Thursday, March 08, 2007

All Aboard For Grozny

A rare piece of good news has come out of Chechnya, as flights to and from Moscow resume for the first time since the wars of the 1990s. I don't imagine too many people will be rushing to book their tickets to Grozny, but that's not the point. This is merely a symbolic gesture, as the Kremlin tries to edge Checnhya back towards stability.

Having failed to wipe out the separatist rebels, Moscow now realises the only way to stop Chechnya remaining a bloody and expensive irritant is to make things there as 'normal' as possible. In practice, this means propping up a pro-Russian leader in Ramzan Kadyrov, and ignoring his death squads who rampage around the country bumping off anyone who doesn't agree with him. As long as Kadyrov doesn't end up assassinated like his father, his rule is as 'stable' as things are going to get. He's certainly succeeded in keeping the rebels down - they've been quiet since the spectacular assault on nearby Nalchik almost 18 months ago.

Today's resumption of flights is the next tentative step on bringing Chechnya back into the Russian fold. Moscow's greatest fear is that the Chechen conflict will spill into neighbouring republics, leading to large bits of Russia simply splintering apart. But its canny current policy means that's looking less likely by the day.

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