Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 119

The Verkhny Lars checkpoint in North Ossetia, on the Russian border with Georgia, was fired on for several hours on June 18. Four trucks were burned out. Five drivers–residents of Georgia–were wounded. The criminals succeeded in getting away, hiding in a mountainous wooded area close to neighboring Ingushetia. (NTV, RTR, June 18)

Ingushetia’s leadership quickly denied any involvement in the incident. According to Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev, “criminal groups” linked with various force structures in North Ossetia are behind the armed confrontations. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 20)

In view of the “liquor war” between Russia and Georgia and the uneasy relations between Vladikavkaz and Nazran, it is hard to ascertain the real reason for the Verkhny Lars incident. The border guards had recently tightened up their inspection of traffic following the Georgian Military Highway through the Verkhny Lars checkpoint. This decision was taken by North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov at a recent session of the republic’s Security Council. One may suppose, moreover, that the route that the trucks were taking from Georgia to Russia was unprofitable for the criminals. For more than a year now, there has been a bypass road linking Georgia with Ingushetia on this section of the Georgian Military Highway. This road has no federal customs or border checkpoints.

At the same time, however, one cannot rule out that this incident has political overtones. Agents of the North Ossetian MVD think that someone is deliberately trying to destabilize the situation in the North Caucasus. According to the head of its press service, Zaurbek Dzarakhokhov, from the terrorists’ modus operandi, one may conclude that this group has already made a number of armed raids in the republic. (Kommersant-daily, Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 20)