EURASIA LIFT

Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

Dagestan: Police Fear For Life – Change Into Civilian Clothes – Need Their Job

Posted by Info on 22/03/2010

When snipers on rooftops began picking off police officers, Col. Mukhtar Mukhtarov’s wife blocked the door with her body and refused to let him leave home in his uniform. He quietly went back to his bedroom to change into civilian clothes.

In the Russian region of Dagestan, in the North Caucasus fifty-eight police officers were killed in attacks here last year, many of them while running errands or standing at their posts. Last month alone, according to press reports, 13 officers were killed in bombings and gangland-style shootings.

The gunmen — some combination of Islamist militants, alienated young people, ordinary criminals and foot soldiers in private armies — just melt back into the city, to be described in the next day’s news reports as “persons unknown.”

As the number of attacks doubled, to 201 last year from 100 in 2008. The blue stripes were removed from most police cars and officers were told they no longer had to wear uniforms on the way to work. In a weird touch, every traffic officer in Makhachkala is now backed up by a riot policeman in camouflage, Kalashnikov assault rifle at the ready.

Lt. Col. Mark V. Tolchinsky, lead spokesman for the republic’s Interior Ministry, said attacks on the police rose last year in response to aggressive antiterrorism raids. He was not particularly hopeful about the new safety measures, but said violence had not made it any harder to recruit or retain officers.
“There is no work in Dagestan, if only for that reason. If one of them left us, how would he feed his children? Would he steal? Or would he go into the forest,” where militant groups are headquartered?

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