Alexey Malashenko, The Moscow Times, July 29, 2009
The Kremlin has been caught off guard by a spike in violence in the North Caucasus over the past few months. One reason for this: The Kremlin had believed its policies in the region were successful. After canceling its anti-terrorist operations in Chechnya (largely at the insistence of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov), the authorities were convinced that the situation there had stabilized.
It is clear, however, that the picture is far less rosy. It has become obvious that the number of insurgents in the North Caucasus — primarily in Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan — is greater than official figures have stated and that they have deep reserves and the ability to operate at a fairly professional level. The militants have also formed, if not coalitions, then at least mutual understandings with other political forces, primarily those that have suffered from the government’s fight against corruption. The result is that the daily news coming from the Caucasus sounds more like war coverage, including attacks on well-known religious figures, government ministers and even Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.
It is no longer possible to explain the spike in violence on the seasonal factor — that insurgents are most active in the spring and summer. In Ingushetia, the policies of Yevkurov have caused fear not only among militants, but also corrupt officials who had grown fat under the republic’s previous leader. In Chechnya, the reason for the troubles is the political and human costs associated with the policies of Kadyrov, who is hated as much as he is loved by the population. What started as the Kremlin’s attempt to “Chechenize” the conflict in the republic — that is, to convert it into a domestic struggle rather than one between Russian troops and local forces — has now turned into a “Kadyrovization” of the problem, with all of its numerous drawbacks. As a result, Moscow is becoming increasingly annoyed with Kadyrov’s absolutism and the way his strong loyalty to the Kremlin is coupled with attempts to transform Chechnya into something bordering on an independent state. Neither can Russia’s leaders be too happy about the murders in Moscow and Dubai of the Yamadayev brothers, who had connections with the siloviki, or the recent killing of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova in Chechnya. All of these murders have been linked in one way or another to Kadyrov.
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Carnegie Endowment for International Peace