Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 02/2009

North Caucasus Weekly - - Volume IX, Issue 48

December 2008

North Caucasus Weekly (formerly Chechnya Weekly), The Jamestown Foundation



* Rights Activists: Religious Repression Feeds Dagestan's Insurgency
* New Ingush Rights Council Flooded with Complaints * Spain Agrees to
Extradite Former Rebel Commander
* Briefs
* Chechen Interior Minister Tries to Play Down the Insurgency
By Mairbek Vatchagaev
* New Tensions Surface in Ossetian-Ingush Relations
By Valery Dzutsev


Rights Activists: Religious Repression Feeds Dagestan's Insurgency

At a human rights conference held in Moscow on December 10--which was International Human Rights day, marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day--Lev Ponomaryev, the veteran activist who leads the For Human Rights movement, called for holding public hearings on the situation in Dagestan in the near future. Ponomaryev invited Vladimir Lukin, Russia's human rights ombudsman, as well as representatives of the Public Chamber, the Kremlin-created consultative body, to attend such hearings. Also at the conference was Svetlana Isayeva, co-chairwoman of the Mothers of Dagestan for Human Rights group. According to Kavkazky Uzel, Isayeva said that a "civil war" is taking place in the republic. "People are losing their lives every day," she said. "[Dagestan's president] Mukhu Aliyev has taken an incomprehensible position, saying that crime in the republic is not high, that the figures show this," she said. "He says that 40 law-enforcers were killed this year. Is that really a small number of victims? The 40 people who died were only among the police; that doesn't count the [civilian] people killed during special operations." A resident of Dagestan's capital Makhachkala, Irina Aleksandrovskaya, told the December 10 conference in Moscow that she and her family had come under pressure from the authorities after she converted to Islam. "I am Russian, I have two children, also Russian, we recently converted to Islam," Kavkazky Uzel quoted her as saying. "It was a completely conscious decision; no one pushed me into it. My acquaintances reacted differently to it--some with respect, some with understanding, some without understanding. But what amazed me was the attitude of the law-enforcement bodies. Our family was immediately made note of. The district police inspector started coming to us regularly, wanting to know who was behind my decision, what organizations, who pushed me into it. When I got tired of all of this, I said that I have the right to freedom of religion. After that, they organized a storming of my apartment." Aleksandrovskaya continued: "People in masks burst in without showing any documents, put my son and me on the floor and began to look for literature of 'a certain orientation'. They searched for a long time and, not finding anything, they couldn't come up with anything better than planting a grenade that did not have a pin or a fuse in my underwear drawer." Following that incident, Aleksandrovskaya said, her son was arrested for illegal possession of a grenade. She said: "The judge called me in and said: 'I understand you; I respect a person who at the age of 40 takes the decision to accept a faith, but I can't do anything. If I acquit your son, the law-enforcement bodies will have to launch a criminal case against the police officer who planted the grenade." According to Aleksandrovskaya, her son was given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence. "My husband was several times called down to the UBOP [regional anti-organized crime department] and they tried to influence him, claimed that I have Wahhabi tendencies and that he should divorce me," she said. "He said he would not disown his wife only because she adopted Islam. After that, my husband, an officer with the State Narcotics Control Committee, lost his right to carry arms and was passed over for promotion in rank." She concluded: "Dagestan is a Muslim republic. And it is necessary to have understanding that people adopt and profess Islam, [and] revere its traditions. I and my daughter wear hijab, we go to the mosque, we observe fasting. The only thing we haven't done so far is perform the hajj, but I hope that this will happen in the future. Islam is above all a moral religion, and I don't know why the law-enforcement bodies are so up in arms against us." Irina Aleksandrovskaya's son Igor Tonkonogov told Kavkazky Uzel that he had been called in for questioning at the headquarters of Dagestan's UBOP on December 9 but that his interrogators had been vague about what they wanted from him. "During the interview they showed me photographs of people I don't know and asked where I was and what I saw, and whether I was somehow connected with these people," he told the website. "I answered that I knew nothing. The problems began when we adopted Islam: we then immediately became suspect." Kavkazky Uzel reported that it was told by an UBOP spokesman that Tonkonogov had not been questioned on December 9. The spokesman refused to comment on the statement made by Dagestani Interior Minister Adilgerei Magomedtagirov on November 20 that his ministry had registered 1,370 "Wahhabis" (North Caucasus Weekly, November 26). On the other hand, an unidentified official in the Makhachkala police department (GUVD) told the website: "And why shouldn't we have lists of them, when they have lists of us? Because the members of the gang formations have lists of law-enforcement personnel." The official refused to say who is on the lists kept by the law-enforcement agencies, but asked whether members of the republic's jamaats are on them, he replied, "The most active, yes." Kavkazky Uzel quoted a Makhachkala resident, Salim-Girei Guseinov, as saying that a minimum of 15 percent of Dagestan's population are adherents of radical Islam. As the website noted, that figure, if true, is ten times higher than the 1,370 people that Dagestani Interior Minister Magomedtagirov says have been registered as "Wahhabis." Meanwhile, human rights activists say that repressive actions by the local authorities in Dagestan are having the effect of making the republic's armed Islamist underground more active. Kavkazky Uzel on November 26 quoted Oleg Orlov, chairman of the Memorial human rights center, as saying that violations of human rights by law-enforcement personnel during special operations and investigations could end up producing new recruits for the republic's Islamist insurgency and widening its base of support among Dagestan's inhabitants. "Pervasive corruption, the difficult socio-economic situation, crude violations of citizens' voting rights, police brutality, and one has seen recently open pressure by the authorities on the press," Orlov said at a press conference at Memorial's Moscow offices on November 24 on the subject of security and human rights in Dagestan. "This is the background against which the armed opposition in Dagestan continues." Orlov cited the case of Nariman Mamedyarov, who, he said, was abducted and tortured by security agents and forced to confess to crimes he did not commit. Noting that similar processes are taking place in Ingushetia, Orlov said that Dagestan's insurgents are becoming more active, attacking law-enforcement personnel, civilian officials and clergymen. "Policemen are losing their lives," he said. "Explosions and armed attacks are taking place in various regions of the republic. The militants are conducting a genuine hunt for the top officers of the law-enforcement agencies. Just since the beginning of September four majors, a lieutenant-colonel and a colonel have been killed in attacks." Svetlana Isayeva of Mothers of Dagestan for Human Rights said during Memorial's November 24 press conference that in order to end the bloodshed, a "dialogue" should be conducted with members of the armed Islamic underground. "The goal of such a dialogue is to give the militants the opportunity to return to peaceful life." According to Kavkazky Uzel, those who spoke at the November 24 press conference in Moscow said that the main conditions for such a dialogue should include the guarantee of an amnesty for those militants who do not have blood on their hands, a guarantee that criminal cases involving those involved in armed attacks will be carried out in strict conformity with the law, that torture and other illegal methods of coercion will not be used on those suspected of having committed crimes, that militants who surrender under an amnesty are given access to lawyers from the moment they put down their arms and that suspects and/or their relatives are allowed to hire lawyers of their own choosing. "Control over guaranteeing the above-mentioned conditions could be carried out by a special commission made up of representatives of the federal center and local power structures, as well as the clergy and wider public," said Svetlana Isayeva, stressing that none of this will work without public control over the process of returning the militants to peaceful life. She also said that restoring peace in the republic will be possible only if religious persecution in the republic ceases. "The persecution of Salafis in Dagestan once again validates the belief of human rights advocates that religion in and of itself must not be considered a sufficient basis for legal prosecution," Isayeva said. Another participant in the November 24 press conference, Memorial staffer Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, told Kavkazky Uzel that the armed conflict in Dagestan is religious in nature. Referring specifically to the list of 1,370 "Wahhabis" in the republic, she said: "In and of itself, the Salafi current probably does not represent a particular threat to society: people live and carry out their rites as they see fit. However, during the past decade in the Republic of Dagestan, the official authorities have essentially equated Salafism with terrorism and banditry." New Ingush Rights Council Flooded with Complaints Interfax reported on December 12 that the new Human Rights Council set up by Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov had received complaints from over 150 people during its first few days of operation. The council's chairman, Azamat Nalgiyev, told the news agency that most of the petitions were about abductions and killings in the republic, while others were from citizens seeking protection from abuses by state officials and still others were from people illegally fired from various agencies and organizations. He said some of the problems had been quickly solved. Meanwhile, Ingushetia's insurgents continued their campaign of violence aimed at various targets across the republic. On December 14, bomb disposal experts defused a powerful improvised explosive device discovered on a road on the outskirts of Nazran and another found near a shop in the city of Malgobek, Interfax reported. The opposition website reported that a shop that sells alcohol in Malgobek was hit by an explosion on December 14 that seriously damaged the shop but caused no casualties. Unidentified gunmen fired on a car carrying policeman in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya in Ingushetia's Sunzha district on December 13. Interfax reported that two policemen were wounded and hospitalized. Earlier that day, the news agency reported that an unidentified gunman, apparently using a sniper rifle, had wounded a policeman near the Sunzha district police building in the village of Troitskaya, while in a separate incident, unidentified attackers fired at a police station on the outskirts of Nazran. No one was hurt in the second incident, and the attackers escaped. Also on December 13, a serviceman with an Ingush Interior Ministry's special forces unit, Police Warrant Officer Dzhabrail Tsechoyev, was shot and serious wounded on the Caucasus federal highway in Nazran, RIA Novosti reported. That same day, a resident of the village of Dolakovo was shot dead by unknown attackers in his car in the center of Nazran. On December 12, a car in which Akhmed Khashagulgov, the head of the Investigative Committee department in Malgobek, was blown up, wounding Khashagulgov. Kavkazky Uzel reported that on the same day, a large explosion went off near the main market in the city of Karabulak. On December 11, unknown gunmen fired on policemen in the village of Troitskaya, but no one was hurt in the attack, RIA Novosti reported. The press service of the investigations department of the Investigative Committee for Ingushetia reported on December 27 that the number of attacks on law-enforcement personnel and military servicemen in the republic increased more than two times since the beginning of 2008 compared with the analogous period in 2007. The department reported that there were 167 such attacks during the first eleven months of 2008--a 125 percent increase over the first eleven months of last year. It also said that there have been 68 murders in Ingushetia since the start of the year-- 12 more than during the same period in 2007, constituting a 31.4 percent increase. Spain Agrees to Extradite Former Rebel Commander Spain on December 13 agreed to extradite a Chechen wanted on terrorism charges, Murad Gasayev, to Russia in connection with the June 2004 attack on government buildings in Ingushetia. According to the Associated Press, Gasayev was arrested by police in an apartment in the eastern port city of Valencia in December 2006, a year after he had fled to Spain. The news agency quoted an anonymous Spanish Justice Ministry official as saying that Gasayev was wanted on charges of belonging to an armed group and committing terrorist acts, including murder, and that the extradition decision cannot be appealed. Amnesty International, which called on Spain not to extradite Gasayev because he risks being tortured if handed over to Russia, reported that while the Russian authorities want him on suspicion of involvement in the June 2004 attack in Ingushetia, Gasayev claimed he was detained in Ingushetia in August 2004 by five masked law enforcement officials, who took him to the central office of the Federal Security Service in Ingushetia, where he was tortured and questioned about the attack. He was not charged, and after three days of torture he was taken in a van and released in farmland outside the city. Amnesty International noted that according to the Memorial human rights group, some suspected of involvement in the June 2004 attack who were investigated by the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office directorate in the Southern Federal District were tortured and denied a fair trial. Amnesty International said it "interviewed several people whose statements support these findings." According to Amnesty International, Gasayev fled to Spain in 2005 and claimed asylum but his claim was rejected on the basis of confidential information provided by the Spanish authorities that neither he nor his lawyer were ever given access to. Separately, former Chechen rebel field commander Islam Dzhanibekov was found murdered in Istanbul, Turkey, on December 9. reported on December 11 that three 7.62mm shell casings were found at the scene of the crime and that investigators believe he was shot with a pistol equipped with a silencer. The website also cited the Turkish newspaper Sabah, which quoted Turkish police sources as saying that the bullets indicated the Russian special services may have been involved in the murder. According to Sabah, the murder weapon may have been an MSP Groza silent pistol, which has been used by Russian spetsnaz and other special services personnel for assassinations since the 1970s. compared Dzhanibekov's murder to the February 2004 murder of Chechen separatist leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Doha, Qatar, by two Russians who were apparently officers of the GRU [the Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate]. They were arrested by the Qatari authorities but eventually returned to Russia after Vladimir Putin personally interceded on their behalf with the Emir of Qatar, the website reported. Kavkazky Uzel on December 12 quoted an anonymous Chechen security official as denying Russian involvement in Dzhanibekov's murder and saying that the murder could have been the result of a dispute within the Chechen rebel ranks over financing. According to Kavkazky Uzel, Dzhanibekov was originally a messenger for Chechen rebel field commander Shamil Basayev and then recruited young Chechens to train in camps set up by the Saudi-born Chechen rebel field commander in Chechnya's Vedeno district. After funding terrorist attacks in the towns of Mineralnye Vody and Yessentuki in 2001, Dzhanibekov was put on the federal wanted list and fled to Turkey. Briefs Security Forces and Militants Battle in Argun Interfax reported on December 18 that two law-enforcement officers were killed and six wounded in a shootout with militants in the Chechen town of Argun. A source in the Combined Group of Forces in the North Caucasus told the news agency that the gun battle took place after Interior Ministry troops and police blockaded a group of militants in a dwelling in the city and that the building caught fire at the end of the battle. The source said that an Interior Ministry serviceman and a policeman were killed, as were two of the militants. Four Policemen Wounded in Dagestani Bombings Two separate bombings targeting police cars in the Dagestani city of Khasavyurt on December 17 wounded four policemen, Itar-Tass reported. The first bombing took place as a police patrol car was crossing an engineering bridge not far from the village of Osman-Yurt. One policeman was wounded in that blast. Several minutes later, a second explosion took place when another police car arrived at the scene of the first bombing. The second blast wounded three more policemen. Chechen Interior Minister Tries to Play Down the Insurgency By Mairbek Vatchagaev At a meeting with the heads of the combat detachments of Chechnya's district and municipal internal affairs departments on December 5, Chechnya's interior minister, Police Lieutenant General Ruslan Alkhanov, said that in the past month alone 10 members of the illegal armed formation were killed and 28 were detained on the territory of Chechnya ( v-chechne-v.html). It is worth noting that the news reports issued by the media outlets of the Chechen militants provide more figures about the police officers and servicemen from the Russian armed forces killed in Chechnya. Still, it is possible to infer even from the information provided by the Russian mass media that the number of Chechen police casualties as imagined by Chechen Interior Minister Alkhanov. For instance, five representatives of the law-enforcement authorities were killed and 22 were wounded in Chechnya over the last month alone. The figures for those who were killed do not include civilians, who were assassinated by the militants for their collaboration with the pro-Moscow police: if you add them in, the true number of people killed in the republic over the past month is 12. (These numbers are based on Russian mass media reports during the month of November.) In other words, nine years since the start of combat actions in Chechnya, the number of killed and wounded has remained approximately the same as before. That is why to talk of success in Chechnya still remains a stretch of the imagination. Of course, it is possible to agree with Lieutenant General Alkhanov's statement that the militants do not carry out conventional combat activities and generally avoid open clashes with the armed forces and police when they conduct special operations ( This statement, however, appears in reality to be less a rebuke than an admission of the obvious fact that the tactics of the Chechen militants have long shifted to partisan warfare; indeed, this was news in 2002, but not at the end of 2008. The aforementioned accounts by Chechen Interior Minister Alkhanov began to appear in the Chechen press in the form of monthly reports about work carried out by his ministry. It is noteworthy that the reports, which are released to the press, routinely omit information about personnel losses incurred by the law enforcement authorities. Needless to say, the destruction of homes of people suspected of supporting or participating in the resistance movement by the pro-Russian police are also conveniently ignored. That is exactly what happened on the night of December 5 in the villages of Tevzen and Khatuni in Chechnya's Vedeno district where, according to the Islamist separatist Kavkaz-Center website, the homes of the relatives of Sheikh Salakh were burned in these villages ( The almost blind Sheikh Salakh is famous as a fierce supporter of armed struggle against the pro-Moscow authorities in Chechnya and is popular among members of the resistance movement. This action by the police officers was apparently in response to the operation conducted by the militants on December 3, when they entered the village of Agishty in the Shali district (this village is located close to the villages of Tevzen and Khatuni in the Vedeno district) and killed the entire family of the former head of the village administration, Khozha Saraliyev, including his son and wife. They then proceeded to burn his house and car. This was allegedly done for their collaboration with the Russian special services. A day later, retaliation came from the Russian side when the houses of the suspected participants in the aforementioned execution of the Saraliyev family were set ablaze. The arson phenomenon--involving the houses of resistance members being burned to the ground--has thus far been characteristic only of Chechnya among the republics of the North Caucasus. This has become a kind of instrument of pressure on militants and their relatives as well as on anyone who dares to criticize Ramzan Kadyrov for the fact that an increasing number of young men are joining the ranks of militants in the mountains while the authorities can do nothing to stop them. The only thing the authorities have not taken into account is that every time their subordinates carry out similar actions, they warm up the interest of young people in the militant cause. Meanwhile, despite the arrival of the fall-winter period, Chechen militants have not reduced as the number of attacks against representatives of the pro-Russian authorities in Chechnya. Moreover, it is possible to speak about the emergence of a militant underground not just in one particular region of Chechnya, but across the different parts of the republic. Judging by the fact that the operations to detain militants are now taking place in Grozny (, it is obvious that the militants have become active in the Chechen capital. The mine war has not abated and is claiming the lives of new victims every day. On November 30, two Russian military servicemen were blown up by a landmine close to the village of Elistanzhi ( It should be noted here that the Vedeno district prefect, Shamil Magomadov, resides in that village. He is a confidant of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. This means that security cannot be guaranteed even in a village where a high-ranking Chechen government official resides, and the landmines laid at the entrance to the village on November 30 did not represent an isolated incident. Every morning the Russian military must travel the route, which is used by the Russian armed forces on the Elistanzhi-Vedeno highway, in order to methodically clear mines, which are laid the previous night by the militants. It appears that both the militants and pro-Russian power structures are paying increased attention to the foothill region in the Urus-Martan and Achkhoy-Martan districts, where Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov's base of operation is frequently located. RIA Novosti reported on December 8 that a serviceman was wounded in the Urus-Martan district as the result of an armed assault on a column of Chechen Interior Ministry troops. The assault targeted forces that were moving to conduct special operations in the district. In other words, the militants carried out a preventive strike that disrupted a planned operation. The militants have also not forgotten the value of propaganda activities. For instance, on November 15 Ramzan Kadyrov made a statement that he was unable to find a single militant during a combined special operation by the police, Federal Security Service (FSB) and Russian armed forces in Chechnya's Nozhai-Yurt district ( The militants posted an on-line reply in the form of an address posted on YouTube ( In the address, the militants mockingly stated that they themselves were looking for Ramzan Kadyrov and suggested to him that he come to their location. The video by the Emirs of Chechnya's Shali and Nozhai-Yurt districts, Aslanbek and Hussein, was recorded in a forested area. The footage shows approximately 20 militants with another group visible nearby, implying that the gathering included at least 30 people. In the meantime, Sheikh Said Buryatsky, who was once a very popular Islamic theologian among Russian youth and is now a member of Chechen resistance movement, felt it necessary to videotape a response to criticism of his earlier statements in which he urged women to join jihad ( These statements caused a lively discussion in Russian on-line forums (including and, among others). Buryatsky, the chief ideologue of jihad on the territory of Russia, tried to soften his argument by claiming that he meant assistance to those already embarked on the path of jihad. He denied the criticism that his appeal was putatively related to the need to increase the number of militants by inviting women. Buryatsky stressed that there is no shortage of militants and that what he meant was that each must assist the cause of jihad regardless of where one is and in different ways, and not only by taking upon arms. The unsuccessful appeal to women to join the ranks of resistance was a mistake that forced Buryatsky to soften his discourse on the need for women's participation in the jihad. In Chechnya, where the role of women is generally restricted to family life, the aforementioned appeal did not play out in his favor. Yet it is important not to underestimate those young girls who are captivated by Salafi ideology and can consciously decide to join the ranks of the resistance movement. Although thus far they represent isolated cases, the very fact of their existence has been documented ever since the first military campaign in Chechnya in 1994-1996. It should also be recalled that women frequently become willing participants in suicide missions and know full well the fate that awaits them. Dr. Mairbek Vatchagaev is the author of the book, "Chechnya in the 19th Century Caucasian Wars." New Tensions Surface in Ossetian-Ingush Relations By Valery Dzutsev Two factors, a controversial federal law that carves in stone disputed administrative borders between North Ossetia and Ingushetia and an outbreak of violence, are reigniting tensions between the two neighboring North Caucasus republics. At the end of November, President Dmitry Medvedev signed a federal law establishing municipalities in Chechnya and Ingushetia (, November, 24). The two are the last territories that have had no officially established municipalities since contemporary Russian Federation came into existence in the beginning of 1991. The law designates an interim period until the end of 2009 during which the limits of municipalities in both territories should be firmly established. Earlier this month, a consortium of Ingush NGOs addressed the authorities, urging them not to implement the law without reclaiming the disputed territories from North Ossetia to Ingushetia (Kavkazky Uzel, December 13). Ingush activists fear that if Ingushetia establishes municipalities according to the existing administrative borders, they will no longer be able to claim the disputed lands. The Ingush have been laying claims to the right side of the Terek River that cuts across the North Ossetian region of Prigorodny and the region's capital Vladikavkaz. Part of these lands administratively belonged to the Ingush autonomy before 1944, when the Ingush were deported to Central Asia along with Chechens as punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazis. After they were rehabilitated and had their rights restored in 1957, some of their former lands remained under the North Ossetian administration. Land has historically been scarce and highly valued across the North Caucasus. In 1992, after a short but bloody war, most of the Ingush population of North Ossetia, an estimated 30,000-60,000 people, fled or was driven out by the Ossetians into neighboring Ingushetia. Since then, some of the Ingush refugees have returned home, but violence has periodically spoiled relations between the two neighbors. On November 6, a bomb went off near the central market in Vladikavkaz, killing 12 people, including the female suspected suicide bomber ( and Interfax, November 6). The North Ossetian public was quick to put the blame for the explosion on the Ingush, citing the suspect's "Ingush accent" (Gazeta, November 9). Even though North Ossetia had experienced other attacks, no suicide attack had taken place in Vladikavkaz before then. Ten days after the attack, an obscure Chechen militant group Riyadus-Salikhin claimed responsibility for it (, November 15). This group was created by well-known Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and specialized in suicide bombings. The group did not display any activity after the Beslan school hostage crisis in September 2004 and was thought to have disappeared after Basayev's death in the summer of 2006. Unlike the original Riyadus-Salikhin, the latest incarnation of the group appeared to uphold the Ingush cause as opposed to the previous Chechen-Islamic cause of the group headed by Basayev. Their statement in particular cited the alleged killing of an Ingush civilian by North Ossetian policemen earlier in October, recalled Ingush historic grievances and decried the general mistreatment of the Ingush people in North Ossetia. The statement on the website was subsequently redacted, making it shorter and less pointedly anti-Ossetian. Russian interrogators, however, were quick to dismiss an Ingush or Georgian link to the attack: the two Ossetian neighbors, often perceived by the Ossetian public as adversarial, instead attributed the attack to a murky international terrorism ring (Kommersant, November 8). The reported international terrorism link has not gone down well with the Ossetian public, who see the attacks as directed against them by very concrete neighboring adversaries rather than abstract "international Islamic extremists." About one-third of ethnic Ossetians are Muslims. Moscow's unchanging stance against recognizing terror attacks as hate crimes further raised questions among the Ossetian public about its credibility. On December 8, it was revealed that a suspect from Ingushetia thought to have assisted the suicide bomber had been arrested (Kommersant, December 9). The terror attack was accompanied by the high profile killing of Vladikavkaz mayor Vitaly Karayev on November 26. The day after he was killed, another Islamic group, calling itself the Ossetian Jamaat or Kataib al Khoul claimed responsibility for the attack while at the same time denying responsibility for the earlier explosion. This came in stark contrast to all previous statements made by the Islamic militant groups, who would not contradict each other so obviously (, November 27). This could mean that forces other than Islamic militants may have been behind at least one of the attacks and corresponding statements--or even, perhaps, behind both. A fierce and surprising wave of violent events came soon after Ingush President Murat Zyazikov was dismissed from his position at the end of October. The situation in Ingushetia has commonly been referred to for the past several years as a low-grade war. The violent attacks against military and law enforcement personnel, officials and their relatives, as well as human rights abuses against civilians, have become a daily routine in the republic. Signaling a change of approach, Moscow finally gave in to public pressure and dismissed Zyazikov, an unpopular security services general, as president, and replaced him with military intelligence veteran Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. The change in government in Ingushetia comes at a decisive time in the future of the Prigorodny district. The new Ingush president's current tasks seem to be almost irreconcilable. To win over public opinion, he has had to appease Ingush nationalists and at least lay claims to the Prigorodny district or undertake at least some form of action, such as trying to ensure the return of the remaining Ingush refugees. At the same time, he has had to display unconditional loyalty to Moscow, which does not seem to be currently inclined to redraw the contentious administrative border between the two republics. Given these discrepancies, Yevkurov has to deliver on Moscow's expectations to quell violence in Ingushetia. In its turn, North Ossetia's leadership says that the Ossetian-Ingush conflict has been resolved, that all those who wanted to return to their homes have returned and others were resettled. The latest attacks in Vladikavkaz have only added to the Ossetians' belief that the Ingush are the main source of their insecurity. This makes it even more difficult for them to reconcile with the Ingush. However, other forces might be at play here as well. It is well known that the Vladikavkaz mayor was mired in a long battle with alternative political forces, backed by North Ossetia's deputy in the Russia's State Duma, Arsen Fadzayev, and that this may have been a factor in his assassination. Several high-profile police killings preceding the mayor's murder occurred in North Ossetia earlier this year in which the perpetrators were not found. This may suggest that powerful political forces could be behind these attacks. In the absence of elections and healthy democratic process, political struggles often are prone to take a violent form. In a highly unusual move, the head of North Ossetia, Taimuraz Mamsurov, reached out to the heads of Chechnya and Ingushetia "to coordinate efforts to fight against terrorists." Expressing his frustration with the law-enforcement agencies, Mamsurov stated in an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that was published on November 28, "It's enough to walk around and imitate this kind of fight [with terrorists]." Local alliances like this without the explicit participation of Moscow are very unusual in the North Caucasus, especially if these contacts are related to security issues. In addition, the move suggests that Mamsurov does not fully trust the existing federal law-enforcement bodies and that by reaching out to his counterparts, he is trying to establish a parallel system. Valeriy Dzutsev is a Muskie Fellow at the University of Maryland and the former Coordinator for North Caucasus at the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).