Ethnic Tensions Keep New Dagestani Tax Chief From Working

Hundreds of protesters in Dagestan refused to allow a senior Moscow-appointed tax official to enter his office, demanding that the post be given to a representative of a local ethnic group, national media reported Tuesday.

About 500 people blocked the entrance to the regional headquarters of the Federal Tax Service on Monday in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala demanding that the new tax official be replaced with an ethnic Lezgin.

The protesters asked Dagestani President Mukhu Aliyev to request officials in Moscow to recall the appointment of Vladimir Radchenko, a former tax chief in another North Caucasus republic, Karachayevo-Cherkessia.

Tax officials were unable to enter their offices Monday, while protesters also blocked traffic along Makhachkala's main thoroughfare where the offices are located, Interfax reported.

In Dagestan, a multiethnic and clannish republic, authorities strive to balance interests with an unofficial policy in which important government posts are given to representatives of certain ethnic groups.

The previous head of the republic's tax service, who quit in November, was an ethnic Lezgin.

Radchenko, meanwhile, was stopped at the Dagestani border by regional police Monday as he traveled by car from Rostov-on-Don, Kommersant reported. He was told that bombs had been planted at his new office and that they could not guarantee his safety there. Radchenko was forced to turn around.

The Federal Tax Service said in a statement Monday that the demonstration in Makhachkala was a "provocation" and that it would push for criminal prosecution of the organizers.

For several months, federal authorities had been trying to negotiate Radchenko's appointment, which Aliyev's administration was against, Kommersant reported Tuesday.