Friday, June 18, 2004

 

Chaos in the Caucasus

Nick Paton Walsh of the Guardian writes about the growing violence in Ingushetia, including the disappearance of Rashid Ozdoyev, a senior aide to the state prosecutor of Ingushetia who was charged with investigating abuses by Russian forces. And who is responsible for the disappearance (and much of the violence)? Why, purportedly, the Russian federal security service (FSB). One has to feel sympathy for Ozdoyev's father, who believes so strongly that justice rules at the highest levels of Russian government. "If Putin or even someone near him heard about this then they would definitely get my son back to me," he says. "I think he is alive. At least, I wish that to be so." If Vladimir Putin's record is consistent on one thing, it's that power trumps justice on his priorities list. This has been clear in the case of Chechnya and now it's spilling over the border.
Ingushetia was the safe haven to which Chechen refugees fled during a decade of violence. Yet in the last few months at least 40 people have been abducted, mostly taken from their homes by "masked men in camouflage", a description reminiscent of the brutal conduct of Russian troops in Chechnya.

The human rights group Memorial calculates that the rate of abductions here, relative to the population, is higher than its troubled neighbour's.
And how is this justified? Stop me if you've heard this one before:
Russian hardliners say terrorists are operating freely in Ingushetia. Yet some analysts say these claims are fuelled by their need to justify maintaining troop numbers there.

A law enforcement official said: "The military want to merge Ingushetia and Chechnya into one region. This is easier for them, and will create further instability. War means money to these people."
And so the world reaps the harvest of Bush's "war on terrorism." As long as Putin can pull a few of these out of his hat when it counts, Bush & co. will allow him a free hand in the Caucasus.

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