By Ruslan Isayev
CHECHNYA / INGUSHETIA - After the assassination of Aslan Maskadov, the Ichkerian President and Chechen resistance leader, the situation in Chechnya has substantially deteriorated. Not a day goes by without explosions in various parts of the country or attacks made against members of the Moscow-backed Chechen authorities and federal forces.
However, law enforcement agencies have increased their use of harsh measures against the guerrillas and anyone in contact with them. During the past few weeks more than ten similar such operations have been carried out.
The most active and organized groups under the command of Shamil Basayev and Doku Umarov have so far been silent. But judging from past experience, this is a bad sign; something unpleasant is definitely bound to happen.
Chechen authorities have instituted a number of preventative measures to avoid any possible escalation of the situation. They arrange for roadblocks in unexpected places, carry out "mop-up" operations and check vehicles.
Special attention is paid to cars driven by people who are armed and often pretend to be law-enforcement agents; it is well known that many of them aid and support the guerrillas.
The situation is no better in Ingushetia. On Wednesday morning in Nazran, special forces of the Ingushetian branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) surrounded a house where Iznaur Kodzoyev, one of the Ingush guerrillas, was hiding. After a brief battle in which he was wounded, he blew himself up.
Kodzoyev had been pursued and searched by Russian police after the tragic event in Beslan last September when about 1300 civilians were taken hostage and many killed under circumstances that are still being investigated.
Furthermore, Ingushetia is shaken up by political squabbles. These have been initiated by the local opposition who plan a protest rally to demand that the local Parliament be dissolved and that President Murat Zyazikov resigns.
Authorities have attempted to prevent these types of events in every way possible as they know that such gatherings were precisely one of the underlying causes of the first Chechen war. Back then many respected Chechen elders yielded to the nationalistic euphoria that incited the young people to rage against the existing authorities.
Many observers consider the current situation in Ingushetia and other republics of North Caucasus as being volatile and warn of an impending social upheaval, which can well spill over into mass protests.
Translated by Mindaugas Kojelis.
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