Russian counter-terrorism forces pulled off a successful raid against an Islamist militant forest outpost in Derbent, Dagestan, killing five. A sixth was killed in a shoot-out at his village home in Ingushetia. In the restive North Caucasus, this is par for the course, as Reuters notes:
A suicide belt, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and grenades were seized in the raid, and experts were brought in to make safe two homemade bombs, [Russia's official Anti-Terrorism Committee] said.
Bomb attacks on police checkpoints and shootings targeting officials are a near daily occurrence in Dagestan.
Why is this news worth noting? Click the above map. Russia has a veritable hornets’ nest of malcontents just itching to cause trouble along its southern flank, be they Islamists trying to form a breakaway state in the North Caucasus or Georgian militants trying to make life miserable for Russian forces occupying their territories. And very conveniently for them all, Sochi, Russia, was chosen to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is just under 20 miles from the border with Abkhazia, and less than 140 miles from the border with the restive Kabardino-Balkaria Republic.
Putin will spare no expense to ensure that nothing goes wrong at the Olympics, and we certainly wish him success in that. But it’s also worth noting that Russia has been unsuccessfully dealing with this problem for a very long time indeed. (Tolstoy was fighting a war against separatists in the North Caucasus in the 1850s!) As the Olympics draw closer, the stability of Russia’s terrorist belt will will be more and more salient. VM will be keeping an eye on it.