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Cablegate: Humanitarians Wary As Violence Spreads to North Ossetia

VZCZCXRO3400
RR RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #3137 2981309
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241309Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0509
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS MOSCOW 003137

DEPARTMENT FOR PRM/ECA AND EUR/RUS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV PTER EAID RS
SUBJECT: HUMANITARIANS WARY AS VIOLENCE SPREADS TO NORTH OSSETIA

REF: Moscow 3089

1. (SBU) Summary: Unknown attackers blew up a local official's car
in front of a downtown hotel in the relative safe haven of
Vladikavkaz. Expatriate humanitarians living and working in North
Ossetia and its neighboring republics acknowledge a generally
deteriorating regional security situation with no improvement in
sight. The alternatives for the Russian Government - a harsh
security crackdown or fresh political initiative that could upset
the status quo local bureaucracy - are unpalatable to Moscow. End
Summary.

Havoc on the High Street
------------------------

2. (U) Russian press reported October 22 on the bombing of a car
belonging to the first deputy mayor of the North Ossetian capital
city Vladikavkaz. The official, Mairam Tamayev, was hospitalized in
grave condition or only with a slight leg injury, depending on the
account. An Itar-Tass police source reported an explosive yield of
200-300 grams of TNT. Police investigators have not yet identified a
perpetrator.

3. (SBU) The most striking element of the crime was where it took
place: in front of the Hotel Vladikavkaz, the city's faded
Brezhnevian former Intourist hotel. Along with the Imperial, this
is one of only two hotels in North Ossetia that the UN Department of
Safety and Security in the Russian Federation has cleared for
official use. (Note: UNDSS has not cleared any hotels in
Ingushetia, Chechnya, or Dagestan. End note.) It is a 20-minute
walk from World Vision Russia's team house and even closer to some
UNHCR expatriate staff housing. An attack in such a prominent
location thus suggests that the region's insurgents and criminal
elements have been emboldened by recent successful assaults on
authorities in neighboring Ingushetia (reftel).

4. (SBU) In a meeting with Refcoord and ACS Chief October 21,
Medecins San Frontieres (MSF) officials said escalating violence in
the region is of great concern to them. MSF-Holland has three
offices in the North Caucasus - in Nalchik (Kabardino-Balkaria),
Nazran (Ingushetia), and Groznyy (Chechnya). Head of Mission Willem
de Jonge, a Dutch citizen, observed that the threat posed by Muslim
extremists seems to be growing across the region, with Ingushetia in
particular "spiraling out of control." Jonge was particularly
concerned with the emergence of suicide attacks. Although such
attacks have thus far been few, they are worrying simply because
they are not a typically Caucasian form of political violence.

5. (SBU) International Rescue Committee Russia Country Director
Thomas Hill speculated October 20 that Caucasus insurgents are
"almost close enough in boots, guns, and funding to launch
full-scale [assaults] if they wanted to" but will probably be
content simply to take a break over the winter while, as in previous
years, continuing to stockpile resources and instill fear among the
population, thus weakening the local government.

6. (SBU) Not everyone gives the rebels so much credit for being the
masters of their own fate. Jo Hegenauer, outgoing UNHCR Vladikavkaz
Head of Office, told us October 21 that the October 18 attack
against FSB troops in Ingushetia (reftel) was not really
extraordinary and that the Russian military could effectively crack
down whenever it wished. Hegenauer, who has just completed three
and a half years in the North Caucasus, said he thought most of the
region's true radicals had already been killed or were in exile
abroad, from where it is much easier to propagandize about a rising
Islam-inspired Caucasus Emirate (e.g., on the jihadist "Kavkaz
Center" website).

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) For Hegenauer's analysis to be correct the Russian
Government would have to be willing to commit itself to use of force
on a scale that would draw domestic and, even more so, international
condemnation. What we and our humanitarian colleagues can
anticipate instead is chronic political and organized criminal
violence barely kept in check by federal forces and sometimes
uncomfortably close to "home." The alternative, a political fix,
would require acknowledging the base of protestors and
disenfranchised, replacing corrupt local officials, supporting
regional clan and religious leaders, and providing -- and protecting
from graft - substantial funding for livelihoods that provide a
meaningful alternative to perpetual militancy.

BEYRLE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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