Chechnya Death Toll Indicates Rising Risk to Russia, Report Says

The number of people killed in clashes between law enforcement and radicals jumped last year in the Russian region of Chechnya, indicating a threat of rising violence across the North Caucasus, a report showed.

Deaths in Chechnya rose 33 percent to 52, according to data collected by Caucasian Knot, a Moscow-based news and analysis group that tracks the region. That contrasts the overall number of people killed in the entire North Caucasus falling 36 percent to 340, according to the report to be released this week on the group’s website and received by Bloomberg.

Russia has been fighting an insurgency in the mostly Muslim North Caucasus for more than two decades, including two wars in Chechnya. The decline in terrorist activity in the wider region is mainly due to the flow of fighters to Islamic State and harsh measures introduced since 2012 in preparation for last year’s Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi, said Grigory Shvedov, who runs Caucasian Knot.

“Chechnya’s approaches have been repeatedly copied in the whole region,” Shvedov said. “The current increase of violence shows that the severe measures can only be effective in the short term.”

Authorities across the region are looking to follow the example of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who suppressed violence with some of the harshest policies, according to Shvedov. His tactics produced a gradual decrease in violence until late last year, when extremist activity picked up, he said.

Returning Fighters

The biggest attack took place hours before Putin was scheduled to give his annual address to the nation last month, when militants attacked a police outpost in the Chechen capital, Grozny. The incident culminated in the region’s deadliest clash since 2010.

The most violent region in the North Caucasus remains Dagestan, with 208 deaths, or 39 percent less than in 2013, Caucasian Knot said. The trend may turn as more militants return from Iraq and Syria, Shvedov said.

“We may expect a rebound scenario to extend to the rest of the North Caucasus region in the next year or two,” he said.

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