'Several dead' in Caucasus clash

Trouble in the Caucasus, Kabardino-Balkaria is one of the may enclaves in the region, as this Economist graphic shows.

Caucasus

Indeed the Economist piece back in February discussed the instability of the region.

IN ANY other European country, the carnage would have caused horror. But ten years of war in Chechnya have inured most Russians to the fates of desperadoes such as the obscure Islamist group that two weeks ago holed up in an apartment in Nalchik, the capital of the north Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. A three-day siege ended bloodily: the apartment was gutted, and its seven occupants, alleged perpetrators of a murderous attack on a government agency in December, were all killed.

Still, the location of this particular last stand was troubling. Kabardino-Balkaria had until recently been a patch of relative calm in Russia’s poorest, angriest and most complex region. So too, until last October, had seemed Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria’s western neighbour. Then seven businessmen were killed, and their bodies thrown down a mine. The son-in-law of the republic’s president was implicated in the murders, and a mob stormed the presidential headquarters in Cherkessk, the capital.

And indeed it warned back then:

In Ingushetia and North Ossetia, people whisper about unknown bearded men turning up at mosques. Mass unemployment helps to make militancy seem like a good career option. But while the threat may be growing, only a small minority dream of a north Caucasian caliphate. Many of the region’s problems have nothing to do with either religion or ethnicity.

The big risk is simply that more and more of the north Caucasus may slip into lawlessness and drift out of Moscow’s orbit. After his meddling in Ukraine, pundits talked of Mr Putin’s plans to reconstitute the Russian empire. But, in a sense, Russia is already its own empire. The possibility that it may one day crumble as the Soviet Union did is Mr Putin’s central fear. The neglect of the north Caucasus may eventually lead to that fear’s realisation.

We will have to wait and see who is behind the latest attacks.