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Dagestan looks determined to uproot clannish customs

August 07, 2015, 18:16 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Dmitriy Rogulin

MOSCOW, August 7. /TASS/. The latest events in Dagestan, Russia’s southern republic with a three-million population where ethnic diversity is greater than elsewhere in the country, indicate that the federal authorities have been ever more successful in their policies in the North Caucasus, analysts believe. A long string of arrests of local officials, including senior ones, for corruption or connections with Islamic militants operating underground, is a sure way not only of fighting corruption, but also of reforming the republican elite’s customary clannish lifestyles that survived throughout the Soviet years.

Reports that have been arriving from Dagestan over the past few months look pretty much like frontline wires: accounts of security sweeps against underground Islamic militant groups have been pouring in alongside news of arrests of high-level republican officials. Just recently, police put under arrest the chief of the Buinaksk district’s administration, Daniyal Shikhsaidov. He is suspected of embezzling budget funds. Last July the chief of the Russian Pension Fund’s Dagestani branch, Sagid Murtazaliyev and head of the Kizlyar district, Andrey Vinogradov, faced charges of complicity in a murder and the financing of terrorism. Vinogardov was detained and Murtazaliyev put on the wanted list. Criminal cases have been opened against the heads of two more districts - Tarum and Kizilyurt. Both are suspected of cheating and fraud.

It all began two years ago with the arrests of the seemingly omnipotent mayor of Makhachkala, Said Amirov. Later, there followed other high-profile arrests, including those of the chiefs of districts’ legislators, local police officials and also the republic’s deputy prime minister.

Dagestan is undergoing a process of cleansing the authorities, the republic’s leader, Ramazan Abdulatipov said. It is essential to form local and republican bodies of power that would enjoy credibility with the ordinary people of Dagestan.

The law enforcers’ systemic efforts to detain civil servants in Dagestan responsible for criminal offences will go on, says the senior research fellow at the North Caucasus Problems Centre at the Moscow state institute of international relations MGIMO, Akhmet Yarlykapov.

"With this new spiral of arrests the federal authorities issued a clear message to the regional elite the crackdown on the clan of the former mayor of Makhachkala Said Amirov is not the end of the story and there will no untouchables," RBC Daily quotes Yarlykapov as saying.

"Corruption in the areas where the special operations were held reached a degree that could not but entail a response," the chief of the Caucasus Studies Centre at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, Artur Atayev, told TASS. "The federal authorities conducted successful and very well-prepared operations."

The expert recalls that throughout the Soviet era the republic stuck to the old-time tradition of distributing executive posts among representatives of different ethnic groups and clans. Dagestan is a region that is unique in a sense. All positions, including those of federal territorial authorities are shared by the fourteen main ethnic groups. In the Soviet Union the situation showed no signs of improvement. On the contrary, it was getting worse."

"Ramazan Abdulatipov, Russia’s former deputy prime minister and former nationalities minister, well affiliated with the federal political system, was appointed Dagestan’s leader with the aim to eradicate this local custom as very harmful for the situation in Dagestan. He said outright that time was ripe for putting an end to clannish habits," Atayev said.

The growing terrorist activity makes the situation still worse. Dagestan over the past few years has firmly held number one place in the North Caucasus as to the scale of activity by underground militant groups.

"Some Dagestani officials had connections with the undercover gangs. This is a hard fact. It is seen in the arrest of a number of members of Dagestan’s legislative assembly members and the mayor of Makhachkala. Salafi mosques are still operating openly and expensive vehicles belonging to local officials can be regularly seen at the car parks nearby. The percentage of Salafites who make no secret of their attitude to the federal authorities is very large," Atayev said

Of late, ever more field commanders preferred to vow allegiance not the Imarat Kavkaz group, but straightly to the Islamic State, which is prohibited in Russia.

Atayev believes that the events in Dagestan and other republics in the North Caucasus indicate that the federal authorities’ systemic policy in the region is taking shape.

"The federal authorities are gaining an ever firmer foothold in Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan and North Ossetia. The process of enhancing Russia’s statehood in the Caucasus are spreading far and wide. One can already say that the federal centre and the regional political elites see eye to eye regarding the local problems and this is quite an achievement.


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