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  Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Moscow is trying to formulate a new policy in the North Caucasus
In mid-June, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper published excerpts from a report on the situation in the North Caucasus compiled by Dmitry Kozak, the Presidential Representative to the Southern Federal District. Kozak's spokesman Fyodor Shcherbakov said the report "had been drafted and forwarded to the Kremlin more than a month ago." In September 2004, immediately after the hostage taking in a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, President Vladimir Putin said: "The war on terror calls for an overhaul of our policy in that region." He stressed that "one of the key and most acute problems is the weakness of state governance" in the region. In a bid to remedy the situation, in mid-September the president announced the creation of a federal commission for the North Caucasus. Its main task, Putin said, was "to achieve major results in improving the standards of living in the region" as soon as possible. Dmitry Kozak, a close associate of Putin and deputy head of the presidential administration, was appointed head of the commission and immediately suggested the creation of working groups to analyze the socio-economic development of the region, problems with law enforcement, defense and security, migration, culture and education, ethnic and religious relations, and how to combat religious extremism. The groups also drafted proposals on improving the situation in the southern federal district. "These proposals are not radically new. But they constitute the first attempt to present a coordinated development plan for the region," said Igor Dobayev, a co-author of the report and deputy director of the Center of Systems Regional Studies and Forecasting at the University of Rostov-on-Don. Moskovsky Komsomolets quoted the following excerpts: "Corporate groups in the power structures have monopolized political and economic resources. Relatives hold leading posts in the power structures and major economic companies of all North Caucasus republics. This has disrupted the system of checks and balances and led to the spread of corruption." Another passage quoted by the newspaper read: "The arbitrariness of the authorities provokes social apathy in the bulk of the people. The authorities do not have reliable support in many entities of the Federation." Kozak's spokesman did not confirm whether these quotes were genuine, but experts said they reflect the situation in the region. "Nothing the newspaper writes about is a secret to the people of the North Caucasus," said Akhmed Yarlykapov, an expert on the region. "If the quotes are genuine, they show that Kozak is a competent man." Yarlykapov said that the situation in the region might be improved only if regional elites are removed from their current positions. But how is this to be done? While the Kremlin is studying Kozak's report, some regions of the southern federal district have taken personnel decisions that will determine their standing in the next several years. Alexander Dzasokhov resigned as president of North Ossetia and accepted a position in the Federation Council. The new president of the republic is Taimuraz Mamsurov, former speaker of the North Ossetian parliament. Meanwhile, Murat Zyazikov, the president of Ingushetia, and Vladimir Chub, the governor of the Rostov region, have been reappointed to their posts. Dmitry Kozak assured the public that Magomedali Magomedov, chairman of the State Council of Dagestan, would keep his post despite rumors of his imminent resignation. Mustafa Batdiyev, the president of Karachayev-Cherkessia, will most likely also be reappointed, although political scandals have become regular occurrences in his republic. "All of this looks logical," Yarlykapov said. "Moscow is taking the first steps to replace the local elites in the southern federal district." This conclusion sounds strange, as the bulk of local leaders have kept their posts, while Mamsurov, who replaced Dzasokhov as the president of North Ossetia, is not popular in the republic. Yet Moscow does not have spare personnel to give the region and, taking into account the complicated security considerations and ethnic relations there, has very little room for maneuver. Hence, personnel decisions are made with due regard for this. "The North Caucasus should be handled very delicately," Yarlykapov said. "Rash moves can disrupt the security balance, which is a current priority for the Kremlin." But the status quo can also not be preserved there forever, as Moscow is well aware. Only the federal center can make the decisions on changing the situation in the region, with due regard for local specifics, and this should happen after the Kremlin finishes analyzing Kozak's report
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