In January, government forces killed 26 militants in the North Caucasus Federal District. Eight of those killed were referred to as leaders of the illegal armed groups. In the same period, 101 police operations were carried out in the district. Russia’s law enforcement agencies noted an increase in militant activities during the first month of 2013. The most common type of rebel attack was a hit-and-run attack carried out by mobile groups of rebels, in a majority of cases targeting law enforcement agents, social and religious activists and businessmen (www.contrasterra.ru/news/7867).
It was, therefore, strange to hear the statement by Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev about cutting the number of troops in the North Caucasus in the near future (http://skfo.pro/news/2655). According to the minister, the authorities will review the numbers of troops that are stationed in the North Caucasus Federal District because the situation has stabilized in some republics. Kolokoltsev probably meant Karachaevo-Cherkessia, since it is hardly possible to talk about stabilization in the other republics.
If one takes into account that the number of troops in the North Caucasus has not changed in the past 12 years, the only possibility for cutting the troop numbers now would be to replace Russian police with local police. As of now, special police forces from Russian regions as far flung out as Kaliningrad and Vladivostok are regularly dispatched to police the North Caucasian republics. Most of the Russian police forces are concentrated in the Northeast Caucasus—Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan—but some are also in Kabardino-Balkaria, which is still one of the most painful weak spots for Moscow due to the intensity of rebel activities there (www.ng.ru/regions/2010-06-21/2_kavkaz.html).
On January 25, three suspected rebels were killed in the city of Chegem in Kabardino-Balkaria. Initially, it was reported that two or three suspected militants were surrounded in a house on Oktyabrskaya Street. After the suspects refused to surrender, the government forces stormed the building, which caught fire in the process and all the resisting militants died. They were identified as 23-year-old Khasan Kasaev, 26-year-old Alim Mashezov and 25-year-old Ramazan Tolov (http://news.rambler.ru/17339461/). The average age range for the militants in the North Caucasus is between the ages of 22 to 25.
On January 28, militants gunned down a police officer in Nalchik in broad daylight. The attack on Anatoly Bukin, a 37-year-old police colonel, occurred on Keshokov Street in Kabardino-Balkaria’s capital. The attacker shot the officer in the head as he was entering his house after the night shift. It was established that the attacker calmly left the crime scene in a cab. One 9-mm shell casing was found at the site of the killing. Bukin died in the Nalchik city hospital later in the day (http://07kbr.ru/2013/01/28/segodnya-v-g-nalchike-v-rezultate-vooruzhennogo-napadeniya-pogib-podpolkovnik-policii-anatolij-bukin-policiya-prodolzhaet-poiski-prestupnika/).
On June 29, a day after the police officer’s murder, the police reported it had conducted a successful special operation targeting the presumed murderer of the head of the Kabardino-Balkarian agricultural academy, Boris Zherukov. The suspect, Zeitun Boziev, was killed in a video arcade. The police did not try to arrest him, instead killing him on the spot when he went to the restroom. A handgun with a silencer and a hand grenade were found on him. Zherukov was murdered last December 25 (http://www.regnum.ru/news/kavkaz/kab-balk/1618770.html).
On February 6, one road police officer was killed and another seriously wounded in a shootout at the intersection of Keshokov and Kirov streets in Nalchik (www.regnum.ru/news/kavkaz/kab-balk/1622172). The slain officer was identified as 30-year-old Police Lieutenant Zamir Gauzhaev. According to the investigators, the firefight took place after police demanded that the unidentified assailants present their IDs. The gunmen’s car was found a day after the attack. The owner of the car, a 29-year-old Nalchik resident, was declared a fugitive, although he had not been on the police list of suspected militants. The police will now try to find out how the rebels came in possession of his car.
The authorities in Kabardino-Balkaria reported that on February 5, police arrested a resident of the city of Tyrnyauz, suspected of aiding the rebels. According to the police, the man arrested had been helping the insurgency since 2011 by collecting information on members of the local police, and had taken part in an attempt on the life of a police official in Elbrus district. Also on February 5, another suspected accomplice of the rebels was arrested. The suspect was intercepted at the moment a local resident was handing over the equivalent of $1,000 to him. According to investigators, the suspect was trying to extort the money from a female resident and hand it over to the insurgents (http://kabardino-balkaria.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/172027/).
Meanwhile, the police in Kabardino-Balkaria continued to announce the capture of weapons caches across the republic. Thus, on February 9, a cache of ammunition was discovered in Cherek district. On February 10, two ammunition caches were found in Nalchik. On February 11, another two caches were found, this time in districts outside Nalchik (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/219965/). Judging by the small quantities of ammunition found in these caches, it is hard to believe they belong to the insurgents. For example, the police reported that in one of the caches it found an F-1 hand grenade, 31 cartridges, two plastic bottles with liquid, a saw, a scabbard and drugs.
In summary, it can be concluded that the Russian Interior Minister’s statement about reducing the number of troops in the region is nothing but propaganda apparently designed to show off the improvements in the region as the countdown to the Olympics in Sochi in 2014 begins. So far, there has been no development in the region that would match the minister’s optimism about the situation in the North Caucasus.