Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 100

Meanwhile, the situation in Makhachkala, capital of the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, appears to have returned to normal after last week’s turmoil, in which armed gunmen seized a government building in the center of the city. The gunmen, supporters of the republic’s influential Khachilaev brothers, left the building after the republic government gave in to many of their demands. No reprisals are to be taken against the gunmen. A commission is being set up to investigate the incident and will include Khachilaev supporters. Emergency sessions of the republic’s policy-setting State Council and of the Dagestani People’s Assembly will consider the gunmen’s demand that, in the future, the republic’s chief executive should be elected by popular vote. (Rossiiskaya gazeta, May 23; RIA Novosti, May 24)

Yesterday’s Security Council meeting assumed oversight of policy toward Russia’s North Caucasus in general, and tasked a special government body, to be headed by deputy prime minister Vladimir Khristenko, with drafting and implementing a program of social and economic measures. (ORT. May 25)

According to the newspaper Izvestia, last week’s unrest in Makhachkala was linked with the activities of the city’s new mayor, Said Amirov, who has set as his main goal the imposition of law and order in the capital. The strongest blow struck by the new government was the closing of an open-air market. The market, according to its owners, brought in 18 million new rubles (about US$3 million) a month. It was controlled by four groups, one of them run by the Khachilaev brothers. The closure of the market meant that traders would move to new markets and their protection money would go to new groups of racketeers. (Izvestia, May 23)

Makhachkala Mayor Said Amirov is one of the most charismatic figures in Dagestani politics. He has already suffered more than ten assassination attempts, one of which left him crippled and confined to a wheelchair. In the opinion of many Dagestani analysts, Amirov has close links to organized crime. In the mid-1980s, he was chairman of the republic’s consumer cooperatives–a position which, under local conditions, guaranteed its holder a tremendous income.