Monday, October 8, 2018
KBR Clash in September Continues to Cast Dark Shadow on the Caucasus
Staunton, October 8 – The September 19 clashes between Kabards and Balkars over the commemoration of a battle three centuries ago appear to have had led to the deaths of two residents of the KBR, a development that likely would be attracting far more attention were it not for the events in Ingushetia.
The two men, who were killed in the course of a special operation by Russian siloviki, may or may not have been linked to the earlier clash. Some have suggested they were provocateurs who had to be removed from the scene; while others say they had no links to the Circassian movement at all (kavkazr.com/a/dva-dnya-ubiystv-v-sele-atazhukino/29529146.html).
The case is convoluted. On October 3, a local police official went to the home of the two to query them about their involvement with the September 19 clashes. He asked them to come with him to the militia station but on the way, he and they got into a fight; and he was killed after being stabbed 18 times by a knife.
(The policeman leaves a wife and three children, Kavkazr repors; and the authorities have given them a one-time payment of 500,000 rubles (7,000 US dollars) in compensation.)
After the policeman was murdered, other police approached the residence of the two men on October 4. Seeing them approach, the men opened fire with automatic weapons, and both were killed. Residents of their village, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the two had “a bad reputation” and were known as “hooligans.”
Valery Khatzhukov, the head of the regional human rights center in KBR, said that he could not say whether or not the two heavily armed men were in any way linked to the September 19 clashes, even though that is what the police initially sought to interrogate them about.
Martin Kochesovo, a young Circassian activist, says that the two weren’t at the September 18 meeting of about 200 people but may have taken part in the events of September 19 when several thousands assembled, far more than allows him now to remember exactly who was there and who was not. They could have been provocateurs, he suggests.
Aslan Beshto, the president of the Kabardin Congress, says that the murder of the policemen was “completely irrational.” He adds that he is certain of one thing: “the Circassian national movement has never and will never divide people on a social or religious basis and always follows lawful methods of solving problems and issues.”
“Therefore, I am afraid,” the Kabard activist says, “these young people were chance participants n the events in Kendelyon and everything that happened after that, including the murder of the policemen could hardly have been connected with these events.”
This may seem a small thing, but it is anything but. It is confirmation of three long-standing features of conflicts in the North Caucasus: first, they tend to become violent because both officials and the population are heavily armed and ready to use force when challenged in any way.
Second, people there, in the minimal information environment imposed by Moscow, immediately link events together even if there is no real connection, with such rumors taking off and defining how people think and act in situations sometimes far removed from those that sparked the rumors in the first place.
And third, both the first and the second of these features point to a third: the clashes in KBR are far from over; and they are likely to be repeated in other parts of the North Caucasus, especially as the conflict in Ingushetia over the border accord with Chechnya continues to grow in scope.