Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 39


Tensions are continuing to run high along the border between North Ossetia and Ingushetia, where a group of North Ossetian vigilantes temporarily seized a checkpoint last weekend. The vigilantes, said to include relatives of Beslan hostages, demanded that the authorities bar Chechens and Ingush from entering North Ossetia. A North Ossetian Interior Ministry official told the Associated Press that top local security officials quickly came to the scene and talked with the vigilantes for two hours, finally persuading them to leave peacefully.


Illegal oil production is creating an environmental crisis in Chechnya, according to a report aired by Russia’s state-controlled television on October 23 and monitored by the BBC. Correspondent Mikhail Popov told viewers that “even under the Soviet Union, Grozny was one of the top five towns suffering from environmental problems. Now most of the oil-extraction plants are closed, but the town is even more clouded in smoke.” The broadcast quoted the pro-Moscow administration’s health ministry as estimating that more than 40 percent of Chechnya’s children are suffering from bronchitis—caused largely by the inhalation of petroleum fumes.


“Let us consider Chechnya’s well-known oil deposits. Although they are not huge, nevertheless three or four million tons of high-quality oil should yield a minimum of 150 to 200 million dollars a year. But that sum is being squandered! Do you know of even one case of an oil-tank truck being blown up in Chechnya? I don’t. It’s obvious that both sides in this conflict are guarding this [underground] business with especially great care. For them the protection of oil is far more important than the safety of peaceful civilians. This is a clear example of the influence of the factor of corruption.” –Ruslan Khasbulatov, former speaker of the Russian federal parliament, in an interview with Sergei Tkachuk of Novye izvestia published on October 22.