In this Q&A, Crisis Group tapped the views of its Project Director and Analyst in Turkey, Nigar Göksel and Berkay Mandıracı, as well as its Russia and the North Caucasus Project Director, Ekaterina Sokirianskaia.
Originally published in The Guardian
Novaya Gazeta 9 July published names of 27 men reportedly among dozens arrested in security operation following Dec 2016 attack on police in Chechen capital Grozny, and executed 25-26 Jan without trial; Chechen information minister rejected allegations; BBC 27 July reported some families forced to sign declarations that their missing relatives had gone to Syria. Memorial human rights group 27 July issued names and details of thirteen Chechen men missing since Dec 2016, reporting they had been detained by authorities following Dec attack without relatives being informed, one man had died in custody. Ten men reportedly detained in Chechnya early July for criticising republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov after sharing online video clips. Ethnic Chechens and Avars clashed late June/early July in west Dagestan near border with Chechnya, amid historical tensions over land and border; Chechen and Dagestan republic leaders intervened to de-escalate situation, though land conflicts unresolved. Also in Dagestan, unrest among ethnic Nogais over land rights de-escalated with appointment of new head of Nogai district. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov criticised 13 July conviction by Moscow military court of five Chechens for 2015 murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, calling evidence “doubtful”. Associated Press report highlighted issue of forced charitable contributions by Chechens being funnelled to rebuild Syria through Kadyrov Foundation. Dagestan authorities reported they had stopped 190 people planning to travel to Syria during first half of 2017.
China and Russia's separate visions for Central Asia could transform the region’s political and economic landscape as well as relations between the two Eurasian giants. To the smaller, embryonic Central Asian nation states, the new geopolitical realities could offer both economic prosperity as well as worsening instability and conflict.
Russia’s North Caucasus insurgency has gone relatively quiet, as Moscow crushed militants and many left to fight in Syria and Iraq. But longstanding grievances remain and the war may only have widened, as evidenced by the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt and the emergence of new groups swearing allegiance to the Islamic State in Russia itself.
For two decades, the North Caucasus conflict has been among Europe’s deadliest. Recently, victims were less, but risks associated with growing Islamic State (IS) influence in the insurgency are growing. To prevent a new rise in violence, Moscow must promote transparent governance as well as social and economic opportunities in its six North Caucasus republics.
A powerful propaganda machine promotes the “success story” of today’s Chechnya. But its peace is fragile; government repression is used to keep the people at bay while economic inequality, poor social infrastructure, lack of genuine reconciliation and almost full impunity for past abuses reflect the republic’s daily reality.
Stronger democratic institutions are crucial to easing violence in Russia’s North Caucasus, where Europe’s worst armed conflict claimed at least 1,225 victims in 2012 and 495 in the first six months of 2013.
Russia’s North Caucasus region is Europe’s deadliest conflict today, with some 574 deaths already this year, and the killing is unlikely to end soon.
[Local barons in Russia's republics often] consolidate their positions in ministries, place their friends and relations in important posts and use various corrupt practices to siphon off resources.
[The Kremlin hopes] to promote Kadyrov as a brand, as someone who turned the war-torn republic into a peaceful and affluent place, who is loyal to the Putin regime and who promotes conservative values.
They have a reputation for being pretty fearless fighters, which is why they move quite quickly up the hierarchy
Women in the Russian republic of Chechnya have never been under such pressure as they are today. Yet not much has been written about their role, their place in society, and their rights in Chechnya and in other North Caucasus conflicts.
Originally published in Новая Газета
Originally published in World Politics Review