Saturday, June 25, 2005


On June 4 a "sweep" operation (zachistka) - of a sudden and savage type that occurs in Chechnya almost daily - was carried out in the village of Borozdinovskaya in the northeastern part of the republic by a group of armed law enforcement agents whose identity has not so far been established. The raid, in which one villager was killed and 11 were abducted, triggered the exodus to neighbouring Daghestan of several hundred local families, many of whom are Avars, an ethnic minority mainly represented in Daghestan.

On June 22 Dmitry Kozak, Putin's special envoy to the Southern Federal District,made a visit to Borozdinovskaya and, in an unusual acknowledgement of the arbitrary suffering inflicted on local civilians during the past six years of war, callled the raid "an act of sabotage directed against Chechnya, Daghestan, and Russia," and vowed that those responsible would be apprehended and punished. He has since laid the blame for the raid on the Vostok unit, which is part of the 42nd Russian army and is comprised mostly of Chechens. But Vostok's commander, Sulim Yamadayev, has claimed that his forces were not responsible for the reprisals.

From an RIA Novosti commentary:
The immediate consequences of this act can be very serious indeed. A new epicenter of inter-ethnic tensions can emerge in the Russian North Caucusus, like the one between Ossetians and Ingushes, when not separate groups of gunmen but a significant part of the population are ready to take part in the hostilities. However, so far the authorities are able to contain the conflict within more or less acceptable limits, preventing it from escalating. To do so they have to return the Avars home quickly, to ensure their relative security, to complete the investigation and name the offenders, as well as to pay compensations to the victims and help them to improve their living conditions. Mr. Kozak is trying to push the authorities in that direction.

Yet even if this task is solved, there will be another large set of problems left, concerning those who carried out the cleansing in Borozdinovskaya, as well as dozens and hundreds of similar operations in other Chechen villages.

Even if Moscow decides to at least reprimand the organizers of these cleansings, it will seriously jeopardize the fragile stability in the republic. Many representatives of the federal center openly call fighters of pro-Russian Chechen units bandits. As a result, the central authorities find themselves in a very unenviable situation: on the one hand, they are trying to stop cleansings, on the other, they put up with them.

After the tragedy in Borozdinovskaya, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office launched criminal proceedings on charges of kidnapping and extortion. Vladimir Kalita, deputy military prosecutor of Chechnya, maintains that investigators "are shooting off weapons and identifying them."

Meanwhile the Avars who left Borozdinovskaya refuse to return home even after their meeting with Mr. Kozak. They refused to talk to a special state Chechen commission set up to look into the incident. They agreed to negotiate their return only after the 11 people who had disappeared during the cleansing are returned.

Mr. Kozak says "the North Caucasus will perish in flames if people start re-settling in line with ethnic principles." He and the Chechen authorities are trying their best to persuade the villagers to return home.

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