Staunton, December 14 – In the latest indication that Circassian opposition to the Sochi Olympics is far more widespread that Moscow claims and that Russian President Vladimir Putin is afraid of it, Russian officials yesterday arrested at least nine Circassian activists in the North Caucasus who oppose holding the Games on the site of the genocide of their people in 1864.
Indeed, it appears that Putin had to replace the governor of Kabardino-Balkaria to get his way: Arsen Kanonkov apparently refused to carry out the arrests on trumped up charges, while the new man, Yuri Kokov, who earlier helped create an FSB unit to fight "extremism,” was entirely prepared to follow Putin’s line and deployed massive numbers of security officers.
But the arrests are not the end of the story: Circassians in the region plan demonstrations this weekend, and this wave of arrests likely will re-invigorate the anti-Circassian movement not only there but internationally, possibly prompting activists to step up their demands that the West hold Moscow accountable at the Olympics.
On Friday, pro-Moscow officials in KBR are known to have arrested Ibragim Yaganov, Ruslan Kabiyev, Ruslan Kesh, Yevgeny Tashu, Acumij Hilmi, Amin Zeh, Adnan Khuade, Ali Bghane, and Almir Abreg. Kesh and Tashu have been released but the others remain in detention.
As it has done so often in the past, Moscow is behaving far more brutally in regions where there are few outside journalists, confident that it can suppress much of the story or at least put its own spin on it with commentaries that few outsiders will be able to check and then challenge.