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
Amid ongoing counter-terrorism campaign by security forces, continuing violence in Dagestan included police officer and civilian killed in attack on police car in Khasavyurt district 5 Sept; authorities reported one assailant also killed, identified as militant group leader Valid Motsaev, alleged to have links to Islamic State (ISIS). In Zaterechny district, authorities 6 Sept reported four militants killed in two separate counter-terrorist operations, including Dagestani with alleged links to ISIS. In Chechnya, concerns mounted over Zelimkhan Bakayev, Moscow-based singer who went missing after arriving in republic early Aug; Chechen information minister 19 Sept warned against linking Bakayev’s disappearance with politics. International Human Rights Group 15 Sept reported five family members of imprisoned militant Abbas Kuzhulov had been kidnapped by Chechen police; Kuzhulov later reported killed by landmine following raid by police in Vedeno district. Chechen court 6 Sept sentenced two men to five years prison for “attempt to leave for Syria”; relatives claimed security forces tortured them into confessing. In North Ossetia’s Mozdok district, unknown assailants 21 Sept attacked police station, injuring three officers. Series of anonymous bomb threats forced evacuation of dozens of buildings in Dagestan, North Ossetia and elsewhere in Russia during month. North Caucasus military court 18 Sept found two women guilty of plotting terrorist attack in Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia. Relatives of Chechens named by Novaya Gazeta’s July report on Jan 2017 extrajudicial executions appealed to Russian High Commissioner for Human Rights Tatiana Moskalkova. Moskalkova visited Chechnya 19-21 Sept to investigate reports: confirmed some victims, two presented to her as alive; Moskalkova expressed dissatisfaction with work of local authorities and insisted on federal level investigation. Leader of Dagestan Ramazan Abdulatipov late Sept announced his resignation.
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