Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 87

During the evening of May 2 in three regions of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, unknown assailants hurled Molotov cocktails and grenades at the electoral headquarters of Stanislav Derev, who is one of the candidates in the republic’s presidential race, and at the home of one of his supporters. A total of eight such attacks, apparently aimed at intimidation, were committed, and it is only by luck that no one was hurt (NTV, RTR, May 3).

The first round of voting in Karachaevo-Cherkessia’s presidential race took place on April 25. Derev–mayor of the republic’s capital and a Cherkes–won 40.1 percent of the vote. His main opponent, Vladimir Semenov–former leader of the Russian military’s ground forces and a Karachaev–received only 17.9 percent. The Karachaev minority represents around 30 percent of the republic’s population, and the Cherkes make up around 10 percent. This means that Derev’s victory was made possible by the votes of the republic’s ethnic Russians, who make up around 40 percent of its population. Meanwhile, the Karachaev political elite, which traditionally holds political power in the republic, is not resigned to Derev’s victory. Karachaevo-Cherkessia risks becoming a new hot spot in the North Caucasus (see the Monitor, April 29).

These latest terrorist acts, which took place on the eve of the presidential run-off vote, is the first, but probably not the last indicator of this. If Derev wins, Chechen field commanders are likely to come to the aid of those unhappy with his victories. The Chechen field commanders have already expressed their support for the separation of Balkaria from Kabardino-Balkaria, and the Balkars and Karachaevs speak the same language and are basically one ethnic group.

The Kremlin apparently understands the seriousness of this situation. Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin issued a decree dispatching 500 OMON special forces troops from around Russia to Karachaevo-Cherkessia (NTV, May 3; see the Monitor, April 29).