Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 172

The Russian Duma voted by a narrow margin September 18 to lift the immunity from prosecution of Nadyr Khachilaev, member of the Russian parliament and leader of the Union of Muslims (NTV, ORT, RTR, September 18). This sets an important precedent. It is the first time in the history of the Russian parliament that parliamentarians have given the law-enforcement agencies a green light to arrest one of their number. On previous occasions, Russia’s prosecutor general has asked the Duma to lift the immunity of Sergei Stankevich, Sergei Mavrodi and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, but was rejected each time.

Khachilaev is wanted in connection with an incident in May when he, his brother Magomed and their armed supporters occupied the government building in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan. Magomet Khachilaev is already in pre-trial detention. The two brothers are regarded as leading figures in Dagestan’s underworld. But while the present campaign against them started as part of the war on organized crime declared by Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, it has now taken on a political dimension that could spark a new interethnic or religious conflict in the North Caucasus since Chechen field commanders Salman Raduev and Shamil Basaev have threatened to come to the aid of the Khachilaev brothers.