Nalchik Regime Smells Victory

Adyge Khase leaders admit they are fighting a losing battle against the authorities as Kabardino-Balkaria becomes a one-party state

Nalchik Regime Smells Victory

Adyge Khase leaders admit they are fighting a losing battle against the authorities as Kabardino-Balkaria becomes a one-party state

Opposition leaders in Kabardino-Balkaria say the ruling regime has launched the final phase of its campaign to crush Adyge Khase, the only rival political group in the North Caucasian republic.

President Valery Kokov effectively declared open season on Adyge Khase last month when he created a pro-government organisation of the same name in a bid to "divide and conquer" its supporters.

Since then, members of the original group have been subjected to increasing pressure from the authorities while its official newspaper, Khase, looks set to close down.

The last edition of Khase, which was published last week, outlined the organisation's main grievances, dubbing President Kokov's actions "a direct infringement of existing legislature, human rights and civil liberties."

The paper claimed the authorities had set up three more branches of the "bogus" Adyge Khase in the Chegemsk, Zolsk and Chereks regions but no official charter had yet been presented to the ministry of justice.

The editorial states, "We are convinced that this act was inspired by specific forces and was aimed at crushing the Kabardinian nationalist movement."

Adyge Khase was originally founded in the 1980s as a socio-political organisation committed to preserving the language and culture of the Kabardinian people. It was only after the breakdown of the Soviet Union that it united the disparate opposition parties in Kabardino-Balkaria and became a thorn in the side of the ruling regime.

Back in May, the justice ministry attempted to have Adyge Khase's charter revoked on the grounds that the organisation had no official status as a socio-political organisation. However, the case was later thrown out of local courts.

It was then, according to Adyge Khase leaders, that the Nalchik regime began to target its representatives, preventing them from attending party conferences and threatening some with physical violence.

The final blow was delivered last month when members were informed that a "Nalchik branch" of the organisation was to be inaugurated at an impromptu ceremony in the city centre. It soon became apparent that the "branch" was in fact a rival faction, headed by influential members of the official government.

Earlier this month, the chairman of the original organisation, Valery Khatazhukov, made an appeal to the High Court in Nalchik, complaining that the leaders of the new Adyge Khase were merely government "stooges" who had never been members of the movement.

He claims the authorities have been using state-controlled media to promote the activities of this "puppet political group" and to discredit the genuine opposition. In the aftermath of July's Adyge Khase conference, local newspapers published complaints by local residents who argued that the event had been held illegally. Khatazhukov said the organisation itself had received no such complaints.

However, Mukhamed Khafitse, chairman of the pro-government organisation, has done nothing to defuse the situation. In a letter to Khatazhukov, he demanded that the original Adyge Khase vacate its current premises and hand them over to its "legal heir".

These offices were occupied by OMON police units last month in an attempt by the authorities to seize a list of all Adyge Khase members. Staff were barred from returning to the premises for three days.

It seems likely, that while Khatazhukov's latest case is being heard by local courts, his organisation will effectively cease to exist. And if the newspaper Khase is ever published again, it will simply be another government mouthpiece with the same name as its outspoken predecessor.

Musa Alibekov is a political commentator in Nalchik

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