Friday, February 8, 2019

Kadyrov’s Demand for Secrecy at Daghestani Border Talks Sparks Fears Vasiliyev May Sell Out as Ingushetia’s Yevkurov Did

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 7- Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has demanded and Makhachkala has agreed that the border talks between the two republics will take place in secret behind closed doors, an arrangement the two republic governments apparently feel is necessary if any progress is to be made.

            But the experience of the September26 border accord Kadyrov achieved with Ingushetia’s Yunus-Bek Yevkurov in the same way has sparked fears among some Daghestanis that their government is about to sell out to Chechnya, even though some experts say there is no possibility of that happening (

            Independent journalists at Makhachkala’s Chernovik weekly denounced the decision of their republic government to agree to Kadyrov’s demand for secrecy, a demand that includes not only the proposed adjustments in the border but also the names of the members of the delegations who are conducting the negotiations.

            It is known, Chernovik reports, that no opposition figures or ethnic activists are among the members, yet another reason for concern because they could be counted on to defend their constituencies while those in the republic bureaucracy will most certainly do exactly what they are told, even if it is not in Chechnya’s interest.

            Other independent Daghestani journalists agree. For example, Gadzhimurad Sagitov, the editor of Novoye delo, said that it raises questions that no one in the public knows who is doing the negotiating and what the negotiations are focusing on.  Everything may prove to be fine, but this secrecy in itself raises suspicions that it won’t be. 

            But Moscow scholars and experts say that Daghestani suspicions are misplaced because Daghestan’s leader Vladimir Vasiliyev outranks Kadyrov and that the Chechen leader will not be able to achieve any serious breakthrough unless Moscow agrees, something they say in the current environment is unlikely.

            Akhmet Yarlykapov, a specialist on the North Caucasus at MGIMO, says that Moscow “stands between” Kadyrov and Vasiliyev and that the lack of information about talks reflects less Kadyrov’s desire than Moscow’s insistence that all border negotiations take place “quietly” given what happened in Ingushetia.

            He further points out that Vasiliyev won’t have to make any concessions on his own unless Moscow orders them: He is a colonel general of the militia and Kadyrov is only a major general; and the Daghestan republic leader can thus insist on his rights. Moscow could overrule him but that seems unlikely, Yarlukapov says.
            Aleksey Malashenko, a specialist on Islam and the Caucasus at the Moscow Institute for Civilizational Dialogue, agrees.  Only if Moscow agrees with Kadyrov can he triumph over Vasiliyev. 

            The arguments of the two Moscow scholars are persuasive, but to the extent they are right, if a decision is made in Kadyrov’s favor on the border, Daghestanis will thus be compelled to conclude that Moscow, not Grozny, is their problem. And that may create a far more explosive problem than even the suspicions about secrecy they have now do.

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