Online

A Crack in the Caucasus Wall – Transitions Online.

Georgia taps its soft power in the North Caucasus to the detriment of Moscow and muted optimism of the locals.
by Valery Dzutsev
17 November 2010

North Caucasus journalism award

If I had spare money, I would establish a yearly award program for the most courageous journalist in the North Caucasus. I wonder, why more affluent people or organizations have not done so yet. The Russian government will not allow any serious media development organization to function in the North Caucasus, but an award program would be hard to prevent from happening.

Could Russia be involved in 9/11?

I would not exclude that outrightly, because it makes a lot of sense. After 9/11 the U.S. and the West drastically reduced their support for the Chechen resistance’s cause in the North Caucasus. The attack itself evoked a lot of enthusiasm among Russians. Many Russians literally rejoiced, including the state controlled media. Vladimir Putin offered Russian support for the U.S. led operation in Afghanistan, but it would have been very suspicious if he did not.

Interestingly enough, unlike the U.S. and other western countries, Russia did not introduce any particular heightened security regime in its airports and flights following the attack. The reason behind that may have been that Russians had known the organizers of the attack and were pretty sure, they would not attack Russia under any circumstances.

In the light of this, extradition of Victor Bout, Russian security services guy, that Russians call a businessman, from Thailand to the U.S. may pose very serious threat to the Russian leadership. The whole reset policy may be under jeopardy, as one of the top-ranking Russian diplomat unequivocally has warned. Bout is accused by numerous groups, as well as some governments, of supplying weaponry around the globe to any rebel groups, that are requesting them and are able to pay. Again it makes a lot of sense for the current Russian leadership – if you are not able to control part of the world as the USSR did and still hate the U.S., then what you do is you make your contribution to create as much chaos around the world as possible. Why? Because the U.S. will have to deal with more crises and pay less attention to what Russia does in the countries of the former USSR and Europe.

As a classical continental empire, Russia’s primary expansionist interests lie in its near abroad. While further away from its borders it just meddles into the others’ affairs to cause as much trouble as it possibly can.

The sorrowful charm of things

I have recently read through one of my op-ed articles on Georgia/South Ossetia, that never made it to the media and was struck by the vain attempts of mine to attracts people’s attention to important trends in the Caucasus.

Prague Watchdog was kind enough to publish this piece now, even though it was written in the period between November 2007 and April 2008.

The West’s approach to the Caucasus

By Valery Dzutsev, special to Prague Watchdog

(Note: this article was written in 2008, before the August War in Georgia)

In yet another attempt to get rid of the Russian peacekeepers, Georgian parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze stated on 31 October that the country would demand the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia and their replacement with international peacekeepers. Georgians like to point to Russia as the main obstructer of the reintegration of its breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Russians respond with criticism of the Georgians’ conduct in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, arguing that only Russia can sustain peace in the region.

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What the explosions in the Moscow metro mean

North Caucasus rebels are the most likely perpetrators of the attack in the Moscow metro on March 29. It looks, the security services had prior knowledge of the coming attacks, despite that they did not alert the public and failed to intercept several people, that presumably prepared and carried out the attack.

This attack spell trouble for the Russian security services, that evolved good skills in depriving businessmen of their property, political persecutions, but grew unused to fulfilling their primary responsibilities. It is obvious the services should drastically be reformed. New set of policies must be worked out and implemented in the North Caucasus, that would give political freedoms and provide an appropriate legal framework with proper enforcement of the laws. Open up the region to the international developmental agencies.

In practice, however, hopes are slim, the inhabitants of the Kremlin will do something sensible. Instead, more liberal approach to the North Caucasus problems that started forming last year might be dumped. Mass persecutions of the people with the Caucasus origins might strengthen and number of exemplary killings might take place in the North Caucasus. In addition some kind of a reform, that would further limit civil rights may be introduced.

Circassians Look to Georgia for International Support

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 58March 25, 2010 03:54 PM Age: 24 hrs
By: Valery Dzutsev

On March 21, participants in a landmark conference “Hidden Nations, Enduring Crimes: The Circassians and the Peoples of the North Caucasus Between Past and Future” was held in Tbilisi. Participants at the conference appealed to the Georgian parliament to recognize Russian actions in the northwestern Caucasus in the nineteenth century as genocide. The conference evoked a multitude of responses from the public in the North Caucasus and in Russia proper. The Jamestown Foundation and the International School of Caucasus Studies at Ilia State University organized the event (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 22).

Prior to its start, the conference already caused a nervous reaction in Russia as the Russian website War and Peace published a lengthy article, analyzing the conference. The article credited the conference with the possible impact that could potentially “lead to significant changes in the Caucasus,” calling it “not an ordinary event.” According to the author, Georgia, unlike Russia, did its homework after losing the five-day war in 2008, having dramatically changed its tactics. Namely, Georgia significantly improved its informational policy, launched a Russian language TV channel, which the author referred to as “anti Russian” and reached out to the North Caucasian peoples. The author also alleged that Georgian government efforts were aimed at promoting conflict between the various peoples of the North Caucasus and between the North Caucasus and Russia. The writer warned in the form of prognosis, that if Georgia proceeded with Circassians’ genocide recognition, the Circassians would be pressurized in Russia, while the positions of their rivals, the Karachays, Balkars and ethnic Russians would be enhanced (www.warandpeace.ru, March 19).

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Georgia is reinventing its regional policy in the North Caucasus

Georgia is trying to reach out to the neighboring small peoples of the North Caucasus to acquire greater influence in its immediate neighborhood. Following the loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia during the war with Russia in August 2008, Georgia has indeed little to lose, if it starts its own set of policies in the region.

So now Georgia pays attention to the harsh suppression of dissenters in the North Caucasus, the issue of possible genocide, that some Circassians, Chechens and others raise. The conference on Circassians’ genocide in the XIX century that was held in Tbilisi on March 19-21 evoked anger and exasperation on Russians’ side, so that probably shows, that the step was made in the right direction. The next step for Georgia would be to recognize the genocide. I think, it is quite obvious that Russia deliberately killed civilians and acted to change the ethnic balance of the northwestern Caucasus, so that about 90% of the Circassians currently live outside of their homeland.

It would be worth to return to the issue of Chechnya too. I think, Georgia would do the right thing, if it developed the capabilities for research and monitoring of human rights abuses in the North Caucasus.

All in all, more active Georgia will mean breaking up North Caucasian isolation, better relations with its neighbors, constructive competition with Russian imperialism and more predictability of the processes in the region.

The North Caucasus Receives Unprecedented Attention from Russian Leaders

Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 42March 3, 2010 01:04 AM

By: Valery Dzutsev

On March 1, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made an unannounced brisk visit to the North Caucasus. In the North Ossetian town of Beslan, Putin met the head of North Ossetia, Taimuraz Mamsurov, and in the capital of Ingushetia, Magas, he held a longer meeting with Ingushetia’s President Yunus-bek Yevkurov and other local officials (RIA Novosti, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 1).

The proximity in time between Putin’s visit to North Ossetia and Ingushetia and Medvedev’s visit to Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia on February 27 is striking. Putin, while he was president of Russia and even before that, was not known for a willingness to visit the region during its multiple periods of crisis, like the Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004, political assassinations or massive bomb explosions. The Russian government’s current focus on the North Caucasus might be explained by an increased awareness of the problems that Moscow faces in this region, including political instability, the growth of separatism and the rise of militant Islam. President Medvedev, in particular, stated on February 27 that the entire Russian government had to be involved in resolving the problems of the North Caucasus, not just the presidential envoy to the region, Aleksandr Khloponin.

It is more likely, however, that these series of high-profile visits to the North Caucasus might indicate growing competition between the teams of President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin over influence on Russian policies in the region. Despite its small footprint in the economic life of the Russian Federation, the North Caucasus remains a very important region in political terms, because of the terrorist threat and propensity for separatism. If Medvedev were to challenge the authority of Putin, Russia’s strongman, he would likely choose the North Caucasus for political maneuvers –first of all, because Putin’s political career is intimately linked to the North Caucasus, as he made his name during the second Chechen war; secondly, because Moscow’s brutal policies of suppression, frequently criticized by rights activists, failed to bring about stability in the region, but rather antagonized larger layers of the local societies. The struggle over the North Caucasus may be part of a wider phenomenon of the growing disillusionment of the country’s elites with Putin’s leadership and an attempt to find an alternative, as Anders Aslund described in an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post on February 26.

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