On May 9, several explosions and a suicide attack attempt took place in Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Chechnya (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 9). The situation could be called almost normal for the region, which has been plagued by violence in previous years, but with one slight difference. Following the bomb attack on high-ranking officials at the Nalchik hippodrome in Kabardino-Balkaria on May 1, the authorities vowed to elevate security measures on May 9, when Russia celebrates World War Two Victory Day with grandiose parades. However, even heightened security failed to prevent new attacks from happening across the North Caucasus.
This means that the Russian security services and their regional allies are unable to provide safety for the public even for a single day when attacks are expected and additional security precautions have been taken. This also explains why top Russian government officials, like Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, and President, Dmitry Medvedev, invariably arrive in the region unannounced. The security threat is grave and real, while the Russian security services and the government as a whole display an inability to improve the situation on the ground, despite applying crude force to the insurgency and the rebel suspects.
In Dagestan alone there were successive bomb attacks on May 7, 8 and 9. On May 7, one explosion took place at a local railway station in the previously relatively quiet southern Dagestani city of Derbent. The blast killed a civilian and a policeman and wounded several other policemen and civilians (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 11). On May 8, a railway line was destroyed near Dagestan’s capital Makhachkala. On May 9 two explosions took place –one in Kaspiisk and the other in a suburb of Makhachkala– that claimed several lives. The security services say they also found an explosive device in Makhachkala that they managed to dismantle (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 9-10). Over the same period, there were also several small arms attacks.
On May 9, two days after the explosion at the Derbent railway station, the security services in Dagestan killed two people they claimed were the perpetrators of the Derbent attacks (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 10).
However, police claims are not always reliable, as they habitually connect any slain rebel suspect to recent crimes while rarely providing hard supporting evidence. This negligent approach on the part of the law enforcement authorities has become casual, even when they are investigating high profile cases like, for instance, the Moscow metro attack on March 29. That shocking attack in the heart of the Russian capital, which claimed the lives of 40 metro passengers, was attributed to two female suicide bombers who allegedly came from Dagestan. The security services also claimed they had identified several of their accomplices of Dagestani origin. Akhmed Rabadanov, one of the alleged accomplices, was killed by police on April 26. But one of his compatriots anonymously told the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) website that Rabadanov could not have committed the crime as he had been present that day in his home village Novy Kostek. Two other people were kidnapped by the Russian security services from the same village and nobody knows their current whereabouts (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 12).
The police combine extra-legal methods of interrogating rebel suspects with mounting pressure on rights activists in Dagestan, where some dedicated people remain despite being targeted by a campaign of threats and killings. On May 8, security forces blocked Albina Magomedova, a member of the Rights Defense organization, along with her 3-year-old child, in her apartment in Makhachkala. The police did not allow Magomedova to leave her apartment and threatened to shoot her dead as they have allegedly done in similar situations, but eventually backed off from these threats (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 10).
With the Russian security services in the North Caucasus enjoying virtually unchecked powers to kill, destroy homes and kidnap people, the security situation in the region remains dire and shows few signs of improvement.
“The situation with terrorism in the North Caucasus is becoming worse, despite the strengthening of the government’s economic, military and socio-political intervention in the region,” said Levon Batiev, Deputy Director of the southern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, at a press-conference. According to Batiev, while the insurgency has spread geographically, even into the predominantly Russian-speaking Stavropol region, and revived suicide bombings, the authorities’ actions still lack cohesion and coordination (Interfax, May 12).
So far, the creation of the new North Caucasus Federal District uniting almost all of the region’s republics has yielded few visible results in terms of improving the security situation. As the Russian government is under the increasing strain of economic problems and thus has to cut back on its spending in the North Caucasus, even including spending on such pivotal regions like Chechnya, in future the region may display an even higher propensity to violence.