Mere months before the start of the Sochi Olympic Games, violence has broken out in Russia. On Monday afternoon, a suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus in the industrial city of Volgograd, killing at least six people and injuring 32. According to reports, the bomber was the wife of a leader who is in control of a rebel group in Dagestan, a republic of Russia located in the Northern Caucasus.
Dagestan belongs to a group of Russian republics (including Chechnya and Ingushetia) that has been plagued by violence due to the ongoing strife between the Russian army and Muslim fundamentalists. This strife began with the invasion of Dagestan in 1999 by the Chechnya-based Islamic International Brigade (IIPB) – Russia responded by invading Chechnya in order to quell the IIPB insurgency. Ever since, Dagestan has been a venue for guerilla warfare by various violent Islamic separatist movements, and the leader of the republic, Ramazan Abdulatipov, has been pressured by the Kremlin to halt the violence since his election last month. The Kremlin wields a great deal of influence over the republic’s domestic policies, as it provides approximately 70 percent of its budget.
There is little certainty that this militancy will not continue to spill into Russia with the impending Olympic Games. In July, Doku Umarov, the Chechen leader of the radical Islamic Caucasus Emirate who has claimed several attacks on Russian civilians, called on all Islamic militants to disrupt the games in any way possible. Since violence in Dagestan has not decreased significantly in comparison to last year, Abdulatipov will be working with significant vigor over the coming months to ensure the security of civilians on Russian soil.