Nezavisimaya Gazeta on November 29 quoted Yakov Nedobitko, commander of Unified Group of Forces conducting Russia’s “counter-terrorist” operation in the North Caucasus, as saying that on the eve of the State Duma elections, set for December 2, security had been heightened in practically all the “problematic” areas of the North Caucasus, especially Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachaevo-Cherkessia. He said that more than 11,500 servicemen would be deployed to guard voting places and more than 24,500 others would be deployed to ensure public order and security.
Despite the raised level of alert, militants in the region continued to launch attacks. On November 27, a serviceman with the Interior Ministry’s Yug battalion was killed and three policemen wounded in a shootout with rebels near the mountain village of Vysokogornoe in Chechnya’s Shatoi district. In addition, several policemen were wounded in attacks in Grozny, while rebel arms caches were discovered in a number of areas around the republic and a large bomb was defused in Chechnya’s Urus-Martan district, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported.
An explosion on a commuter bus in North Ossetia on November 22 killed six people, including a nine-year-old girl, and injured more than a dozen others. The Moscow Times on November 26 quoted a law-enforcement source as saying that a suicide bomber may have been responsible for the blast, which occurred near the Bratsk police checkpoint at the internal border between North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Authorities said a homemade bomb containing around 300 grams of TNT and stuffed with ball bearings detonated inside the bus as it approached the checkpoint.
There was also an increase in violence in the North Caucasus that appeared to be directly connected to the December 2 election. Farid Babaev, a member of Yabloko who was heading the liberal party’s list of candidates in Dagestan, died in the hospital on November 24 three days after being shot in the entryway of his apartment building in Makhachkala. According to the Associated Press, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinksy said in a statement that Babaev had investigated various human rights violations in Dagestan, including the shooting of a peaceful demonstrator, the abductions of civilians and the use of excessive force in special police operations.
Meanwhile, a leader of the Dagestani chapter of the Union of Right Forces (SPS), Nukha Nukhova, was detained by police, who accused him of being involved in an armed confrontation during republican elections this past March. Kommersant reported on November 28 that supporters of Nukhov organized a protest rally on his behalf in Makhachkala, while representatives of other opposition parties in Dagestan said they were feeling also increasing pressure from the authorities.