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Economist: And they call it peace

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  • mariuslab2002
    Chechnya and the north Caucasus And they call it peace Feb 28th 2008 | GROZNY From The Economist Vladimir Putin s presidency began in Chechnya; the region is
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 29, 2008
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      Chechnya and the north Caucasus
      And they call it peace

      Feb 28th 2008 | GROZNY
      From The Economist
      Vladimir Putin's presidency began in Chechnya; the region is restive
      as it ends

      ON DECEMBER 31st 1999 Vladimir Putin flew to Chechnya, which had been
      under Russian bombardment for months. It was a suitable first trip for
      the new president, whose rise to power was intimately linked to the
      war in Chechnya. He vowed to pursue terrorists everywhere, famously
      adding “we'll wipe them out in the shithouse.”

      As Mr Putin hands over to Dmitry Medvedev, he can claim that a war
      that cost 100,000 lives is over. Grozny has been transformed: ruins
      cleared away, bullet-ridden facades covered with plastic, fortified
      checkpoints gone. There are new schools, apartment blocks, roads,
      shops. You can fly into Grozny, take a taxi and go to a restaurant.

      To achieve this Mr Putin simply sided with a former rebel, Akhmad
      Kadyrov, whom he pronounced president. When Mr Kadyrov was blown up in
      2004, the mantle passed to his son, Ramzan, who has used money and
      brutality to bring the rebels on side. Others vanished. Sporadic
      fighting continues, but the idea of resistance is largely broken.
      “People can't fight any more. They are physically and morally
      exhausted. Call it preservation instinct,” says one man.

      Besides, much of the cause is gone. Chechnya has de facto autonomy and
      money from Moscow. Mr Kadyrov pledges loyalty to Russia, particularly
      to “the one and only Mr Putin”. But he runs his own affairs. At
      elections, Chechnya gives the Kremlin a 99% vote, but Mr Kadyrov does
      not press people to turn out. He has his own army and control of the
      oilfields. As for 40,000 Russian troops, “they should stay to protect
      Russian international borders,” he says. Mr Kadyrov levies a tax for
      reconstruction, and makes women wear headscarves. His former image of
      brutal thug has turned into builder. He has reduced the kidnapping and
      torture of ordinary Chechens. He is no champion of human rights, but
      he is effective in his way, says Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya of Memorial,
      Russia's leading human-rights group.

      Huge problems remain. Almost the only work is in security. Corruption
      and unemployment (maybe 80%) are so endemic that people pay bribes to
      get state jobs. Chechnya used to provide seasonal labour across the
      Soviet Union. Russian xenophobia has made that impossible. But the
      stress of war that wrecked people's health is gone. “All these years
      that we had been bombed I dreamt that I would fall asleep and that
      there would be no shooting. I don't care who the president of Chechnya
      is: I can now sleep,” says a Grozny resident.

      The true legacy of Russia's war on Chechnya is that its violence has
      spread to other Muslim republics, notably Dagestan and Ingushetia.
      Each has its own problems, but the common thread is Russia's brutal
      and lawless methods. Ingushetia never asked for independence and did
      not even support the Chechen cause. Ms Sokiryanskaya says that, when
      insurgents seized its capital in 2004, locals were shocked to find
      that some were Ingush. Ingushetia now has a network of guerrilla
      fighters who destabilise the region by targeting non-Ingush people and
      police. Last year they killed several Russian-speaking people.

      The Russian army has resorted to brutal mop-up operations involving
      methods little different from those of the terrorists. The result: a
      republic that was mostly peaceful at the beginning of Mr Putin's
      presidency now resembles a war zone. The local leader, Murat Zyazikov,
      a former KGB officer appointed by Mr Putin, can neither protect people
      nor give them work. Yet since Mr Putin scrapped regional elections,
      voters have no way of replacing Mr Zyazikov. When people staged a
      protest against the killing of a six-year old Ingush boy by Russian
      soldiers, they were met with violence. Journalists who came to cover
      the story were kidnapped and beaten up. Days later, Ingushetia
      reported 98.7% backing for the ruling party in a parliamentary election.

      Predictably, the next protest was even more violent. The Kremlin
      blames foreigners. “Instead of solving problems, they suppress them,”
      says Ms Sokiryanskaya. Inevitably, they re-emerge.
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