Hopes for a brighter future were high when Aleksandr Dzasokhov was installed as president of North Ossetia on January 30. He headed the Communist party in the North Caucasus region in the late 1980s before going to Moscow to serve in Mikhail Gorbachev’s Politburo. The irony of a Communist party boss coming back was lost on no one. Dzasokhov, however, has a liberal reputation and his victory has been greeted with great optimism by people in the republic.
They hope that Dzasokhov’s long-standing good relations with both President Ruslan Aushev of Ingushetia and President Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia may enable him to unravel some of the interethnic and territorial disputes plaguing the Caucasus region. Dzasokhov has already expressed his desire for a personal meeting with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. This is something his predecessor, a supporter of Russia’s war against Chechnya, would never have considered. The Chechen government has already said it welcomes Dzasokhov’s election. (RTR, January 30)
Dzasokhov also stated his readiness to discuss his republic’s bitter territorial conflict with neighboring Ingushetia, including the return of Ingush refugees to the disputed Prigorodny District. He ruled out, however, the possibility that North Ossetia would ever consider transferring the territory to Ingushetia. The first problem North Ossetia would have to face would have to do with financing the refugees’ return. The republic is poor and is dependent on federal funding for 70 percent of its budget. It has 70,000 unemployed (out of a population, at the 1989 census, of 630,000, though today’s total is unknown because of the forced flight in 1992 of up to 60,000 Ingush). (Izvestia, January 20)
There was one large cloud on Dzasokhov’s horizon: last week’s abduction of UNHCR mission chief Vincent Cochetel. There is as yet no news of the fate of Cochetel, a French citizen who is the first foreigner abducted in North Ossetia. A spokesman for North Ossetia’s security service said the republic government is convinced the kidnapping was timed to undermine any improvement in relations between North Ossetia and Chechnya. (NTV, February 1)
Ukrainian Currency Under Pressure.