Police in Russia's south killed two suspected militants Jan. 7 in a "counter-terrorism operation" launched in response to a checkpoint suicide attack that took the lives of six officers. The area on the outskirts of Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, has been under curfew since the attack. Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, all predominantly Muslim republics in the North Caucasus, saw a sharp rise in violence last year, with near-daily attacks mostly targeting police and other officials. The violence sweeping the impoverished southern region is increasingly described as a civil war between Kremlin-supported administrations and Islamic militants. (AP, Jan. 7) A Dec. 18 suicide car attack on a group of police and soldiers in Nazran, Ingushetia, wounded at least 23 people, including civilians. (AP, Dec. 18)
The Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers met in Zurich Oct. 10 to sign a landmark accord to normalize diplomatic ties between the two nations. The deal, which calls for the border to be reopened within two months, follows six weeks of negotiations mediated by Switzerland. The agreement calls for an international commission to research World War I-era archives to clarify the extent of Turkish massacres of Armenians. Many Armenians fear this will produce a revisionist history that dilutes the enormity of the killing. Some 10,000 protesters rallied in Armenia's capital Oct. 9 to oppose the planned signing.
Russian human rights group Memorial has suspended operations in Chechnya following the murder of one of its most prominent activists, Natalya Estemirova. The group said its work in Chechnya had become "life-threatening." The office of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has also announced plans to sue Oleg Orlov, the head of Memorial, for defamation. "I have prepared and will file to court a complaint on protecting the honor, worthiness and professional reputation of the president of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov," Kadyrov's lawyer told the Interfax news agency. (Deutsche Welle, July 19)
A suicide bomber severely wounded Yunus Bek Yevkurov, president of Russia's volatile southern republic of Ingushetia—an assassination attempt that undermines the Kremlin's claim that it has brought stability to the restive North Caucasus. A car rigged with TNT exploded as the presidential convoy traveled outside the regional capital, Nazran. The blast tore Yevkurov's armored sedan to pieces and killed two of his bodyguards. Yevkurov was the third high official to be wounded or killed in the last three weeks in the North Caucasus region. (AP, June 22)
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a senior judge in Russia's volatile southern republic of Ingushetia June 10, the latest in a series of attacks in the largely Muslim region. Aza Gazgireyeva, deputy head of Ingushetia's supreme court, died of bullet wounds shortly after her car came under fire in the town of Nazran. The attackers also injured several bystanders before escaping in two cars. Investigators as saying Gazgireyeva was likely killed for her role in investigating the 2004 attack on Ingush police forces by Chechen fighters. (AlJazeera, June 10)
Georgian and Ukrainian troops neutralized simulated suicide bombers and a "mock mob" at Vaziani military base near Georgia's capital Tbilisi May 31, rounding up month-long NATO-led military exercises that have angered Russia. Troops from two other members of members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program—Macedonia and Bosnia—also participated. (AP, May 31)
Citing stabilization brought about by pro-Moscow Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Russian authorities announced they are ending the decade-long "counter-terrorism operation" in Chechnya. Russia boasts that violence and terrorism in the southern Muslim republic have been put down—but sporadic violence persists, and human rights groups have accused Kadyrov of using militias to commit widespread abuses against the Chechen people.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) April 9 issued rulings in four cases ordering Russia to pay a total of €282,000 to compensate six families who claimed government agents abducted their Chechen relatives between 2001 and 2003. In three of the four cases, Dokayev and Others v. Russia, Dzhabrailova v. Russia, and Malsagova and Others v. Russia, masked men clad in camouflage and armed with machine guns abducted five men from their Chechen Republic homes in 2002 and 2003.