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Caucasus Report: June 24, 2005

24 June 2005, Volume 8, Number 21

DMITRII KOZAK: TROUBLE-SHOOTER OR WHIPPING BOY? In the nine months since his appointment as President Vladimir Putin's representative to the Southern Federal District, former presidential administration head Dmitrii Kozak has managed to defuse at least two major crises in the region: in the Karachaevo-Cherkessia Republic in November and in Adygeya in May (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 18 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 May 2005). He has also drafted a plan for resolving the dispute between North Ossetia and Ingushetia over Prigorodnyi Raion under which some 10,000 Ingush displaced persons are to return to that district by the end of 2006. (It was North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov's rejection of that plan which set in motion the events that culminated in Dzasokhov's resignation last month, according to "Kommersant-Vlast" No. 22.) In a 26 May interview with RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya attributed Kozak's effectiveness on the ground to his comprehensive understanding of the nature of the problems facing the North Caucasus, in contrast to his predecessors, who according to Politkovskaya relied on "false information" (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," 30 May 2005).

Politkovskaya's hypothesis is supported by a 16 June article in "Moskovskii komsomolets" by State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Khinshtein (Unified Russia), who claims that Kozak has compiled and submitted to President Putin a detailed, and damning, analysis of the political situation in the North Caucasus that highlights such failings as top-level corruption and economic mismanagement. In that draft analysis, extracts from which Khinshtein quotes verbatim, Kozak predicts a sharp rise in radicalism and extremism and an expanding disconnect between "constitutional democratic principles and existing realities," warning that those trends could lead to the emergence of "a macro-region of socio-political and economic instability" that encompasses the entire North Caucasus and parts of Stavropol Krai. Specifically, Kozak brands the leaders of the North Caucasus republics as venal and compromised, alleging that "corporate extended family groupings" within the various republican administrations have "monopolized political and economic resources," destroying the system of checks and balances intended to prevent such abuses.

In the light of that indictment of corrupt local leaders, it is puzzling why Kozak should have recommended that Putin reappoint for a second term embattled Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov, whom the Ingush opposition claims is widely hated precisely because he turns a blind eye to corruption within the upper echelons of the republic's leadership. Since September, more than 1,000 people have signed an online petition ( calling on Zyazikov to resign.

Kozak was present at the 15 June session of the Ingushetian parliament that endorsed Putin's renomination of Zyazikov; he kept deputies' speeches to a minimum, and his bodyguards prevented the leader of the Ingushetian opposition, Musa Ozdoev, from approaching and speaking with Kozak, reported.

There are, however, several possible explanations for Kozak's public display of support for Zyazikov, even given the glaring inconsistency between that support and Kozak's condemnation of official corruption. First, Kozak takes his orders from Putin, who may in the case of Zyazikov have been reluctant for whatever reason to sacrifice a fellow Federal Security Service (FSB) veteran even in the interests of preventing a popular uprising. The entire population of Ingushetia is, after all, only 316,900. And there is no obvious replacement for Zyazikov who would be acceptable to Putin. (In a poll conducted between 12 January and 3 March, 45.5 percent of the 3,068 respondents said they would like to see former President Ruslan Aushev restored to that post; Ozdoev ranked in distant second place with 12.2 percent support, according to

Second, Kozak may have decided to make a virtue of a necessity and use his time in the North Caucasus to demonstrate publicly to the maximum extent his political and managerial skills. On 17 June, "The Moscow Times" quoted pro-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov as describing Kozak as "excellent in assessing problems, working out plans to regulate the situation and putting them into effect."

Third, due to his former close working relationship with Putin, Kozak may have believed that Putin would believe his evaluation of the state of affairs in the North Caucasus even if he had previously rejected similar negative assessments, and take swift action to remedy the situation. Kozak's diagnosis, after all, said nothing new. For example, Emil Pain, director of the Center of Ethnic-Poitical and Regional Studies, similarly told "Vremya novostei" of 26 April that due to the "acute inadequacy of regional government in the Caucasus," a "gray zone" is taking shape there where local leaders "simulate loyalty to the federal center as the socio-political fabric of the Russian state unravels."

Fourth, in writing his analysis of the nature and extent of the problems Moscow faces in the North Caucasus, Kozak may have been motivated at least to some extent by the desire to cover his own back and be able, as the Russian idiom puts it, to emerge dry from the water in the event of a major conflagration in the region, one that could even take Putin down with it.

Ranking those various hypothetical explanations in order of likelihood is all the more difficult in that it remains unclear whether Kozak's appointment as presidential representative was a punishment and exile, as Politkovskaya has suggested, or intended as a test of Kozak's true ability, or whether Putin belatedly realized in the wake of Beslan that he needs a henchman in the North Caucasus whom he trusts 100 percent. Recent speculation that Putin is pleased with Kozak's performance to date, and may be considering bringing him back to Moscow, possibly even as the next prime minister, would tend to support the latter hypothesis.

But even if this is Putin's plan, much may depend on timing. As Markov pointed out in his comments on Kozak's draft report to Putin, "the situation in the North Caucasus is so bad that it needs complete overhauling," not minor repair. "It is not the individuals or clans in power that should be changed but the whole system of governance," Markov concluded. Aushev too has advocated a "radical reevaluation" of Moscow's policies in the North Caucasus, which he described in a 6 June interview with as dictated by day-to-day breaking events -- a definition that is substantiated by Kozak's constant trouble-shooting missions in recent weeks.

Khinshtein's "Moskovskii komsomolets" article did not reveal what, if any, proposals Kozak included in his report to Putin for remedying the situation. But any sweeping reform of Moscow's modus operandi in the North Caucasus would be a tacit admission on Putin's part either that he has failed to grasp the nature of the problem until now, and/or that he has made major errors (for example in reappointing Zyazikov). And his seeming inability to admit to past mistakes appears to be Putin's greatest weakness.

If one subscribes to the hypothesis that Kozak's appointment was a demotion, then he may now be in a vulnerable position for having spotlighted the shortcomings of Moscow's North Caucasus policy. Moreover, Kozak's tactical successes to date have all been outside Chechnya, and a radical deterioration of the situation there could severely damage his credibility. And even if radical Chechen field commander Shamil Basaev fails to make good on his threat to vent on Russia "a summer of fire," any spontaneous popular protest in the North Caucasus, such as those in recent weeks in Kabardino-Balkaria, could erupt into a major crisis that could test Kozak's skills to the limit.

Alternatively, following the leak of his draft report to the Russian press, any one of the entrenched North Caucasus leaders -- or more likely a member of their immediate circle who stands to lose out in the event of that leader's dismissal -- may decide that the most logical solution is simply to have Kozak removed from the political scene. Viktor Polyanichko, who was sent from Moscow in early 1993 to head the Temporary Administration in North Ossetia, and in that capacity reported directly to then Russian President Boris Yeltsin, was murdered in August 1993. (Liz Fuller)

DOES OUTRAGE OVER BOROZDINOVSKAYA SWEEP PRESAGE A CHANGE OF RUSSIAN TACTICS IN CHECHNYA? On one level, the Russian authorities' outraged response to the sweep operation in the village of Borozdinovskaya in northeastern Chechnya on 4 June that triggered the exodus to neighboring Daghestan of several hundred local families appears to be a laudable, if exceptional and somewhat belated, acknowledgement of the arbitrary suffering inflicted on local noncombatants during the past six years of fighting.

Russian presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District Dmitrii Kozak, who met in Grozny on 22 June with a delegation from Borozdinovskaya, termed the sweep operation, in which one villager was killed and 11 abducted, "an act of sabotage directed against Chechnya, Daghestan, and Russia," and he vowed that those responsible will be apprehended and punished.

But there are grounds for suspecting that Moscow cares no more for the victims of the Borozdinovskaya sweep than for those targeted in hundreds of similar punitive actions and, in fact, plans to use the opportunity to neutralize a Chechen fighting force that in the past has crossed swords with Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov. Why else should Moscow decry the Borozdinovskaya sweep when it has rationalized hundreds of previous such raids on the grounds that they are a necessary component of the "war on terrorism"?

The population of the village of Borozdinovskaya are mostly Avars who resettled there from Daghestan in the 1950s. According to "The Moscow Times" on 23 June, local Avar strongman Sharap Mikatov created his own informal militia to protect the village from Chechen gangs, including one headed by Sulim Yamadaev, a Chechen field commander based in Gudermes who fought from 1994-96 on the side of the Chechen resistance but switched to the Russian side at the start of the second war in 1999.

Mikatov's death in a shootout in 1998 left the village vulnerable to attack by pro-Moscow Chechens, and some Borozdinovskaya residents have told Russian journalists that they believe the Chechen-speaking perpetrators of the 4 June sweep were members of the Eastern Battalion of the 42nd Division of the Russian Army, which is commanded by Yamadaev and is reportedly directly subordinate to Russian military intelligence (GRU). Others even claim to have identified Yamadaev's head of intelligence, Khamzat Gairbekov, among the attackers, "The Moscow Times" reported.

Speaking at a news conference in Makhachkala on 21 June, Daghestan Security Council Secretary Akhmednabi Magdigadjiev identified the attackers as "a Defense Ministry special unit...consisting mainly of residents of Chechnya," Interfax reported. "These are people with authority, wearing uniforms and with weapons, fulfilling a mission to discover and destroy militant formations and terrorists," Magdigadjiev added.

That description could, however, equally apply to members of the presidential security force that is loyal to Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Kadyrov, "Vremya novostei" noted on 20 June. Kadyrov's men have reportedly clashed on at least one previous occasion with Yamadaev's, and earlier this year Kadyrov dismissed all police officials Yamadaev appointed in Chechnya's southern Vedeno Raion, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya pointed out in "Novaya gazeta" on 24 February. Politkovskaya also noted that the Yamadaev-Kadyrov standoff by extension pits Russian military intelligence against the Federal Security Service (FSB), in which Russian President Vladimir Putin made his early career.

Kozak's 22 June pledge to crack down on abuses committed against civilians in Chechnya may prove to be nothing more than a pretext to get rid of a Kadyrov foe in the run-up to the Chechen parliamentary elections tentatively scheduled for late November. Some Russian observers have already predicted that the new legislature will consist exclusively of deputies selected for their loyalty to Kadyrov. (Liz Fuller)

GEORGIA-RUSSIA WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT CLEARS FIRST HURDLE. Senior Georgian politicians, including President Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, and Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili, hailed the agreement reached in Moscow on 30 May on the terms and time frame for the closure of the two remaining Russian military bases in Georgia as heralding a new era in bilateral relations. So too did international organizations, including NATO and the EU. But within days, Georgian and Russian officials were arguing over the ownership of equipment at one ancillary facility in Tbilisi, while the Azerbaijani government formally protested to Moscow plans to move part of the materiel currently deployed in Georgia to the Russian military base in Armenia. Moreover, several crucial issues remained to be addressed in subsequent agreements.

The 30 May agreement did, nonetheless, clarify the central issue of the time frame for withdrawal, stating clearly that the process should be completed by 1 October 2007, or, if that proves impossible (for example, due to adverse weather conditions), by 31 December 2007. Russia further pledges not to deploy any further equipment or ammunition to the two bases. The two sides agree to set in motion preparations for a formal inspection by the OSCE and Germany of the Gudauta military base that Russia claims to have vacated in July 2001. They also agreed to seek additional sources of funding to cover the expenses of transporting equipment from the two Georgian bases.

The 30 May agreement also provided for an unspecified quantity of equipment and personnel to be transferred from the two existing bases to a new Georgian-Russian antiterrorism center. Further details on the creation, staffing and operations of that facility are to be addressed in a separate agreement, which has yet to be signed. Georgian Foreign Minister Zourabichvili told RFE/RL on 7 June that the creation of that center, which has been under discussion for over one year (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 22 June 2004), was a Georgian initiative, the rationale for it being that "we did not want Russia to think it was being thrown out of Georgia." It is, however, difficult to reconcile the formal agreement on the transfer of unspecified Russian equipment to that base with Georgian National Security Council press secretary Davit Gunashvili's statement that it will be purely an "analytical center." Other Georgian officials have suggested that other countries, including possibly the United States, could be invited to provide experts to work at the center.

Almost immediately, however, the sincerity of both Tbilisi and Moscow was called into question. The Georgian authorities denied a visa to the new commander of the Group of Russian Forces in the Transcaucasus, Major General Aleksandr Bespalov, thus forcing him to coordinate the withdrawal from Yerevan, Interfax reported on 7 June. At the same time, the Georgian military raised objections to the removal from the Russian Tank-Repair Workshop in Tbilisi, which was to be handed over to Georgia by 15 June, of equipment deployed there, including trucks, spare parts, armored vehicles, and eight diesel-fueled generators (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 June 2005). Those Georgian objections temporarily halted the planned removal of Russian equipment from the base, ITAR-TASS reported on 14 June. Georgia subsequently dropped its opposition to the Russian military taking portable equipment from that facility, and a written agreement formalizing the handover was duly signed on 16 June.

Meanwhile, Gennadii Gudkov, chairman of the Russian State Duma's Defense and Security Committee, paid a private visit in early June to the two Russian bases, after which he concluded that the Defense and Foreign ministries will not be able to meet the agreed deadline of late 2007 for closing them. Caucasus Press on 7 June quoted Gudkov as saying that five years was a more realistic estimate, given that it would, he claimed, take two years just to demine the two bases -- a procedure on which Georgia insists. Gudkov added that the withdrawal process could be expedited if the United States agreed to provide additional funding to finance the construction of alternative bases in Russia to house the personnel and equipment withdrawn from Georgia. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov similarly appealed on 16 June to the Russian government to earmark additional funding to cover the cost of the Russian withdrawal from Georgia. Nino Burdjanadze, speaker of the Georgian parliament, which has consistently adopted a more hard-line and less flexible position on the Russian military presence in Georgia than has the Georgian Foreign Ministry, refused to meet with Gudkov while he was in Tbilisi, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 10 June.

In her 7 June comments to RFE/RL, Zourabichvili acknowledged that there is a risk Russia will not comply with the December 2007 deadline. She added that while Tbilisi considers it encouraging that at the very highest level, both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Foreign Ministry have admitted that the two bases do not serve any strategic purpose and are thus no longer needed, there is no guarantee that local Russian commanders, acting on their own initiative, might not seek to delay the withdrawal for their own ends.

Despite those misgivings, Russian and Georgian delegations succeeded in two subsequent rounds of talks, in Tbilisi on 8-10 June and in Moscow on 16-17 June, in ironing out the remaining, mostly logistical issues connected with the Russian withdrawal. The text of the relevant agreement has been coordinated, and it should be signed "as soon as possible," Interfax reported on 20 June, quoting an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official.

While the bases closure agreement has removed one major bone of contention between Moscow and Tbilisi, it has not demolished the coldness and mutual suspicion that have dogged bilateral relations for many years. Indeed, Russian moves since the signing of the withdrawal agreement seem calculated to fuel that suspicion. First, Russian Defense Minister Ivanov announced on 6 June that within the next 3 1/2 years, Russia will establish two military bases near its border with Georgia to prevent "terrorists" entering Russia from Georgian territory. One of the new bases will be located in Karachaevo-Cherkessia and the second in Daghestan's Botlikh Raion, close to the border with Azerbaijan and Georgia. Ivanov said three mountain brigades will be stationed at those bases, together with helicopters, but no tanks or heavy armor.

Then on 10 June, newly appointed North Ossetian President Taymuraz Mamsurov said in an interview with "Novaya gazeta" that he sees no alternative to the "reuniifaction" of his republic and Georgia's unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, most of whose Ossetian population already has Russian citizenship. That statement suggests that Moscow may have come to the conclusion that deliberately sabotaging President MIkehil Saakashvili's proclaimed vow to restore Georgia's territorial integrity could constitute more sophisticated, and more effective, leverage in relations with Tbilisi than the Russian military presence ever did. (Liz Fuller)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK. "What we are currently fighting for transform our country into a modern European state and to rid our people of the old Soviet stereotypes that still exist in the minds of many representatives of the present leadership." -- Assim Mollazade, founder of the Party of Democratic Reforms, in a 17 June interview with

"Do you know what Azerbaijan's main problem is?... We have very many talented people, but very few who are clever." -- Azerbaijani parliamentary deputy Anar Mamedkhanov in a 6 June interview with

"We do not have the right to try to create a parliament that is less progressive than the Roman Senate." -- Azerbaijani political scientist Rovshan Mustafaev in a 14 June interview with