Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Is Moscow Moving toward De Facto Military Rule in Increasingly Unstable Daghestan?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 22 – Vladimir Putin’s appointment four months ago of a Russian Guard general to head Daghestan and apparent moves by him to appoint his former colleagues in that force to positions of power in the North Caucasus republic are sparking concerns that Moscow is in the process of imposing de facto military rule there.

            Moscow analysts have long discussed such a possibility, and the Kremlin has named officials with a military background to run the republics in the North Caucasus. But what is going on in Daghestan appears to represent a new and broader move toward what can only be called a governor generalship.

            In an article for the Region.Expert portal, Prague-based analyst Vadim Sidorov argues that in Daghestan today, Russian “colonialism is on the march” with the republic head, Sergey Melikov increasingly baldly acting like a governor general rather than the head of an autonomous republic (http://region.expert/dagestan_colonialism/).

            The republic head has been telling other officials in the republic what to do in a manner that resembles a general telling his subordinate officers what to do rather than the nominally elected head of government cooperating with others who have been elected as well, Sidorov continues. And he suggests this pattern is only growing.

            He has been encouraged to think so by the fact that six senior officers with whom Melikov served in the Russian Guard have left their jobs there, something that makes it entirely possible that the former general will appoint them to head key posts in Daghestan and allow him to restore his military-style approach from his new perch.

            Inserting them as mayors would be entirely consistent with what he has done up to now, Sidorov says. They will take orders from him and give orders to the population, sparking both more protests by Daghestanis and more repression by Daghestani officials and thus making an unsettled situation even more so.

            Some in Moscow are not so sure that Melikov will be allowed to move in this direction. They suggest that the recent departures from the Russian Guard command may have more to do with corruption in its ranks than about giving the Daghestan head a new source of repressive cadres (kommersant.ru/doc/4692094 and versia.ru/pochemu-podali-v-otstavku-vosem-generalov-rosgvardii-svyazannyx-s-sergeem-melikovym).

            If that is the case, then the changes at the top of the Russian Guard may not strengthen Melikov’s hand but rather be directed against him, setting the stage for yet another leadership change in Makhachkala and creating further instability in what is now the most unstable republic in the North Caucasus.

            If Melikov does appoint his former comrades in arms to senior positions in Daghestan, he will effectively become a military governor general of the region. If, on the other hand, he is prevented from doing so and ultimately ousted, the Kremlin will have to come up with another strategy to try to keep the republic under its control. 

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