At least 12 people were killed on Wednesday in the Russian republic of Dagestan following twin bombings in Moscow on Monday.  Islamist militants in Chechnya have claimed responsibility for the Moscow blasts and Russian authorities suspect they are behind the Dagestan attack.  Dagestan is one of several republics in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus region. 

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lashed out at the militants on Tuesday, saying they will be "destroyed."

Mr. Putin said it is a matter of honor for law enforcement agencies to dredge the militants out of sewer and to bring them into God's daylight.  And he expressed certainty that this would be done.

Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov has claimed responsibility for the Moscow blast, following through on his January threat on the Internet against Russia.

Umarov says that if Russians think the war is far away in the Caucasus, then "praise Allah" his organization intends to prove that the war will come home to them.

Unsettled history

Russia fought two wars against Chechen separatism since the 1990s.  The number of dead is estimated as high as 100,000 people.  This has provoked a reaction among so-called Black Widows - women who lost husbands, fathers, sons, or brothers to violence and who have become suicide bombers.

The Moscow Times newspaper reports that women were involved in about two-thirds of nearly 40 rebel attacks that have killed 900 people in Russia since 2001.  Black Widows are suspected in Monday's bombings in Moscow.

Many analysts question whether the Kremlin can carry out its threat to eliminate the terrorists.

Sergei Arutyunov, head of the Caucasus Department at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says such efforts could galvanize the separatists and that more blood might be spilled as some Chechen officials kill rebels to silence government critics.

Arutyunov says the rebels can expose misconduct and corruption by the government's Special Forces.  But he adds that this needs to be done.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, has installed leaders loyal to Moscow in the region, most notably Ramzan Kadyrov as president in Chechnya.  Human rights groups accuse Kadyrov and his forces of carrying out abductions and extrajudicial executions to battle the insurgency in Chechnya.

Government involvement is suspected in the unsolved July murder of Russian investigative journalist Natalya Estemirova, who sought to expose alleged kidnapping, torture, murder, bribery, and kickbacks by police, judges, other officials in Chechnya.  In neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetia, government officials are also frequent assassination targets.

The only solution

Independent Russian military analyst Alexander Golts says two recent wars, authoritarian leaders and a heavy police presence suggest that security in the North Caucasus cannot be tightened further.  The only solution, he says, is the establishment of "genuine" institutions of government throughout Russia.

Golts says this means establishing the rule of law, rejecting the idea of a police state and promoting the separation of power.  He says that is the only way to create institutions that will begin to do what is needed in the North Caucasus.

Little has changed since Russia conquered the region in the 19th century.  Poet Taras Shevchenko of Ukraine, whose monument in Moscow stands opposite the offices of Prime Minister Putin, wrote about the turmoil.  He began his poem about Chechnya entitled "The Caucasus" with the words, "Mountains beyond mountains shrouded in clouds, seeded by grief and streaming with blood."

That was written in 1845.  It could have been written today.