What Russian Statistics On Militant Attacks In the North Caucasus Reveal

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 12 Issue: 23

It is common practice to summarize the year’s events at its conclusion. Following this tradition, we can consider the figures concerning the situation in the North Caucasus, which is not improving, as the federal authorities in the Russian Federation would like to present it. The republics in which the most insurgent activity is going on change, but the general amount of violence across the North Caucasus remains more or less at the same level. We can even assert that the security situation in the North Caucasus is profoundly deteriorating, given that there is a growing radicalization not only of the region’s Muslims, but also of its nationalists.  

The primary problem with Russian information sources is their inconsistency. Thus, according to the Russian Interior Ministry, during the period of January-November 2011, “300 participants in underground banditry, 366 rebel bases and ammunition caches were neutralized; over 1,400 small arms, 175,000 units of ammunition and over 500 kilograms of explosives were confiscated” (http://vvmvd.ru/news/news_2862.html). It is hard to understand what is meant by “neutralized”: does it refer to those killed, arrested or both? Another government source informs us that 300 militants were killed by Russian Interior Ministry troops (www.rosbalt.ru/main/2011/12/02/919650.html). If this figure is correct, then all the other force agencies, such as the police, regular military, FSB (Federal Security Service) and GRU (the Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate) killed only several people during the course of the year.

The data provided by the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) website is interesting because it highlights the dynamics of the conflict in different parts of the North Caucasus. In 2010, the rebels were the most active in Kabardino-Balkaria in percentage terms, not in absolute numbers. In 2011, Dagestan has been the hottest spot. “Pacified” Chechnya occupies the second position in the region in terms of casualties.

Overall, there were 1,205 victims of the conflict in the North Caucasus, including 683 killed and 522 injured, during the first 11 months of 2011. The situation in December is unlikely to change these figures dramatically, adding a few dozen more deaths, injuries and kidnappings. In 2010, the total number of casualties in the region was 1,710.

Dagestan is far ahead of other territories in terms of casualties. There were 685 casualties in the republic from January to November of this year, of whom 372 were killed, including 156 rebels, 93 law-enforcement agents and 123 civilians, while 313 people were wounded. Chechnya held second place as of November 30, with 202 victims of the fighting between the republic’s rebel underground and security forces. A total of 92 people were killed in the republic, including 63 rebels, 21 servicemen and 10 civilians, while 110 people were wounded. Kabardino-Balkaria had 158 victims during the same period, of whom 116 were killed (76 rebels, 28 servicemen and 15 civilians) and 42 were injured. Ingushetia suffered 103 casualties, of whom 69 were killed (40 rebels, 19 servicemen and 10 civilians) and 34 were injured. North Ossetia had 25 casualties (including 15 rebels and 6 servicemen killed and nine people wounded). Karachaevo-Cherkessia had 24 casualties, including six rebels and six servicemen killed and nine people w wounded). In Stavropol region there were eight casualties, including three people killed and five injured.  

Apart from casualties, the issue of kidnappings and disappearances is still a problem in the North Caucasus. According to Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot), in 11 months of 2011 there were 64 such cases, 28 of which took place in Dagestan, 20 in Chechnya, 13 in Ingushetia and three in Kabardino-Balkaria.  

Given these numbers, one should supposedly think that the situation is improving from the federal authorities’ standpoint, since the number of casualties has decreased by almost one-third since 2010. However, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office does not agree with this conclusion. Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Sydoruk stated that since the beginning of 2011, the number of terrorism- related and extremism-related crimes in the North Caucasus increased by 29 percent in comparison to the same time period in 2010 (www.yuga.ru/news/246467/).

The federal government itself does not appear to be particularly optimistic about the situation in the North Caucasus. Aleksandr Khloponin, the special representative of the Russian president in the North Caucasus Federal District, was forced to admit on November 30: “There are still cases of young people leaving for the forest [joining the rebels]. There is certain tension in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, where there are pockets of underground banditry, so a lot of work lies ahead” (http://interfax-russia.ru/South/main.asp?id=276976). Suddenly, a number of officials at different levels have started to talk about a deterioration of the situation in Karachaevo-Cherkessia. During a visit to this republic on November 17, Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev called the situation in Karachaevo-Cherkessia “protractedly tense” and compared it to Dagestan (www.xn--c1adwdmv.xn--p1ai/news/kavkaz/kar-cher/1468253.html). This stark statement was made despite the absence of signs of destabilization in the republic in the press. Against the backdrop of the relocation of the Russian military base from Botlikh in Dagestan to Maikop in Adygea, it can be assumed that the government expects tensions in this part of the North Caucasus to rise prior to the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. However, following the destruction of the Karachay jamaat by security forces in 2006-2007, the armed opposition in the form of the jamaat showed few signs of activity.

Interior Minister Nurgaliev also reported that the law enforcement agencies had prevented over 50 terrorist attacks this year as of September. He added that “313 rebels were neutralized and 399 participants in the illegal armed formations were arrested” (http://ria.ru/defense_safety/20111116/490310056.html). Note that Nurgaliev’s figures for the number of rebels killed in nine months of 2011 are greater than the figures his own ministry gave for 11 months of the same year. In addition, it is unclear why the number of wounded people was lower than the number of the killed, as normally more people are wounded than killed.  

The statistics that the Russian military, police and other law-enforcement agencies provide invariably evoke multiple questions, since the different agencies, such as the military, police, FSB and prosecutors, use different methods of counting. In the past 20 years, Russian government agencies have not learned how to provide the same set of numbers. This is apparently too difficult for a country that aspires to be included among the world’s developed nations.