On Monday, July 17, Imam Yaraliev, prosecutor-general for Dagestan, announced his resignation. His deputy, Murad Kekhlerov, will take the post until the Russian prosecutor-general appoints a replacement. Yaraliev had been regarded as a highly corrupt official.
According to information from the Dagestani prosecutor’s office, Yaraliev resigned because the Russian authorities were extremely unsatisfied with his work. Many observers believe that the next prosecutor-general of Dagestan will be an ethnic Russian, namely Igor Tkachev, a senior investigator and department chief with the Russian prosecutor’s office. Tkachev helped investigate the 1999 Chechen invasion of Dagestan. In October 2002 he questioned the seven Russians who U.S. forces had detained in Afghanistan as members of the Taliban and later returned to Russia from Guantanamo Bay. Tkachev has been involved in investigations of almost all rebel terrorist acts and raids in the North Caucasus over the last several years, including the Beslan Investigation Commission (Kommersant, July 18).
Tkachev’s candidacy indicates the reason the Kremlin disliked the work of the republican prosecutor’s office: it was unable to fight the local insurgency.
Security officials in Dagestan have been unusually active this summer. On June 6, Nikolai Shepel, then Russian deputy prosecutor-general for the Southern Federal District, made an inspection visit to the republic. During a meeting with Dagestani President Mukhu Aliev, Shepel said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had sent him to reform how local law-enforcement bodies “defend the population from crime.” Then Shepel blamed regional prosecutors for having lost “operative positions in the republic.” In the vernacular of Russian security officials the phrase “operative positions” means an informant network. Clearly, Shepel wanted to express Moscow’s anger with how the republic security system has been weakened by targeted insurgent operations. The Kremlin cannot be happy that the rebels are killing senior Dagestani police officers one-by-one (see EDM, June 29) while the local prosecutor’s office and the Ministry of Interior Affairs have practically no accurate information about how the militants operate in the region and who their leaders are. Shepel rebuked all of the republic’s top prosecutors, including Yaraliev (Kommersant, July 18).
Nevertheless, the sweep of the Dagestani prosecutor’s office is not the only Kremlin effort to tighten its control over the republic. Two ethnic Russians are now in place to oversee the activity of the Dagestani Ministry of Interior Affairs, especially its head, Adilgirei Magomedtagirov. The two are Sergei Solodovnikov, deputy head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for the Southern Federal District, and Nikolai Graznov, head of the Dagestani branch of the Federal Security Service. On June 13, the police academy in the Dagestani capital, Makhachkala, which trains officers for the entire North Caucasus, was incorporated into the Krasnodar Police University so that the Russian Interior Ministry has more control over the training of Caucasian police forces. Another important change is that children of policemen killed in action now can enroll without taking entrance exams (Kavkazky Uzel, June 13). Officials believe such second-generation policemen will be naturally motivated to confront the rebels.
Together with the police and prosecutor’s office, the Dagestani civil authorities have also undergone a process of Russification. On June 26 the ethnic Russian Yuri Levitsky replaced an Avar (the largest ethnic group in Dagestan), Ramazan Mamedov, as the Dagestani presidential envoy to the Russian president (regions.ru, June 26).
Russian authorities also appear to be focusing their largest efforts to tame Dagestan by increasing the Russian military presence in the region. On the day of Shepel’s visit, the Russian army and other security agencies launched large-scale command-and-staff exercises in Dagestan. The air force and Caspian military participated alongside infantry, police, and FSB special units. As Alexander Postnikov, chief of staff of the North Caucasian Military District, told Kavkazky Uzel, the exercises greatly improved the forces’ mobilization and “capability to transform military units from peace-time to emergency use” (Kavkazky Uzel, June 6).
Other anti-terrorist drills took place in Makhachkala on July 1. Different special-task units of the army and law-enforcement agencies were trained to neutralize terrorists in a large city (Kavkazky Uzel, July 1). On July 12 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov visited Botlikh, a village in the mountains, to inspect a military base that is under construction there. The base will be used by a special mountain brigade that will be deployed to the republic (Kavkazky Uzel, July 12).
Such careful preparations for war make sense, as the Dagestani insurgency is steadily increasing. Just a week ago, on July 13, Russian Special Forces intercepted a group of 12 young Dagestani rebels from Khasavyurt and Novolaksk districts who were moving along the Chechen-Dagestani border to a training base situated on Chechen territory. The insurgents were youngsters aged 14-20 (Vremya novostei, July 17). This group could be just a small segment of the Dagestani boy soldiers who have been recruited by the rebel forces this year.
The Kremlin fears that the insurgency may be preparing a major event in Dagestan this year, and it wants to make local security officials work more efficiently. Leaders hope that stricter Russian control over the local cadres as well as perpetual military drills will help to avoid the worst-case scenario: a large-scale rebel attack in the region.