Wikileaks cable: Kabardino-Balkaria: Aftermath of October Attacks

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW873 2006-01-30 11:25 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8427
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0873/01 0301125
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301125Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9955
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000873

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ECON EAID RS
SUBJECT: KABARDINO-BALKARIA:  AFTERMATH OF OCTOBER ATTACKS

MOSCOW 00000873  001.2 OF 002

Classified By: Minister Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine.
Reason 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) Summary:  Few local officials in Kabardino-Balkaria are willing to talk about the October 13-14 attacks in Nalchik by Islamic extremists against government, law enforcement and security sites.  Those who did during a January 25-26 visit to the Republic by Embassy officers cited joblessness as the main factor in extremism, and swiftly changed the subject to economic assistance. Parliamentarians viewed questions on the attacks as criticism (though we couched them as part of a shared problem), and responded with attacks on the U.S.   Joblessness remains a major issue; despite an innovative team at the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Soviet-era thinking dominates this field in the Republic.  End summary.

-------------------
The Mufti:  Victory
-------------------

2. (C)  During a January 25-26 visit to Kabardino-Balkaria, we found only the Republic's Chief Mufti Anas Pshikhachev willing to talk about the October 13-14 attacks that left at least 136 dead, with 91 of them identified as militants. Pshikhachev saw the participation of "only" a couple of hundred locals in the violence as a victory for moderate Islam.  He and other official imams had worked with youths sympathetic to the extremist cause, persuading many of them away from armed action.  Pshikhachev termed the participants "unemployed youths;" he dodged the question of whether they were in fact mostly university students.  He said the attackers were well-financed:  they drove new cars; and when the corpses of two attackers - "boys I knew" - were stored for a while in Pshikhachev's gleaming new mosque, their pockets yielded new Russian passports for international travel and large amounts of American dollars.

3. (C)  Pshikhachev said there was no persecution of Islam in Kabardino-Balkaria.  He had seen the press reports of mosque closings, but assured us that no mosques had been closed; 153 were functioning throughout the Republic.  (Comment: Technically, this may be true.  However, in certain neighborhoods mosques are reportedly allowed to open only during actual hours of prayer and are padlocked the rest of the day.  End Comment.)  Pshikhachev said Nalchik's Higher Islamic School was one of the best in Russia, and some students studied abroad at al-Azhar in Cairo as well as in Damascus, Riyadh and Malaysia.  Pshikhachev himself had studied four years in Syria followed by five in Libya.  Of his studies, Pshikhachev said only that he and his fellow non-Arabs were incensed by a class in Tripoli on "Arabo-Islamic culture."  As far as they were concerned, Islamic culture was one thing, Arab culture another, and the Arabs had no special claim to Islam, he said.

----------------------------------
Parliament:  Bad U.S., Bad Georgia
----------------------------------

4. (C)  Other government officials and parliamentarians refused to comment on the October attacks beyond asserting that the organizations behind them had been "neutralized." They then changed the subject.  Members of the Parliamentary Presidium (the 22 committee chairs and deputy chairs who sit on a permanent basis) attacked the U.S. for opposing the appointment of provincial governors and limitations on NGO activity.  "Everyone here understands the need for such measures," one Member said.  "Why can't you in the West understand?"  They linked these to U.S. involvement in Iraq and the Balkans, alleging U.S. unwillingness to let other countries practice democracy in their own way (we made suitable reply to such references to democracy a la Saddam and Milosevic).

5. (C)  Most striking during our conversation with the Parliamentary Presidium and others was the strong local opposition to U.S. support for Georgia.  Kabardians had streamed to Abkhazia in 1992 to fight against Georgia alongside their ethnic cousins, the Abkhaz.  (Comment:  They were also fighting alongside Shamil Basayev, a fact they would sooner forget these days.  End comment.)  They said they would do so again if the Georgians carried out their "warlike" schemes.  A Parliamentarian warned that a renewal of fighting would pull in Turkey and Russia, igniting a region-wide conflagration.

-----------------------------
Government:  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
-----------------------------

6. (C)  Government officials, in contrast, turned the conversation to jobs, citing unemployment as the most significant factor contributing to radicalism.  The Soviet government had founded "high-tech" defense factories in Kabardino-Balkaria (as in neighboring republics) in the 1970s.  All of those factories were interlinked, all were dependent on orders from the Defense Ministry, and all were now defunct.  Unemployment - and drug use, alcoholism and extremism - were reportedly even higher in the villages now than in Nalchik.

MOSCOW 00000873  002.2 OF 002

7. (C)  Kabardino-Balkaria showed a curious dichotomy in economic thinking.  The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade boasted young, smart, modern thinkers implementing their own innovative programs for computer literacy, business incubation and micro-finance - and eager for more programs from the U.S.  Other officials, however, were stuck on the Republic's presumed tourist potential, which they see as re-attracting Soviet-era workers to cramped and primitive spas to take the waters.  (In fairness, Mt. Elbrus -- Europe's highest peak -- could attract more skiers if enormous sums were invested in infrastructure, though today's Russians prefer the Alps.  And climbers continue to flock to the Bezengi Wall and other Meccas of alpinism.)  In the mountain mining center of Tyrnyauz, the rovincial administration center still sported a statue of Lenin in the lobby, and its chief bemoaned the loss of jobs at the town's tungsten and molybdenum mines and processing plant.  He castigated this generation's lack of respect for hard work, even though the workers were earning only a "medium" salary of 6500 rubles (USD 232) per month.  He let slip that this meant an "effective" salary of 3500 rubles (USD 125).  He noted, however, that the town's processing plant had just been acquired by oligarch Oleg Deripaska's Bazovyy Element conglomerate, and would soon be refining two million tons per year (though the capacity was 8.5 million tons).  He lamented that the plant would need a staff of only 540.

-------
Comment
-------

8. (C)   We were unable to visit the Nalchik neighborhood of Volnyy Aul, reportedly a "wahhabist" stronghold; nor did we get the chance to speak to anyone who would shed more light on the attacks which left numerous bullet holes still evident in buildings in the center of the city.  The parts of Nalchik we saw were calm and showed no heightened security presence. We have heard that the attack came as a complete surprise to the security services, and that had a detachment of fighters not been engaged - by pure chance - before it reached the town, the fighting might have been even more serious.  We have also heard, including from locals outside the Republic, that there are still large, strong and well-organized groups of extremists in Kabardino-Balkaria.   But inside the Republic, the public face is one of denial.

BURNS

Source: Wikileaks

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000873

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ECON EAID RS
SUBJECT: KABARDINO-BALKARIA:  AFTERMATH OF OCTOBER ATTACKS

MOSCOW 00000873  001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Minister Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine.
Reason 1.4 (b, d)

¶1. (C) Summary:  Few local officials in Kabardino-Balkaria
are willing to talk about the October 13-14 attacks in
Nalchik by Islamic extremists against government, law
enforcement and security sites.  Those who did during a
January 25-26 visit to the Republic by Embassy officers cited
joblessness as the main factor in extremism, and swiftly
changed the subject to economic assistance.
Parliamentarians viewed questions on the attacks as criticism
(though we couched them as part of a shared problem), and
responded with attacks on the U.S.   Joblessness remains a
major issue; despite an innovative team at the Ministry of
Economic Development and Trade, Soviet-era thinking dominates
this field in the Republic.  End summary.

-------------------
The Mufti:  Victory
-------------------

¶2. (C)  During a January 25-26 visit to Kabardino-Balkaria,
we found only the Republic's Chief Mufti Anas Pshikhachev
willing to talk about the October 13-14 attacks that left at
least 136 dead, with 91 of them identified as militants.
Pshikhachev saw the participation of "only" a couple of
hundred locals in the violence as a victory for moderate
Islam.  He and other official imams had worked with youths
sympathetic to the extremist cause, persuading many of them
away from armed action.  Pshikhachev termed the participants
"unemployed youths;" he dodged the question of whether they
were in fact mostly university students.  He said the
attackers were well-financed:  they drove new cars; and when
the corpses of two attackers - "boys I knew" - were stored
for a while in Pshikhachev's gleaming new mosque, their
pockets yielded new Russian passports for international
travel and large amounts of American dollars.

¶3. (C)  Pshikhachev said there was no persecution of Islam in
Kabardino-Balkaria.  He had seen the press reports of mosque
closings, but assured us that no mosques had been closed; 153
were functioning throughout the Republic.  (Comment:
Technically, this may be true.  However, in certain
neighborhoods mosques are reportedly allowed to open only
during actual hours of prayer and are padlocked the rest of
the day.  End Comment.)  Pshikhachev said Nalchik's Higher
Islamic School was one of the best in Russia, and some
students studied abroad at al-Azhar in Cairo as well as in
Damascus, Riyadh and Malaysia.  Pshikhachev himself had
studied four years in Syria followed by five in Libya.  Of
his studies, Pshikhachev said only that he and his fellow
non-Arabs were incensed by a class in Tripoli on
"Arabo-Islamic culture."  As far as they were concerned,
Islamic culture was one thing, Arab culture another, and the
Arabs had no special claim to Islam, he said.

----------------------------------
Parliament:  Bad U.S., Bad Georgia
----------------------------------

¶4. (C)  Other government officials and parliamentarians
refused to comment on the October attacks beyond asserting
that the organizations behind them had been "neutralized."
They then changed the subject.  Members of the Parliamentary
Presidium (the 22 committee chairs and deputy chairs who sit
on a permanent basis) attacked the U.S. for opposing the
appointment of provincial governors and limitations on NGO
activity.  "Everyone here understands the need for such
measures," one Member said.  "Why can't you in the West
understand?"  They linked these to U.S. involvement in Iraq
and the Balkans, alleging U.S. unwillingness to let other
countries practice democracy in their own way (we made
suitable reply to such references to democracy a la Saddam
and Milosevic).

¶5. (C)  Most striking during our conversation with the
Parliamentary Presidium and others was the strong local
opposition to U.S. support for Georgia.  Kabardians had
streamed to Abkhazia in 1992 to fight against Georgia
alongside their ethnic cousins, the Abkhaz.  (Comment:  They
were also fighting alongside Shamil Basayev, a fact they
would sooner forget these days.  End comment.)  They said
they would do so again if the Georgians carried out their
"warlike" schemes.  A Parliamentarian warned that a renewal
of fighting would pull in Turkey and Russia, igniting a
region-wide conflagration.

-----------------------------
Government:  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
-----------------------------

¶6. (C)  Government officials, in contrast, turned the

MOSCOW 00000873  002.2 OF 002


conversation to jobs, citing unemployment as the most
significant factor contributing to radicalism.  The Soviet
government had founded "high-tech" defense factories in
Kabardino-Balkaria (as in neighboring republics) in the
1970s.  All of those factories were interlinked, all were
dependent on orders from the Defense Ministry, and all were
now defunct.  Unemployment - and drug use, alcoholism and
extremism - were reportedly even higher in the villages now
than in Nalchik.

¶7. (C)  Kabardino-Balkaria showed a curious dichotomy in
economic thinking.  The Ministry of Economic Development and
Trade boasted young, smart, modern thinkers implementing
their own innovative programs for computer literacy, business
incubation and micro-finance - and eager for more programs
from the U.S.  Other officials, however, were stuck on the
Republic's presumed tourist potential, which they see as
re-attracting Soviet-era workers to cramped and primitive
spas to take the waters.  (In fairness, Mt. Elbrus --
Europe's highest peak -- could attract more skiers if
enormous sums were invested in infrastructure, though today's
Russians prefer the Alps.  And climbers continue to flock to
the Bezengi Wall and other Meccas of alpinism.)  In the
mountain mining center of Tyrnyauz, the provincial
administration center still sported a statue of Lenin in the
lobby, and its chief bemoaned the loss of jobs at the town's
tungsten and molybdenum mines and processing plant.  He
castigated this generation's lack of respect for hard work,
even though the workers were earning only a "medium" salary
of 6500 rubles (USD 232) per month.  He let slip that this
meant an "effective" salary of 3500 rubles (USD 125).  He
noted, however, that the town's processing plant had just
been acquired by oligarch Oleg Deripaska's Bazovyy Element
conglomerate, and would soon be refining two million tons per
year (though the capacity was 8.5 million tons).  He lamented
that the plant would need a staff of only 540.

-------
Comment
-------

¶8. (C)   We were unable to visit the Nalchik neighborhood of
Volnyy Aul, reportedly a "wahhabist" stronghold; nor did we
get the chance to speak to anyone who would shed more light
on the attacks which left numerous bullet holes still evident
in buildings in the center of the city.  The parts of Nalchik
we saw were calm and showed no heightened security presence.
We have heard that the attack came as a complete surprise to
the security services, and that had a detachment of fighters
not been engaged - by pure chance - before it reached the
town, the fighting might have been even more serious.  We
have also heard, including from locals outside the Republic,
that there are still large, strong and well-organized groups
of extremists in Kabardino-Balkaria.   But inside the
Republic, the public face is one of denial.

BURNS