August 12, 2008
Contents Introduction Recent Developments in the North Caucasus Chechnya Ingushetia Dagestan Other Areas of the North Caucasus Contributions to Instability Implications for Russia International Response Implications for U.S. Interests
In recent years, there have not been major terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus (1) on the scale of the June 2004 raid on security offices in the town of Nazran (in Ingushetia), where nearly 100 security personnel and civilians were killed, or the September 2004 attack at the Beslan grade school (in North Ossetia), where 300 or more civilians were killed. This record, in part, could be attributed to government tactics. For instance, the Russian Interior (police) Ministry reported that its troops had conducted over 850 sweep operations ("zachistki") in 2007 in the North Caucasus, in which they surround a village and search every house, ostensibly in a bid to apprehend terrorists. Critics of the operations allege that the troops frequently engage in pillaging and gratuitous violence and are responsible for kidnapings for ransom and "disappearances" of civilians. (2)
However, in recent months there reportedly have been increasingly frequent smaller-scale attacks against government targets. For example, on June 12-15, 2008, terrorist attacks took place in Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. In a village in Chechnya, 20-60 guerrillas attacked homes belonging to government officials and policemen, took hostages, and reportedly killed or wounded over a dozen people. In Ingushetia, an explosion leveled a store in Nazran and killed four people. Although the cause of the explosion was unclear, others deemed to be terrorist-related had occurred in the republic in previous days. In Dagestan, a weapons cache was discovered, alleged terrorists were killed during a police operation, and a bomb was defused. Additionally, many ethnic Russian and other non-native civilians have been murdered or have disappeared, which has spurred the migration of most of the nonnative population from the North Caucasus.
The Commander of the Joint Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, Major General Nikolay Sivak, announced that seventeen Russian troops had been killed in counter-terrorist operations during the first half of 2008. (3) According to the Interior Ministry Forces Commander, General Nikolay Rogozhkin, "there are no more than 400-600 militants left and they keep migrating from one republic to another," and they receive funding from the West. (4)
Commenting on the violence, Russian analyst Sergey Markedonov suggested that Islamic extremism appeared responsible for these and many other incidents in Chechnya, that grievances against the local leadership by various groups could have been behind incidents in Ingushetia, and that inter-ethnic disputes as well as Islamic extremism might be factors in incidents in Dagestan. (5) In late June 2008, Colonel-General Gennadiy Troshev, adviser to the Russian president and former commander of the Joint Group of Forces in the North Caucasus, stated that "all large organized armed groups in Chechnya have been eliminated, defeated or dispersed. The remaining small disconnected armed groups [have moved to] Dagestan and Ingushetia." Nonetheless, he warned that "it is too soon to say that the situation in [Chechnya] as well as in the entire North Caucasus has completely normalized." (6)
Recent Developments in the North Caucasus
Chechnya. Some observers have argued that Russia's efforts to suppress the separatist movement in its Chechnya region have been the most violent in Europe in recent years in terms of ongoing military and civilian casualties. (7) In late 1999, Russia's then-Premier Putin ordered military, police, and security forces to enter the breakaway Chechnya region. By early 2000, these forces occupied most of the region. High levels of fighting continued for several more years, and resulted in thousands of Russian and Chechen casualties and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. In 2005, then-Chechen rebel leader Abdul-Khalim Saydullayev decreed the formation of a Caucasus Front against Russia among Islamic believers in the North Caucasus, in an attempt to widen Chechnya's conflict with Russia.
The high levels of conflict in Chechnya appeared to ebb markedly after mid-decade with the killing, capture, or surrender of leading Chechen insurgents. However, Russian security forces and pro-Moscow Chechen forces still contend with residual insurgency. Remaining rebels have split into two basic groups, one led by Doka Umarev, who emphasizes jihad, and the other a more disparate group represented by Akhmed Zakayev, who stresses independence for Chechnya more than jihad. Reportedly, Zakayev has little or no influence over paramilitary operations. Umarev allegedly attempted to replace Zakayev as Chechnya's European emissary with the father of the terrorist who led hostage-taking at a Moscow theater in 2002. In late 2007, Umarev proclaimed the goal of an "Emirate of the Caucasus."
Russia's pacification policy has involved setting up a pro-Moscow regional government and transferring more and more local security duties to this government. An important factor in Russia's seeming success in Chechnya has been reliance on pro-Moscow Chechen clans affiliated with regional president Ramzan Kadyrov. Police and paramilitary forces under his authority allegedly have committed flagrant abuses of human rights, including by holding the relatives of insurgents as hostages under threat of death until the insurgents surrendered.
Russia's efforts to rebuild the largely devastated region have been impressive but reportedly are undermined by rampant corruption. Some types of crimes against civilians reportedly have …