MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Yuri Filippov.)
- On June 4, the Vostok unit, which is part of the 42nd Russian army and is comprised mostly of Chechens, carried out a military and police operation to find armed terrorists in the village of Borozdinovskaya, in the east of Chechnya.
It was meant to revenge the murder of one of the servicemen's father. An important detail: the population of the village consists not only of Chechens, but also of Avars, an ethnic group, which is mainly represented in neighboring Dagestan. It was them who fell victims to the cleansing. The result of the "operation" was as follows: one person dead, 11 missing (and suspected dead), four houses destroyed. After that about 1,000 Avars left Borozdinovskaya and crossed over to Dagestan, fearing for their lives. The President's plenipotentiary in the Caucasus Dmitry Kozak described the cleansing as "direct sabotage against Russia, Dagestan and Chechnya."
The immediate consequences of this act can be very serious indeed. A new epicenter of inter-ethnic tensions can emerge in the Russian North Caucusus, like the one between Ossetians and Ingushes, when not separate groups of gunmen but a significant part of the population are ready to take part in the hostilities. However, so far the authorities are able to contain the conflict within more or less acceptable limits, preventing it from escalating. To do so they have to return the Avars home quickly, to ensure their relative security, to complete the investigation and name the offenders, as well as to pay compensations to the victims and help them to improve their living conditions. Mr. Kozak is trying to push the authorities in that direction.
Yet even if this task is solved, there will be another large set of problems left, concerning those who carried out the cleansing in Borozdinovskaya, as well as dozens and hundreds of similar operations in other Chechen villages.
Even if Moscow decides to at least reprimand the organizers of these cleansings, it will seriously jeopardize the fragile stability in the republic. Many representatives of the federal center openly call fighters of pro-Russian Chechen units bandits. As a result, the central authorities find themselves in a very unenviable situation: on the one hand, they are trying to stop cleansings, on the other, they put up with them.
After the tragedy in Borozdinovskaya, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office launched criminal proceedings on charges of kidnapping and extortion. Vladimir Kalita, deputy military prosecutor of Chechnya, maintains that investigators "are shooting off weapons and identifying them."
Meanwhile the Avars who left Borozdinovskaya refuse to return home even after their meeting with Mr. Kozak. They refused to talk to a special state Chechen commission set up to look into the incident. They agreed to negotiate their return only after the 11 people who had disappeared during the cleansing are returned.
Mr. Kozak says "the North Caucasus will perish in flames if people start re-settling in line with ethnic principles." He and the Chechen authorities are trying their best to persuade the villagers to return home.