Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 17

News agencies reported on April 26 that one man was killed and four civilians and 12 policemen injured when police clashed with protesters in Dagestan’s Dokuzparinsky district. “One of demonstrators, 34-year-old Makhachkala resident Murad Lagmetov, got a lethal bullet wound, another four civilians got bullet wounds,” the Dagestani Interior Ministry’s press service told Itar-Tass. “A crack policeman also got a leg bullet wound, another 11 crack policemen got various bodily injuries, as the protesters hurled stones at them and beat them up with sticks.”

The Associated Press on April 26 quoted a local police spokesman, Dadash Gadzhimuradov, as saying that the violence began after demonstrators blocked a road in Usukhchai, the district’s main town. He estimated the crowd at about 1,000 and said they had tried to break into local government offices. Itar-Tass reported that the demonstrators demanded that the head of the district administration, Kirimkhan Abasov, be dismissed along with the district prosecutor and police chief. The protesters blocked the Magaramkent-Rutul highway, refusing to disperse or to meet with the republican leadership, and then began hurling stones at policemen, who first responded by firing warning shots in the air. Seventy-four demonstrators were arrested.

According to the AP, footage broadcast by NTV showed protesters, mainly men, confronted by helmeted riot police, holding up posters with slogans reading: “We want honest elections” and “Give the villages their money from the budget.”

Meanwhile, RIA Novosti reported on April 22 that a policeman in the Dagestani city of Buinaksk was injured when a radio-controlled bomb blew up the car in which he and several other policemen were riding. On April 20, police in Makhachkala exchanged fire with passengers in a car that had been stopped for a document check and who reportedly turned out to be terrorist suspects. The driver of the car was wounded, but managed to drive away with the car’s passengers. Kavakzky Uzel reported April 21 that the driver had been subsequently captured.

Dagestani law enforcement officials reported on April 17 that a shoot-out between police and suspected militants had left two policemen and three militants dead. The Associated Press quoted Dagestani Interior Ministry spokeswoman Anzhela Martirosova as saying that a group of up to six gunmen hiding in a wooded area ambushed police searching an area near the village of Nizhny Dzhengutai in the Buinaksk district on April 16. Martirosova said one of the dead was believed to be a leader of Islamic militants in the district, one of the police killed was the head of a local criminal investigation department, and the other was a sergeant in a special unit of the federal Interior Ministry forces. Police were searching for surviving militants, who fled following the fighting, she said.

Aleksandr Khinshtein, the Moskovsky komsomolets correspondent and State Duma deputy, wrote a two-part series for the newspaper about a trip he recently made to Dagestan. The article described the situation in the republic in stark terms. “In Dagestan they have long since grown accustomed to the never-ending terrorist acts and political murders and regard them as an unpleasant but inevitable phenomenon, like the eruption of a volcano or seasonal rain,” he wrote in the first part, published on April 26. “News from the republic sounds like front-line reports. It is rare that a day goes by without attacks or explosions. Generally, this does not surprise us. With one exception: while in Moscow or [St. Petersburg] it is mainly businessmen who are murdered, in Dagestan it is officials and politicians. The obituaries for the ministers, deputies and mayors who have been victims of terror [in Dagestan] in recent years would fully take up half a [newspaper] type page. The mourning list of police—there’s not at all enough room for it.”

The other big problem in Dagestan, according to Khinshtein, is corruption. “It is very difficult to separate political murders from ordinary criminal [ones],” he wrote in the second part of the series, published on April 27. “The high post of the victim means absolutely nothing. Deputies, ministers, the heads of cities and districts, are being shot and blown up not only by terrorists. It is being done with no less fervor by their own colleagues. Insane corruption, when everything and everyone is sold and not a single post, even the most insignificant one, can be occupied for free – here is yet another reason for the invincibility of extremism in the Caucasus. After all, when the habit of terror gets into your blood, the resolution of any problem is found automatically… In the past, people challenged each other to duels. Today in Dagestan, trip wires and home-made mines have taken the place of dueling pistols.”