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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Chechnya Is No Example For Serbia




As Russia casts itself in the role of peacemaker in the conflict over the separatist Yugoslav region of Kosovo, it might also reflect on how badly it is mismanaging its own separatist problem in Chechnya.


Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov flew to Belgrade to offer advice on what to do about Kosovo, but back home his government has stood by while Chechnya hurtles out of Russia's orbit and into chaos.


Recent news reports from Chechnya only underlined Russia's failure to bring stability to a region over which it still officially claims sovereignty.


On Tuesday, sensationalist reports emerged, apparently from within the Russian Interior Ministry, that Chechen terrorist squads have been dispatched to Russia's major cities to carry out more bomb attackslike the one that killed over 50 people in the North Caucasus city of Vladikavkaz.


On Sunday, another Russian journalist was abducted in Chechnya, an event now so humdrum that it barely rates a mention amid the daily round of kidnappings.


The Chechens are in part to blame for the anarchy that has engulfed their region. But the policies of the Russian government, continued by Primakov, have poured oil on the fire.


The dispute between Russia and Chechnya over a key oil pipeline that runs across Chechen territory is a classic example of the drift and vindictiveness of Russian policy.


The pipeline is just about the only success in Russian policy in Chechnya. Russia and Chechnya agreed to cooperate on reopening the pipeline, which carries oil from Azerbaijan to world markets. The deal was a rare win-win situation, earning both sides millions of dollars.


It was also a way for Russia to cement its ties with the fragile regime of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, who is as close to a moderate as exists in the region.


Yet on Tuesday, Chechnya cut off the pipeline because, as Russia freely admits, the Russian state-owned oil company Transneft has not been paying Chechnya its shares of pipeline transit fees.


The details of the dispute are hazy but Russia is clearly jeopardizing a deal that should have been the cornerstone of closer cooperation in the region. Russia has consistently refused any positive cooperation with the Chechen government.


Russia's record of violence and indecision in Chechnya may make Primakov more tolerant of Serbia's destructive policies in Kosovo. But Chechnya shows that Russia has little to teach the rest of the world when it comes to dealing with ethnic minorities that want to secede.