Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 149

On the evening of July 29, a crowd of about a thousand people, many of them armed, burst into a camp for Ingush repatriates in the village of Tarskoe, in North Ossetia’s Prigorodny district. Eyewitnesses claim that officers from the North Ossetian Interior Ministry (MVD) were among the attackers. The camp was completely destroyed, and the mob beat Ingush refugees and tried to lynch seven of them. No fatalities were reported since a mobile detachment of the Russian MVD arrived on the scene and helped the victims escape back to Ingushetia. Ingush president Ruslan Aushev appealed again to President Boris Yeltsin to declare direct presidential rule in Prigorodny district. (Itar-Tass, July 30)

On the eve of last week’s Russian Security Council meeting devoted to the Ossetian-Ingush conflict, Aushev warned that the situation would deteriorate if his call for presidential rule was ignored. And, in fact, the situation in Prigorodny heated up the day after Moscow made it clear that it did not intend to heed Aushev’s request. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 22, 31)

Although the accuracy of Aushev’s warning has now prompted veiled accusations in the Russian press that the Ingush authorities themselves provoked this latest incident, another explanation is more probable. The majority of the Ossetian population of Prigorodny district is categorically opposed to the return of Ingush refuges. The attitude of the Ossetian authorities is similar. "Don’t forget that many Ossetian families lost members in the 1992 conflict. The wounds from that tragedy have not yet healed. Many Ossetians see the Ingush as enemies. Forcing repatriation could lead to a new tragedy between our peoples," the chief of administration of Prigorodny district, Pavel Tedeev, told the Monitor earlier this month. It seems likely that, alarmed by Moscow’s renewed attention to the situation in Prigorodny, local Ossetians resolved to deter returning refugees and slow the pace of Ingush repatriation.

The new spiral of tension in Prigorodny is a direct result of Moscow’s amorphous nationalities policy. The Kremlin refused Aushev’s call for direct presidential rule in Prigorodny, but has not worked out an alternative plan for resolving the basic conflict, which remains essentially unchanged.

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