Today (May 28) was an official day of mourning in Stavropol Krai for seven people killed in the May 26 bomb blast in the city of Stavropol. A bomb packed with steel pellets hidden in a juice carton detonated near the city’s Palace of Culture, where some 150 people had come to see a performance of the Vainakh dance troupe from Chechnya. In addition to the seven people killed – among them a 12-year-old Chechen girl – more than 40 people were injured, 22 of them critically.
Several people were reportedly being investigated for possible involvement in the bombing, and the head of the Stavropol Krai branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Yevgeny Nazarov, said the perpetrators could have been either Islamic militants, Russian nationalists, or people involved in a business dispute between the owners of the Palace of Culture and a café next door. The Russian presidential envoy the North Caucasus Federal District, Alekasandr Khloponin, implied that the violence was related to a business conflict, stating yesterday that the North Caucasus was experiencing “redistributions of property under the guise of ethnic conflicts and terrorism” (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 28; Moscow News, AFP, May 27).
However, the head of the Union of Slavic Communities of Stavropol, Vladimir Nesterov, said the bombing was probably the work of local Russian nationalists. He said that ethnic tensions in the area had long been simmering and that performances in Stavropol of “national dances” by Caucasian groups like Vainakh were deemed unacceptable by the region’s ethnic Russian population (Kommersant, May 28). As some observers noted, the Vainakh dance ensemble enjoys the sponsorship of pro-Moscow Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (Christian Science Monitor, May 27).
In June 2007, two ethnic Russian students were stabbed to death in Stavropol less than two weeks after a Chechen student was killed in the city (Chechnya Weekly, June 14 and May 31, 2007).
Violence continued throughout the North Caucasus over the last few days. An improvised explosive device went off on the outskirts of the city of Malgobek in Ingushetia yesterday (May 27). The blast took place near a café, but no one was hurt in the incident (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 27). A Russian serviceman was wounded in Ingushetia on May 26 when unidentified attackers fired on a convoy of border guards near the Sunzha district village of Dattykh. On May 25, a staffer of Ingushetia’s branch of the Federal Narcotics Control Service (FSKN), Alekhan Azhigov, died in the hospital after being shot by unidentified gunmen who fired on the car in which he was traveling with his family on the Nazran-Karabulak highway. Several of his family members were reportedly wounded in the attack. Also on May 25, police discovered an explosive device consisting of a 50-liter gas cylinder and an electronic detonator connected to a cell phone in a car on the outskirts of Malgobek, and decided to destroy it in a controlled explosion when they were unable to defuse it (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 26).
A powerful explosive device went off in Kabardino-Balkaria’s capital Nalchik on May 25, reportedly as a police car was passing by. Nobody was hurt in the blast, which broke windows in nearby buildings (www.lenta.ru, May 25). That same day, two policemen were injured when a bomb went off as a police car was driving out of the town of Tyrnyauz in Kabardino-Balkaria’s Elbrus district. Investigators who arrived at the scene of the blast discovered another four explosive devices, two of which went off, wounding a police dog handler (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 26).
A bomb was discovered near the police headquarters in the city of Baksan in Kabardino-Balkaria on May 25. The explosive device, which consisted of an F-1 grenade and a timing mechanism, was defused. On May 24, Kabardino-Balkaria’s Interior Minister Yury Tomchak fired the head of the Baksan police department, Asker Khatsukov, in connection with the worsening crime situation in the city. On May 23, a powerful explosive device was found and defused at the Eternal Flame Memorial in Tyrnyauz (EDM, May 24).
In Dagestan, a bomb went off at the entrance of a pharmacy in the republic’s capital Makhachkala on May 25. No one was hurt in the incident.
In Chechnya, a roadside bomb blast on the outskirts of the city of Shali wounded two Russian servicemen on May 24. The explosion took place as the soldiers were conducting a reconnaissance mission in the area (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, May 25).
Meanwhile, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov on May 25 called for a setting up a commission to determine the number of militants active in the republic. He noted that the federal FSB had estimated the number of militants in Chechnya at 400 to 500,” while Chechnya’s Interior Ministry put the number at 198 and the FSB branch in Chechnya said up to 30 armed groups are “active” in the republic. “We have been catching militants, sending them to prison and eliminating them, but their numbers have not decreased,” Kadyrov said. “I would like to know the source of this information. Why doesn’t the Interior Ministry of the Chechen Republic have it?” (Interfax, May 25).
On May 21, Chechnya’s first deputy prime minister, Magomed Daudov, told Kadyrov that the republic’s local police chiefs had done a count and determined that 198 people were wanted by the authorities for rebel activity, some of whom had already left the country. Kadyrov, however, rejected the number, declaring that there are only 70-80 militants in Chechnya (Interfax, May 21).