The commander of the Makhachkala detachment of the Caucasus Special Border Guards District, Sergei Bondarev, has warned that the situation on Russia’s border with Azerbaijan is becoming increasingly tense and that there is a possibility of "armed provocations" from fighters belonging to the Lezgin national movement "Sadval." Bondarev’s warning comes in a letter to the chairman of Dagestan’s State Council, Magomedali Magomedov. According to Bondarev, Sadval fighters have begun to concentrate in the border regions, and the border troops are prepared to "make an adequate response" to any attempts at armed provocation. (Itar-Tass, October 3, Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 4)
Dagestan’s Interior Ministry has expressed alarm over the formation of so-called "free farmers’ societies" and "sports camps" in Lezgin-populated districts on the Azerbaijani border. But Sadval’s political council emphatically denies that there are armed men in its ranks, or that Sadval has any plans to mount the border provocations that the Dagestani authorities profess to fear. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 4)
About 200,000 Lezgins live in the south of Dagestan, while about the same number are found in the adjoining area of Azerbaijan. Since the collapse of the USSR and the establishment of the Russian-Azerbaijani border along the Samur river, the Lezgins have become increasingly resentful of the way they were divided between the two countries. In 1992, Sadval organized mass demonstrations of Lezgins on both sides of the border, demanding the creation of a united republic of Lezginstan within the Russian Federation. The most recent outbreak of tension in the Lezgin regions was provoked by Moscow’s decision, after the start of the war in Chechnya, to seal the Azerbaijani-Russian border. Russia’s blockade provoked a sharp increase in the activity of Lezgin "unionists" on both sides of the border. Soon after the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya, the border was reopened, and the situation seemed gradually to have stabilized. According to the Dagestani Interior Ministry, however, many problems have not been resolved and resentments continue to fester.
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