Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 216

A powerful blast destroyed an apartment building in the Dagestani city of Kaspiisk in the early morning hours on November 16. The building housed troops from the Caucasus border guards detachment, including almost all of its commanding officers. Some 130 people, including 80 border guards and their families, were buried in the rubble. Rescue work is still going on. As of this morning, the death toll had reached 43, including 15 children, but officials said the final number of casualties could reach over 50. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin flew to the scene and a government commission headed by Deputy Premier Oleg Lobov has been formed. (NTV, ORT, November 16-17; Reuter, November 18)

Federal investigators believe that the explosion was the work of terrorists. They have hypothesized that the bombing may have been carried out by maverick Chechen resistance fighters who do not take orders from Chechen premier Aslan Maskhadov and who want to derail the peace process. Chechen president Zelimkhan Yandarbiev denied that Chechen fighters were responsible, but concurred that the blast was the work of people "who have no interest in peace coming to Chechnya." Another hypothesis is that the bombing was the work of organized crime. The Caucasus border guards, who were its target, patrol Dagestan’s border not only with Chechnya but also with Azerbaijan. According to this version, the mafia groups were taking revenge on the border guards for blocking the smuggling of narcotics and arms into Russia from Azerbaijan. (NTV, November 17)

About a month ago the chairman of Dagestan’s parliament, Mukhu Aliev, told the Monitor that the signing of the Khasavyurt accords had sharply destabilized the situation in Dagestan. In Aliev’s opinion, there are two major threats to Dagestan. The first is posed by rogue Chechen resistance fighters who, after prevailing at home, wish to continue the battle throughout the North Caucasus. The second involves local mafia who, according to Aliev, have already penetrated the government and are now preparing to seize power. Aliev also did not rule out the possibility that circles in Moscow opposed to the Chechen peace agreements might also be trying to destabilize the situation in Dagestan. In the last few years some 24 terrorist acts have been committed against Dagestani politicians, ten of which resulted in death. None of these crimes has been solved.

U.S. Releases Former Russian Spy.