Russia is sending a “temporary detachment” of troops into the southern region of Dagestan, whose border lies about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Iran, to combat terrorism, the Interior Ministry said.
“We are talking about a temporary deployment and coordination to prevent and counter terrorism and extremism across the whole territory of Dagestan,” Vyacheslav Makhmudov, a spokesman for the regional Interior Ministry, said from the republic’s capital city, Makhachkala.
About 1,000 troops are being moved from the nearby region of Chechnya to form temporary police units in municipalities with “complicated criminal conditions,” said Magomed Baachilov, the secretary of Dagestan’s state security council. The realignment of forces was ordered by Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, with Oleg Kizhayev, a police colonel, named in charge of the ministry detachment in Dagestan, the Interior Ministry’s main directorate for the North Caucasus said on its website today.
The authorities were deploying 20,000 to 25,000 federal troops from Khankala, the main Russian army base in Chechnya, according to reports published in Caucasian Knot, a Moscow-based news and analysis group that tracks the situation in the North and South Caucasus, and the weekly Dagestani publication Chernovik, which cited unidentified local law-enforcement officials. A convoy of armored personnel carriers and military vehicles was seen moving toward southern Dagestan from March 14 to March 17, the reports said.
The North Caucasus has been the scene of separatist violence since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Federal forces fought two wars against rebels in Chechnya, and violence has been flaring in neighboring Dagestan, with a border shootout reported last month, a suicide bombing on March 6 and an attack on a local polling station during the March 4 presidential election. The government blames continuing violence on Islamist fighters and insurgents.
Law-enforcement agencies killed 171 militants and arrested 211 in Dagestan last year, with another eight surrendering without a fight, said Baachilov of the region’s state security council. One hundred “active members” of the insurgency remain after 15 have been killed in the first two months of this year, he said.
Vladimir Putin, then prime minister under late President Boris Yeltsin, sent ground troops into Chechnya in 1999 after four bombings of apartment buildings in Russia in September that year and an attack by Chechen fighters in August on Dagestani villages, which were occupied in an attempt to form an Islamic republic. Putin, who won a six-year term in the Kremlin in the March 4 election, served as president between 2000 and 2008.
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