Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 99

The crisis in Dagestan (see the Monitor, May 21) was defused yesterday when the republic government agreed to call an extraordinary meeting of the Dagestani State Council (the republic’s highest executive body) today or tomorrow to address the demands of the group of armed men who had occupied a government building in the center of the capital, Makhachkala. The men are supporters of Russian State Duma deputy Nadir Khachilaev, who heads a prominent Muslim group, the Union of Russian Muslims, and is a leader of Dagestan’s sixth largest ethnic group, the Laks. A key demand is that the republic’s head of state should in future be popularly elected, instead of chosen by the Constitutional Assembly, as is the case at present.

The federal government is clearly taking the crisis in Dagestan seriously. President Yeltsin yesterday announced the formation of a task force led by Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who was urgently recalled from an official visit to France. Stepashin flew to Makhachkala yesterday; interior ministry troops stationed in the region were put on full alert; and a group of fighters from the SOBR (special rapid reaction detachment) has also been sent from Moscow to the republic.