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Caucasus Threat To Putin’s Rule?

Following the announcement of Putin’s presidential comeback, anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny was one of the first commentators to suggest that the main threat to the seemingly endless continuation of his rule would be Russia’s inter-ethnic tensions.  The Guardian‘s Luke Harding reported on Monday:

‘With no political mechanism for removing Putin from power, Navalny said, another Russian revolution was inevitable. At some point, he said, frustrations would boil over. “Maybe in five months, maybe in two years, maybe in seven years,” he said. Asked what would spark it, he suggested: “The Caucasus.”

A similar line was found in the Moscow Times op-ed written by Vladimir Ryzhkov today, which argued:

An aggressive government-sponsored policy aimed at demonizing minorities leads to a vicious cycle of violence and separatist movements that could easily destroy the state. The biggest danger for Russia is in the North Caucasus republics, but there is also potential for separatism and ethnic violence in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and other regions dominated by minorities. The Serbian nationalism championed by Milosevic contributed to the final bloody collapse of first Yugoslavia, and then Serbia itself. The same thing could happen in Russia.

So it may be even more disconcerting for the Kremlin to see that a report issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies has noted that the North Caucasus insurgency, which Dmitry Medvedev has described as Russia’s biggest security threat, has the added support of global terror behemoth Al Qaeda:

The report’s author, Gordon Hahn, pointed to a growing number of websites linked to the insurgency that are carrying statements of support from leading jihadists such as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who inspired Al-Qaeda in Iraq and is now in jail in Jordan.

Such websites, Hahn said, are also used to raise money.

Hahn pointed to the arrest by Czech police in May of eight individuals in Prague suspected of plotting attacks in the North Caucasus as possible proof of ties to Al-Qaeda.

The rebels goal is a state called the Caucasus Emirate, stretching from the Black Sea to the Caspian.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has labeled the insurgency Russia’s top security threat.

Hahn noted Chechen-born rebel leader Doku Umarov has called for the Caucasus Emirate to be incorporated into global jihad.

Umarov is Moscow’s most wanted man, and Washington has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.