MINELRES: IWPR: North Ossetia Tensions Escalate

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WELCOME TO IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE No.253, September 15, 2004

CAUCASUS NEWS UPDATE SEPTEMBER 15

LIFE AFTER BESLAN IWPR's North Caucasus editor reflects on the tragic
events in North Ossetia. By Valery Dzutsev in Vladikavkaz

NORTH OSSETIA TENSIONS ESCALATE Ethnically-mixed community in the
Prigorodny Region on high alert. By Murat Gabarayev in Oktyabrskoe

ARMENIAN CONSTITUTIONAL BATTLE Parliament fights over the powers of the
president. By Naira Melkumian in Yerevan

AZERBAIJAN: NATO RELATIONS UNDER STRAIN Heightening of anti-Armenian
sentiments appears to have put paid to partnership for peace operation.
By Mamed Suleimanov and Shahin Rzayev in Baku

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................

NORTH OSSETIA TENSIONS ESCALATE

Ethnically-mixed community in the Prigorodny Region on high alert.

By Murat Gabarayev in Oktyabrskoe 

The last two weeks have seen a series of rallies in North Ossetia. Most
tense has been the ethnically-mixed Prigorodny Region on the border with
Ingushetia and the scene of fighting in 1992. The demonstrations have
mostly been spontaneous and out of official control, and have heard
calls for the punishment of ethnic Ingush. 

Timur, a 20-year-old student, took part in a demonstration in the
village of Sunja in Prigorodny Region. He said excitedly, "In these days
of grief for Ossetia we ought to say openly that it wasn't just Arab and
Chechen terrorists who are guilty of the death of the children and their
parents and teachers in Beslan, but Ingush as well. It's already been
proved that our neighbours were in the gang [that took over the school]
and the hostages say they were really cruel."

Timur said that the Ossetian authorities had "not made the right
conclusions" after the violence that occurred twelve years ago.

In the autumn of 1992, Ingush and Ossetians clashed in the Prigorodny
Region, which had belonged to Ingushetia until 1944 and then become part
of North Ossetia after the Stalinist deportations of the Ingush and
Chechens. After five days of fighting around 800 people died and
thousands of homes were burned and looted. Tens of thousands of people
fled, most of them Ingush who headed for Ingushetia. 

Since then many Ingush have returned and there are now around 17,000
Ingush living in Prigorodny Region out of a population of just over
100,000. However, the events of Beslan have put the whole district under
strain once again. Interior ministry troops are patrolling the district
jointly with local police and federal army units are on the border
between Ingushetia and North Ossetia. 

Locals in the district say that Ingush began leaving their homes in
Prigorodny Region on the evening of September 2, the day after the
school siege began. Some have returned since then, but many homes remain
shuttered and empty. 

Zarema, 23, is Ingush. She lives in the village of Dachnoe and studies
in the Ingush State University just across the administrative border. 
In an anxious voice she said, "Once again the organisers and masterminds
of a terrible tragedy have set up the Ingush living in North Ossetia.
People died and it was not our fault. The roots of all these acts of
terror are in Chechnya and while [Chechen rebel leaders Aslan] Maskhadov
and [Shamil] Basayev are alive, there won't be any end to the
explosions, the violence, the hostage taking." 

Sociologist Alexander Dzadziev, who specialises in Ossetian-Ingush
relations, argues against the view that the seizure of the school in
Beslan was deliberately planned to sabotage relations between the two
communities.

Dzadziev said that there was no need to stage a major terrorist incident
to whip up tensions between Ossetians and Ingush in Prigorodny Region.
That goal could have been achieved with "100 times less effort" by
provocateurs. He said the school seizure was in fact "the latest act of
mass intimidation by Chechen separatists, just like the ones in
Budyonnovsk and Kizlyar [in 1995 and 1996] albeit perhaps with graver
consequences".

An outbreak of violence was narrowly averted on September 4, when a
crowd of Ossetians marched on the Ingush-populated settlement of Kartsa
near Vladikavkaz. The only person who could persuade them to halt their
march was South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity. 

Public anger towards both the local and the federal government remains
strong. Following a mass rally in Vladikavkaz on September 8, North
Ossetian leader Alexander Dzasokhov sacked his government, although he
did not resign himself, as many had predicted. On September 11 President
Putin sacked North Ossetia's interior minister and security service
chief, Kazbek Dzantiev and Valery Andreyev. 

Rallies are continuing, as are calls for Ingush to be expelled from the
republic. For their part Ingush have taken part in rallies "against
terrorism". Many people are warning against a repeat of ethnic violence.


Vitaly, a 28-year-old Ossetian lawyer in the village of Sunja, said,
"Today we keep hearing calls by young people to take revenge on our
neighbours. I think we mustn't do that. We have to solve these issues
peacefully. The land of Ossetia is soaked in blood already. We should
always remember that murderers have no nationality." 

Aslanbek, a 30-year-old Ingush in the village of Maiskoe, pointed out
that Ingushetia itself had been attacked in June and dozens of policemen
and civilians had died. And he blamed the previous and current Russian
presidents for the troubles of the region. 

"It was Yeltsin who bred [Chechen rebel president Jokhar] Dudayev and
all the other terrorists in the south of Russia," said Aslanbek. "And
now the current Russian leader, Putin, cannot bring order to the
country. Ossetians and Ingush ought to do everything not to let the
Wahhabis start a war in our two republics."

The head of the administration in Prigorodny Region Pavel Tedeyev
appealed for calm, in an interview with IWPR. 

"Yes there are a lot of questions for the authorities, both the
republican ones and the Russians, but it does not mean that we should
unconditionally call for the resignation of the president of the
republic and plunge our common home, Ossetia, into chaos and anarchy,"
Tedeyev said. "We have to keep together, unite, get through this
experience we have suffered with dignity and stay human for the sake of
those who died a martyr's death for us." 

Life in North Ossetia is still a long way from getting back to normal.
Schools and other educational institutions are still half-empty, even
though they have armed guards. Parents come to the school gates to meet
their children and many children are simply missing classes under
various pretexts.

Murat Gabarayev is a correspondent for Glashatai newspaper in North
Ossetia.

................

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ISSN: 1477-7959 Copyright (c) 2004 The Institute for War & Peace
Reporting 

CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE No. 253