MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti)
More Details of Suicide Attacks in Dagestan
New findings have been announced into the suicide bombings in Dagestan, the office of the Investigative Committee of Russia reported yesterday. Suicide bombers were used in the assassination of Sheikh Said-Afandi Chirkeisky on August 28 and a terrorist attack against a traffic checkpoint in Makhachkala on May 3. Investigators have identified Aminat Kurbanova (Saprykina) as the woman who detonated an explosive device on her body that killed the Sheikh. It has also been established that the brother and sister team of Rizvan and Muslimat Aliyev were not fully responsible for the attack on May 3. Attacks are now allegedly being organized by a new Dagestani militant amir – Rustam Aselderov.
The investigation at the scene of the August 28 explosion revealed a tumbler switch among the remnants of the device. This suggests that suicide bomber Aminat Kurbanova (Saprykina) herself could have detonated the bomb.
Investigators believe Saprykina, a Makhachkala resident, who was married to a succession of four militants, all since killed, was the bomber in the latest act, and they also believe she recruited girls to be used as suicide bombers.
Her name is also connected with two attacks on March 6 and May 3. In the first, five police officers were slain and two were seriously injured. The suspect is 25-year-old Aminat Ibragimova of Makhachkala. She was the wife of 23-year-old Zaur Zagirov, who was killed in an enforcement operation in the village of Gurbuki on February 11. A leader of Dagestani militants, Ibragimhalil Daudov, the Amir of Vilayat Dagestan and the commander of the Imarate of the Caucasus Front was also killed in that operation.
A few months ago Doku Umarov officially proclaimed Rustam Aselderov the commander of the front. Security agencies link Aselderov’s new role with the stepped up terrorist activity in the republic.
According to intelligence information, the Dagestani militant underground is now divided into two camps. One observes a sort of Sharia law and passes sentences on religious leaders who show anti-Wahhabi activity or who cooperate with law enforcement.
The other camp is led by Rustam Aselderov. An attack on an uncooperative mosque or a death sentence is carried out by his orders. The assassination of Sufi Sheikh Said-Afandi Chirkeisky is believed to have been perpetrated on Aselderov’s instructions.
The investigation failed to find evidence that during the double attack on May 3 Rizvan Aliyev died together with his sister Muslimat Aliyev. “The gene patterns of the suicide bombers are not identical,” said the Investigative Committee. The second bomber could be one of four suspects. According to the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, they were members of a Makhachkala sabotage and terrorist group: Gusein Mamayev (Khamza), 24; Ruslan Kazanbiyev, 24; Rasul Medzhidov, 27, and Kurban Omarov, 23.
A week later, on May 15, Mamayev was killed in a special operation by the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry. Investigators will soon identify which of the other three militants blew himself up on May 3.
Russia Least Secure From Oil Price Fall
Of the world’s major oil production dependent countries, Russia is the second least secure against declining oil prices after Nigeria. The implication is that economic and political stability could be threatened if prices fall below $80 per barrel.
Oil producing countries are attractive to investors, but many variables must be considered. Citigroup’s survey reviewed eight countries that trade oil publicly (Russia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Kuwait and Nigeria).
Petrodollars generally ensure that an oil exporting country’s budget surplus will sustain growth. Most of the eight countries here have used oil revenues to reduce national debt to as low as 17% of GDP against nearly 100% of GDP for some western economies.
Oil producing countries, however, are often characterized by an authoritarian government. Oil-based wealth often means that a government loses the connection with its people since much of its revenue is derived from oil exports rather than taxes. The higher the percentage of fossil-fuel based revenue in GDP, the higher the chances for civil rights abuses. Rich oil producers often use weaker government institutions that don’t interfere with their freedom. Those in the upper class tend to scrap for personal gain rather than contribute to society.
Norway is the only oil exporter that could balance its budget without oil. The rest are only growing more dependent on oil. Russia’s balanced budget now requires $117/bbl compared to $20/bbl in 2005.
Serious shifts in authority are possible with big oil price drops. An economic collapse is often followed by a “legitimacy crisis.” The dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and Hugo Chavez’s accession to power in Venezuela in 1998 are all examples of this unfavorable development.
Citigroup estimates that oil prices will remain high for two or three years but will drop to $80-$90 by 2020. But Russia has learned its lesson. With built-up emergency funds and lower national debt, it is less vulnerable now than in the 1980s-1990s.
Some oil countries would be comfortable with $80, but this could result in serious economic consequences for Kazakhstan, Russia and Nigeria. Citi argues, however, that they would still be able to support their populations for a few more years – unless prices fall below $80. But Russia has two cards up its sleeve: its transition to capitalism and a Western understanding of reforms.
However, if the new cabinet’s first 100 days are indicative, Russia can forget about reforms. The political stagnation is obvious as the government restricts the media, increases military and social spending, suspends privatization, makes only superficial changes to the political system and cracks down on public protests.
Earlier this year, investors had hopes of genuine reform following the election. But the Kremlin decided not to make hay over fears of a second wave in the crisis and then pressured the opposition instead. Experience shows that such a response could be a sign of weakness rather than strength.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.