Russia’s Security Council met yesterday to consider the conflict between North Ossetia and its north Caucasus neighbor, Ingushetia. (RTR, July 21) Regional leaders and the Russian media have warned recently that tensions between Ossetians and Ingush in North Ossetia’s Prigorodny district are close to a boiling point and that a repetition of the 1992 interethnic violence is a possibility. Recalling that eight Ingush have been killed in Prigorodny in the past month alone, Ingushetia’s president, Ruslan Aushev, said all avenues for resolving the conflict at a regional level had been exhausted. He called on the federal government to restore order by declaring direct presidential rule in Prigorodny. Aushev’s call was strongly resisted by Ossetia’s president, Akhsarbek Galazov, who said presidential rule could serve as a pretext to wrench Prigorodny away from North Ossetia. Galazov warned that North Ossetia would try to secede from the Russian Federation if Moscow intervened on its territory. (Itar-Tass, July 21)
In the absence of most of Russia’s major decision-makers, the Security Council restricted itself to vague calls for both sides to remain calm and make compromises. That is, it came down in favor of maintaining the status quo and sided implicitly with North Ossetia’s view of the situation.
The Ossetians were the first of the North Caucasus peoples to submit to the Russian Empire, and remain to this day the most loyal to Moscow. During Russia’s conflict with Chechnya, the federal authorities grew increasingly reliant on the traditionally reliable Ossetians and correspondingly less inclined to take Ingushetia’s side in its dispute with North Ossetia.
Aushev told a press conference after yesterday’s Security Council meeting that he will continue to advocate direct rule in Prigorodny; otherwise, he said, serious interethnic conflict will remain a real danger. (RTR, July 21) He also said the situation in the region is complicated by the fact that presidential elections will soon be held in North Ossetia. The proximity of the election campaign not only makes it hard for Galazov to be seen as making concessions but, Aushev said, means that the "anti-Ingush card" could become an election issue. According to Aushev, Galazov’s camp would be happy to find an excuse — such as an outbreak of interethnic strife — to cancel the elections and ensure that Galazov remains in power. (Itar-Tass, July 21)
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