|A Georgian military checkpoint in the Lopota Gorge|
QUESTIONS PERSIST OVER LAST WEEK’S MILITANT SIEGE
IN GEORGIA’S LOPOTA GORGE, NEAR DAGESTAN BORDER;
2 GEORGIANS, PLUS A BODYGUARD OF AKHMED ZAKAYEV’S, AMONG THE DEAD
Details continued to be sorted out in the murky militant siege last week (reported on in detail in this blog) in the Republic of Georgia’s Lopota Gorge, near the border with Dagestan. Despite protestations to the contrary by the Georgian minister of the interior, Shota Khizanishivili, who spoke out this week to squelch rumors that Georgian citizens were among the 11 dead militants, a couple days later, identities of some of the 11 militants killed in the operation were being released. Two—Aslan Margoshvili and Bakhaudin Kavtarashvili—were indeed Georgian citizens. Another, Dukvakha Dushuyev, was a 44-year-old former bodyguard of the Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev. Some witnesses have suggested that all of the dead may be Georgian. From his exile in London, Zakayev vowed to get to the bottom of the incident. A fourth was identified with a birthplace of Grozny, Chechnya, and three others were identified as from Chechnya and Ingushetia, which, like Dagestan, are Russian republics in the North Caucasus. Pankisi Gorge, where the Georgian militants were from, is in Georgian territory—and was the site of an outbreak of violence in 2003—but home mainly to 5,000 Kists, who are a branch of the Chechen ethnic group, as well as to recent Chechen war refugees. The original online rumors asserted that the Georgians were Wahhabis on their way to Syria to fight against Bashar al-Assad’s Shiite Alawite regime in the civil war there. Wahhabis follow an extremist strain of Sunni Islam and dominate the Caucasus Emirate movement operating in Dagestan, in southwestern Russia.
Cossacks Patrolling Krasnodar to Defend Olympics Make 100 Arrests on First Day. In southwestern Russia, the first of the promised Kuban Cossack detachments which are to protect Krasnodar Krai from Muslim ne’er-do-wells from the North Caucasus during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi were deployed September 1st in Krasnodar city, and they made more than 100 arrests on their first day. The approximately 1,000 Cossacks are to aid police and defend the Olympic city against “non-Russians,” though they carry no firearms, only whips. When the plan was announced last month by Krasnodar’s governor, Aleksandr Tkachev—who told a police gathering, “What you can’t do, the Cossacks can” (as reported at the time in this blog)—his overt racism and unilateral militarism drew fire from human-rights groups and even Russian Federation officials (also reported here). And now there is talk of Cossacks performing police patrols in 18 other regions in Russia, including Moscow. Krasnodar is a predominantly ethnically-Russian jurisdiction in an area where Muslim, Turkic-speaking Circassians were ethnically cleansed by successive czarist and Communist regimes over the past 150 years, and it is a focus of the Islamist separatist Caucasus Emirate movement. It is also the site of an independent, Menshevik-allied Kuban People’s Republic, which existed for less than two years before being absorbed into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) by Vladimir Lenin’s Red Army in 1920.
War of Words Continues in Chechen-Ingush Border Dispute. The president of the Republic of Ingushetia in southwestern Russia’s North Caucasus region, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, accused the president of the neighboring Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, of provocation for calling Ingushetia’s Sunzha district and part of Malgobek district “indigenous Chechen territories.” The two republics were joined together as the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic during the Communist era, and their shared border in the new Russian Federation has never been fully demarcated.
|There’s never a Cossack around when you need one.|
3 Rebels, 6 Police Dead across South Caucasus in Muslim Insurgency. Security forces in the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, in southwestern Russia’s North Caucasus region, on September 1st killed an insurgent who they claim was planning a major terrorist attack. The man opened fire at a police checkpoint where he was being stopped for a vehicle inspection. Bomb-making supplies, as well as a machine-gun and pistol, were later found in the car. The following day, also at a police checkpoint, in the nearby Republic of Dagestan, two Islamist rebels opened fire rather than show their papers when their vehicle was stopped, but they were both killed by return fire. Two Kalashnikovs were found in their car. One of the men, Viktor Volkov, was wanted for attacks on police. An attack by unidentified assailants on a police convoy near the village of Dattykh, in Ingushetia, on September 5th, killed six officers and injured several others. A roadside bomb first struck, then the convoy came under fire from automatic weapons. Other reports said it was a military convoy, with four soldiers killed, but it is probably the same incident. Then, on September 6th, a policeman in Grozny, capital of the Chechen Republic, was killed by a bomb planted under his car.
Dagestani Interior Ministry Fills Out Portrait of New Caucasus Emirate Warlord. The Republic of Dagestan’s pro-Moscow ministry of the interior this week released more information on the new “emir” for the Dagestan region named by the Islamist separatist Caucasus Emirate militia on August 25th (as reported last week in this blog). Identified at the time as “Abu Muhammed”—which, we can now conclude, is only a nom de guerre—the ministry says he is, in fact, Rustam Aselderov, a 30-year-old from Russia’s predominantly-Buddhist Republic of Kalmykia. Aselderov—who succeeds Ibragimhalil Daudov, who was killed on St. Valentine’s Day of this year at the age of 51—is already wanted on weapons charges and for racketeering, murder, and terrorist-related activities. The ministry adds, “He is capable of any violence.”
|Rustam Aselderov, a.k.a. Abu Muhammed|
Dzhioyeva, Denied South Ossetian Presidency in 2011, Forms New Party. The sidelined winner of the November 2011 presidential election in the de facto independent Republic of South Ossetia, Alla Dzhioyeva, this week registered a new political party, called Ossetia–Liberty Square. Her victory in that vote was annulled in court, and her attempt to serve her term anyway resulted in her being savagely beaten by pro-Moscow thugs and forced to—at the time it appeared permanently—leave politics (discussed in detail at the time in this blog).
SOUTH CAUCASUS—ARMENIA & AZERBAIJAN
Armenia Cuts Ties to Hungary after Azeri Axe Murderer’s Pardon. The Republic of Armenia on August 31st suspended diplomatic relations with the Republic of Hungary in anger over a Hungarian decision to allow a visit home by an Azerbaijani soldier who had murdered an Armenian military officer in 2004. The murderer, Lt. Ramil Safarov, was immediately pardoned and released by Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, even after solemn Azerbaijani promises not to interfere with his life sentence. Safarov had hacked the officer to death with an axe in Hungary during a NATO-sponsored language course over an alleged insult by the officer, Gurgen Markarian, to Azeri national feeling. Safarov’s defense team pleaded emotional distress as a result of the still-simmering war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Safarov’s pardon and release were, however, praised by an exiled leader of the South Azerbaijan Liberation Party, which would like to unite Azerbaijan with the Azeri-populated region of northwestern Iran.
New Nagorno-Karabakh President Sworn In. The parliament of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.) (a.k.a. Artsakh Republic) swore in Bako Sahakyan as the Armenian puppet state’s new president on September 7th in Stepanakert, the N.K.R. capital. Diplomatic delegations from Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transniestria—all of them, like the N.K.R., unrecognized puppet states—were in attendance.
Armenia Defers Recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh, Saying It’s “Ours Anyway.” The deputy chair of the Republic of Armenia’s ruling party, the Republican Party of Armenia (R.P.A.), said this week that it was not yet time for Armenia to grant formal diplomatic recognition to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.), a.k.a. the Artsakh Republic—which Armenia and Russia brutally carved out of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s western flank after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) more than 20 years ago. “We know that Nagorno-Karabakh is ours anyway,” the deputy, Galust Sahakyan, said, forgetting for the moment to pretend that the N.K.R. is not simply an Armenian puppet state.
|In California, which is home to more Armenians than Armenia itself,|
Armenian-Americans marched the streets of Los Angeles to protest Ramil Safarov’s pardon.
These protesters carried Nagorno-Karabakh Republic flags.
|President Bako Sahakyan of the N.K.R.|
[Related articles: “South Ossetia Update: ‘Independent’ Elections in an ‘Independent’ State—Russian Style” (Dec. 2011), “The Armenian Genocide Debate: Turkey, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Politics of Memory” (April 2012); “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists” (April 2012), featuring a profile of the Chechen rebel leader Akhmed Zakayev; “Massachusetts Recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh Republic!” (Aug. 2012); “Separatist Football Update: Carnage at a Dagestan–Netherlands Match ...” etc. (Aug. 2012); “That Creepy Underground Islamic Cult in Tatarstan? Turns Out It Was Just a Split-Level—and the Kids Were Fine” (Aug. 2012), “Caucasus Update: Chechen-Ingush Border Conflict; Female Breakdancing Suicide-Bomber in Dagestan; South Azerbaijani Separatism; Is Georgia Supporting Islamism in Russia?” (Aug. 2012).]
[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas. Look for it in spring 2013. I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]