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Chechnya, the endless war that Moscow cannotwin
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, 21 2010

ImageAn attack on the heart of institutions in Chechnya. Guerrillas in Grozny yesterday stormed the Parliament and were killed during clashes with security forces. Thedeath toll is still unknown. There were six, according to President Ramzan Kadyrov, and nine according to other sources, but the only thing certain is that the normalization of Chechnya, announced last year by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is still not there.

The level of conflict remains high, but Moscow should put aside the path of repression and travel the path of legality, in the opinion of Sergey Markedonov, director of the department of studies and ethnic relations at the institute of military and political analysis. Terrorists should not be killed, but judged in court, he said in an interview with Panorama.it.

Professor Markedonov, what is your estimation of the serious events of yesterday in Grozny?

First of all Iwould like to stress that the political struggle in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and in Chechnya is a battle between symbols. Notlong ago there was the Congress of the Chechen diaspora, with 25different delegations from around the world. Ramzan Kadyrov was elected general secretary of that group. Symbolically, this means he wants to be the leader of the Chechens at a global level and not just national.

President Kadyrov is the Kremlin's man, but is he still holding onto to his huge powers?

No, today just shows that Kadyrov's power is not that great, quite the opposite, it is very limited. LastAugust his home town was attacked. Today Kadyrov is vulnerable and is seen as such both in Chechnya and throughout the Caucasus.

The perpetrators who entered the Parliament yesterday were Islamic extremists?

It is possible, even if one cannot be sure. Itis difficult right now to draw a conclusion about the ideological positions of the terrorists, which in Chechnya can be divided into two categories: the followers of Doku Umarov, number one among the terrorists in the Caucasus, who want to establish an Emirate under Sharia law in the North Caucasus, and fringe groups of ethno-nationalist extremists. Atthis time in Chechnya we are seeing a dangerous resurgence of an ultranazionalist mood, and this is to be taken into consideration. Personally, though, Ithink Doku Umarov's trying to prove his strength and his potential, but as far as the ideology that drives his men, I'd be a bit more cautious.

But Russian news agency Ria Novosti wrote that it was a suicide attack, suggesting an Islamic connection

Yes, of course. Froma tactical standpoint the attack seems clearly to reference Islamic rules. Usually nationalists prefer to use the tactics of taking hostages in schools and public places, as happened in Beslan. Butwe must be careful in this situation. Fromthis point of view the investigation is interesting due to a combination of these two forces, namely nationalism that works with the tactics of Islamic extremism.

But didn't Putin say that the war was over, and that the situation had normalized?

We must understand that Vladimir Putin's entire political career depends on the situation in Chechnya. Putin came to power with the slogan a pacified Chechnya, and he tried to do just that. Since 2005, he has adopted a strategy more development-oriented, economic and political, not just based on the mere repression. But, Ibelieve that the so-called Chechenisation shows limitations. Let's look at the facts. Lastyear, Putin and Kadyrov announced that the war was over and that they had won. Butthe methods of the terrorists have shown that there is another story. Manyattacks have symbolic significance, such as the Parliament of Grozny. Inshort, we argue for hours, but the facts tell us clearly that Chechenisation has failed.

From an economic point of view what has been done?

The Russians put a lot of money into Chechnya. Russia has invested 58billion rubles in the region, an enormous sum for the Kremlin. Wehave supported every initiative of Ramzan Kadyrov, who has become a sort of untouchable in Russian politics, but with what results? Thereintegration of Chechnya has not yet arrived. Victims continue to fill the streets. Theythought out how to give full political support to Kadyrov, but they didn't remember the need to pursue integration. Butthe Russians aren't interested in the power of Kadyrov, but rather the pacification of Chechnya, because it lowers the level of risk for them. Andthe Caucasian and Chechen citizens never dream about an emirate, but with an unemployment rate of 50%, they want jobs, education, and the welfare of their children.

But it is very difficult to integrate if we pursue systematic repression, as the Russians have done during all these years

Yes, it's true. ButI would point out something important. Repression is not the only way. Awar must be fought, of course, but people are more interested in having a secure future than all the rest. Evenduring a war the terrorists should not just be killed, but must be taken to court and judged there. Letus consider Ojalan's case. TheTurkish security service could have killed him, but instead they chose to arrest and prosecute him, and showing his weakness. Froma psychological, ideological, and political point of view, such an attitude would be far more productive for Moscow. Incourt the guilty suddenly become weaker. Terrorists as symbols of struggle should not become victims, but judged judicially.

Moscow will follow this path?

There is not other road. Russia intends to follow it, but it will take time. Believe me, the people of the Caucasus do not dream of living in the Caucasus Emirate of Afghanistan, or of Sharia law. People in Chechnya do not even know how to live in Ingushetia, let alone a know anything about Afghanistan. Theyfollow their local leaders and military men. Here, the problem is precisely that the leaders are compromised, and often linked to the extremists who are fighting the Kremlin and they, unfortunately, have a free hand in influencing the people.

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