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North Caucasus: Adygeya President, Opposition Assail Presidential Envoy

Khazret Sovmen (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) Despite the joint statement in early March by the leaders of Adygeya and Krasnodar Krai, Khazret Sovmen and Aleksandr Tkachev, that the controversial plan to subsume the former federation subject into the surrounding larger one is no longer on the agenda, presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitry Kozak is reportedly still pushing for that territorial merger.

In separate statements on April 10 and 11, Sovmen and two public organizations representing Adygeya's small Adyg/Cherkess minority condemned Kozak's "pernicious" role in lobbying to strip Adygeya of its status as a separate republic.

At a joint meeting of their respective executive councils of April 10, the Cherkess Council and Adyghe Khase adopted a statement expressing support for Sovmen and for his policies "aimed at peaceful constructive development," reported.

That statement reaffirmed the Adygs' collective rejection of proposals to revise the republic's borders, and warned that doing so could have catastrophic consequences not only for the North Caucasus but for the entire Russian Federation. It is high time, the statement continued, to disabuse Kozak of his idee fixe and to make clear to him that the Cherkess people are not prepared to sacrifice their "national home" in return for dubious promises of a future economic upswing that may never materialize.

They further announced that a congress of the Cherkess people has been scheduled for May 21. During an earlier working meeting in late February, Adyg and Cherkess communities from across the North Caucasus warned that in the event that Moscow continues to push the abolition of Adygeya's status as a separate republic, they would propose unifying within the Russian Federation the historic territories of Adygeya, Kabarda, Cherkessia, and Shapsughia to create a far larger Adyg (Cherkess) Republic.

Adygeya's Sovmen for his part was quoted by the Russian daily "Kommersant" in an interview published on April 11 as similarly claiming that following his appointment in October 2004, Kozak began "saber-rattling" in favor of the merger of Adygeya with Krasnodar Krai. Sovmen said he does not believe the idea of the merger originated with Tkachev.

Sovmen further accused unnamed officials from the Southern Federal District of undercutting the authority of Adygeya's government. He recalled that those bureaucrats responded to complaints from the Adygeya republican prosecutor's office about corruption within the Interior Ministry by publicly presenting certificates of merit to the Interior Ministry officials in question.

Sovmen also clarified the circumstances of his offer during a parliament session on April 4 to resign. He explained that it was a direct consequence of his ongoing conflict with Kozak over the territorial merger and not, as some Russian media reported, a reaction to some parliament deputies' failure to rise to their feet as a mark of respect when he entered the parliament chamber. He said the parliament "respects the president."

But that may be an overstatement: "Novye izvestia" on April 5 quoted political analyst Oksana Goncharenko as pointing out that the new Adygeya parliament elected on March 12 is divided almost equally between (mainly Cherkess) supporters of Sovmen who reject the proposed territorial merger and Slavs who oppose him and would support that merger. Most of the pro-Sovmen faction represent the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, while the Slavs belong to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, the Unified Industrial Party of Russia, and the Agrarian Party.

In an April 7 interview with "Kavkazsky uzel," pro-Sovmen parliament deputy Rashid Mugu similarly said that the president told him on April 4 shortly after declaring his readiness to step down that the reason was the pressure he was under from Kozak to agree to the territorial merger. Mugu further made the point that such pressure is undercutting support within the parliament for Sovmen's insistence on parity between the Cherkess and Slavs in electing parliamentary committees.

Sovmen reportedly met late on April 11 with Sergei Sobyanin, head of President Vladimir Putin's administration, in a bid to secure the Kremlin's support for preserving the territorial status quo, but the outcome of that meeting has not been made public. Sovmen's presidential term expires early next year, and the Kremlin may have decided to delay the territorial merger until after the appointment of a new president. The most likely candidate to succeed Sovmen, according to on April 5, is Tkachev's Adyg deputy, Murat Akhedzhak.

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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