Kabardino-Balkaria’s Crackdown on Rebels and Their Relatives Likely to Boomerang

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 14 Issue: 19

Police in Kabardino-Balkaria conducted operations against the armed resistance and took preventive measures to foil terrorist attacks in the republic throughout the month of September (https://kabardino-balkaria.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/172027/).

At the start of October, a young man was killed in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Baksan district. According to police, he was driving a car and opened fire on officers when they tried to check his ID. RIA Novosti, citing a police source, reported that no one else was hurt in the incident. Police found a 9-millimeter handgun on the slain suspect (www.svoboda.org/content/article/25123898.html).

The incident was peculiar, in that if the police were indeed checking the suspect’s identification papers, how could he have fired shots in such a way that he did not injure even one of them? The police officers could have avoided injuries only if they fired shots at the car from a distance and did not actually check the suspect’s documents. The police identified the slain man as Murat Midov, a 26-year-old resident of the city of Baksan, (https://sk-news.ru/news/accident/36256/). According to the press service of Kabardino-Balkaria’s Ministry of Interior, Midov was a member of the illegal armed group in Baksan district. It is not clear, however, why his name was not on the list of members of the armed resistance posted on the ministry’s website (https://07.mvd.ru/cit/Rozisk).

North Caucasian rebel websites denied the police’s version of events, stating that Midov was not part of the resistance. Moreover, they corrected the police, asserting that the suspect was not a resident of Baksan, but of the village of Zalukokoazhe, and that he had been living at his relatives’ home in Nalchik. On the morning of October 1, Midov drove to attend a Koran course he was taking, but never returned home. After 4 p.m., his relatives could no longer reach him, and started to call all his friends (https://www.islamdin.info/2013/10/blog-post.html#more). It is unclear why the police tried to portray him as a member of the Baksan district jamaat, even though he came from Zol district and was residing in Nalchik. Given the fact that the militants do not fail to recognize their members, chances are high that the police killed an innocent man and portrayed the event as the killing of a militant.

Another notorious event tied to Kabardino-Balkaria took place far away from the republic. On October 4, a man arrested on suspicion of illegally crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border blew himself up at a checkpoint in Ukraine’s Sumska oblast. The man died and two Ukrainian border guards were wounded. The bomber was a 31-year-old man registered in Chegem, Kabardino-Balkaria (https://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231110/). The Russian border guards apparently let the man, who was exiting Russia, leave without giving him much trouble, while the Ukrainians realized that his documents were forged and started to interrogate him. He was probably trying to leave Russia for a Western country. His forged documents were those of a resident of Chechnya, suggesting he probably hoped to use them to receive political refugee status in the West, although that is not easy these days even for a genuine Chechen.

Meanwhile, Kabardino-Balkaria’s Interior Minister Sergei Vasiliev triumphantly reported that the militants in the republic are no long part of “a structured system headed by an individual known for multiple crimes. All the significant figures, including the ideologues, have been destroyed or arrested. Only dispersed, unorganized groups remain, so the extremist emissaries and their financial backers try to replenish the thinning ranks of the insurgents with unemployed guys from the villages who lack a healthy orientation” (https://07.mvd.ru/news/item/825423/).

Over the past 13 years, the Russian authorities have consistently followed a strategy that has ended up increasing the number of the insurgents, despite the number of those reportedly being killed. According to the head of the Russian Ministry of Interior’s Directorate in the North Caucasus Federal District, Sergei Chenchik, the police should pay close attention to the children and relatives of the militants the police kill or detain, in order to determine their ties to the armed underground in the North Caucasus. Chenchik believes these people are all brought up as enemies of Russia (https://www.regnum.ru/news/1707278.html).

His point of view corresponds well with the latest legislative proposals by Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the end of September, Putin sent a package of amendments to the Russian Criminal Code to the State Duma. The amendments stipulate that compensation for damage caused by terrorist attacks should be taken not only from the individual who committed the attack, but also “the close relatives, other relatives and people whose life, health and well-being are dear to the individual due to their close personal relations” (https://www.regnum.ru/news/1715512.html). This practice of extending the blame for crimes by militants to their relatives has been used already in Chechnya (https://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/188469/). The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the practice of holding family members of a criminal responsible for his crimes is a breach of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (https://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/230264/).

Authorities in Kabardino-Balkaria have also reported that they are monitoring over 40 extremist websites and that some of them are the targets of criminal investigations (https://07.mvd.ru/news/item/1249484/).

Thus, the authorities have apparently simply chosen to increase exponentially the number of insurgent sympathizers. As more members of families are included in the circle of those that can be punished under the new legislation, more young people who reject Moscow’s policies will likely continue to join the insurgency.