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Kremlin recognition risks “domino effect” at home

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Kremlin recognition risks “domino effect” at home
By Christian Lowe

MOSCOW, Aug 27 (Reuters) – The Kremlin’s decision to recognise the independence of two breakaway regions of neighbouring Georgia has prompted some people inside Russia’s own borders to ask: why can we not have independence too?

The recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia risks starting a “domino effect,” re-awakening separatist sentiments in Chechnya and other parts of the turbulent North Caucasus where Russia has been fighting to contain rebellions.

Analysts say Russian troops are firmly in control in Chechnya and elsewhere in the region, making a new uprising unlikely any time soon.
“But the recognition of these unrecognised republics will without doubt stick in the minds of a lot of people in the North Caucaus,” said Alexei Malashenko, an expert on the region at the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank.

“In Chechnya there is still separatist sentiment. So a precedent will be set: if one lot of people can have it then why can’t the others? It will have an impact.”

Russia’s FSB domestic security service said last week it expected a surge in activity by separatist and Islamist militants in the North Caucasus.

“DOUBLE STANDARDS”

Some Chechens expressed bitterness on Wednesday that Russia had backed separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, yet fought two devastating wars to crush Chechnya’s short-lived independence from Moscow.

“Russia shouts about (Western) double standards at the top of its voice, but does not have the slightest hesitation to use the same method,” said Idris Yaskiyev, a 23-year-old resident of the capital, Grozny.

Asmart Sambiyeva, 25, from the Chechen town of Gudermes, said she saw the support Russia gave to South Ossetia when Georgian troops attacked the capital, Tskhinvali, this month.

“They called what had happened a genocide. It is very hurtful and funny to observe all this from the point of view of people who went through the complete destruction of a nation and on top of that were called a nation of bandits,” she said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia set a precedent for the restive regions in the North Caucasus.

“Inaction by Russia (on the Georgian regions)…would have been absolutely not understood, least of all by the population of the North Caucasus,” Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday.

SEPARATIST SENTIMENT

Chechnya is not the only Russian region where some people want to establish their own state.

In neighbouring Ingushetia and Dagestan, disparate groups of Islamist militants regularly mount bomb attacks and ambushes. They say they want to establish Islamic rule.

Natives of the Russian region of North Ossetia are from the same ethnic group as South Ossetians.

An ancient Christian people who speak a language derived from Persian, Ossetians are loyal to Moscow but some talk — mostly in theoretical terms — about uniting North and South Ossetia to create an independent state they call “Iryston.”

The Russian regions of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygea have large minorities who have ethnic ties to the Abkhaz.

“They are our blood brothers,” said Valery Vasilchenko, head of the military faculty at Abkhazia’s main university.

But Carnegie’s Malashenko said for the time being, the Kremlin’s uncompromising treatment of separatism in the North Caucasus should stifle any attempts to follow Abkhazia and South Ossetia down the path to secession.

“It has become clear that Russia in the North Caucasus is strong and it is prepared to act, including with arms, without taking account of anyone’s opinion,” he said.

“It has shown strength and in the North Caucasus they respect strength very much.”

Written by tristhefall

August 27, 2008 at 10:55 am

Posted in Common

Tagged with , ,

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