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WASHINGTON – Out of the sight of regular media, Islamists in the North Caucasus increasingly have demanded to separate from Moscow, prompting the Kremlin to consider ways to deal with the movement along its southern edge before other nationalist groups pursue similar goals, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Islamist militancy has been on the rise in Russia’s southern provinces of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. There have been increased ambushes of and military stand-offs with Russian government forces and the detonation of improvised explosive devices on federal highways leading out of the area.

In turn, there are reports of human rights abuses by Russian authorities in the North Caucasus. Now, other nationalists such as the Tatars are looking to the increasing successes of the Islamist insurgents. The Tartars want to create an independent Tartarstan.

Regional expert Sergei Peredery says that “the mechanism of dismantling of Russia is gaining momentum.” Bowing to Russian nationalist fervor, the Kremlin leadership has begun to divert funding from the insurgent regions and is taking fewer conscripts for the Russian military from the North Caucasus provinces out of concern that their Islamist teachings could undermine military discipline and the Islamists could use their military training against government forces.

Russian nationalists increasingly want to de-link the southern provinces from Russia, considering the region to be an alien and hostile non-Russian region. In addition, there are cultural and religious differences between the provinces and predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christian Russia proper.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is expected to return to the presidency in March, had opposed any separation of the provinces from Russia out of concern that other ethnic entities will clamor for the same thing. Because of increased nationalist opposition to his United Party as a consequence of his position, however, Putin has begun to reconsider.

He is expected to push instead for a Eurasia union, an ambitious concept that would bring Eastern Europe and the Central Asian countries more in line with Moscow through a lowering of trade tariffs between Europe and Asia. Such a development not only would make the shipment of goods cheaper but would enhance trade considerably and promote outside investment. However, there are impediments, such as the rampant corruption that exists among the countries that would be involved in the project.

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