06MOSCOW6390, RESTRICTIONS ON FOREIGNERS IN NORTH OSSETIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW6390 2006-06-16 07:06 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1072
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #6390/01 1670706
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 160706Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7683
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 006390 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/16/2016 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PREF PBTS MARR MOPS EAID OSCE RS GG
SUBJECT: RESTRICTIONS ON FOREIGNERS IN NORTH OSSETIA 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine. 
  Reason 1.4 (b, d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  On March 21 the Russian Government issued a 
decree that puts most of the Republic of North Ossetia 
off-limits to foreigners.  Local authorities began enforcing 
the decree this month, with immediate effects on 
international assistance organizations.  Most local observers 
relate the Federal decree to increased tensions with Georgia. 
 Local authorities, however, appear most eager to exclude 
assistance workers from the Prigorodnyy district, where 
tensions have been rising between ethnic Ossetians and Ingush 
IDPs.  Local authorities also claim the existence of a "zone 
of counter-terrorist operations" banning Russian citizens as 
well as foreigners.  End Summary. 
 
The Legal Background 
-------------------- 
 
2. (U) Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the 
Government of Russia took steps to re-impose Soviet-era bans 
on travel by foreigners to areas that were sensitive, mostly 
for military reasons.  Decree No. 470 of July 4, 1992 
restricts foreigners from traveling to specific parts of 
Siberia housing nuclear research facilities, parts of the 
Russian Far East and Far North where military units were 
deployed, certain parts of Kaliningrad and even parts of 
Moscow district.  The decree has been amended a number of 
times since its inception. 
 
3. (U) On March 21 PM Fradkov signed Decree No. 155 of 2006, 
the operative paragraph of which adds to the list of 
off-limits regions as follows: 
 
Begin text of informal Embassy translation: 
 
(Paragraph) 19.  The Republic of North Ossetia-Alania (with 
the exception of the Vladikavkaz Airport (Beslan) and the 
cities of Vladikavkaz, Beslan, Alagir, and Ardon).  Transit 
travel is permitted on the automobile routes 
Nazran-Beslan-Nalchik (Autoroute M-29), Verkhnyy 
Lars-Vladikavkaz (Automobile Road A-301), Nizhniy 
Zaramag-Alagir (Automobile Road R-297), 
Alagir-Ardon-Autoroute M-29 (Automobile Road R-298); on 
automobile roads connecting Vladikavkaz with Autoroute M-29 
and the automobile road connecting Vladikavkaz Airport 
(Beslan) with Autoroute M-29; and on the railroads 
Nazran-Beslan-Murtazovo, Vladikavkaz-Beslan, 
Alagir-Elkhotovo, and Gudermes-Mozdok-Prokhladnoye. 
 
End text. 
 
Decree 155 instructs the Russian MFA to transmit this text to 
diplomatic missions in Moscow.  The MFA did so only on June 
15 via Note no. 3295.  Local authorities in North Ossetia 
signaled to international organizations based in Vladikavkaz 
that they would begin enforcing the travel ban in June.  No 
procedures were made available to request authorization to 
travel to off-limits areas. 
 
 
Federal Focus on Georgia... 
--------------------------- 
 
4. (C) Local and international observers to whom we have 
spoken in the Caucasus and in Moscow can think of only one 
reason for Russia's Federal Government to impose such 
restrictions:  tensions with Georgia.  The order was signed 
two days after imposition of a politically-motivated ban on 
the import of Georgian wine.  It came after numerous 
occasions when UN international employees, hiking in the 
Caucasus Mountains (along with North Ossetian EmerCom 
officials), ran into Russian military forces (as opposed to 
border guards).  Each time, the soldiers demanded that the 
hikers return to Vladikavkaz, despite their official escorts. 
 
5. (S) Restrictions on the presence of foreigners could 
potentially help disguise military movements to the Georgian 
border and/or into South Ossetia.  The large Russian military 
base at Mozdok is off-limits to foreigners, as are all 
automobile roads leading to it.  The road from Vladikavkaz to 
the Roki Tunnel border with South Ossetia is open to transit 
by foreigners as far south as Zaramag, but in fact there are 
no destinations along that road permitted to foreigners south 
of Alagir.  The theory that the restrictions are designed to 
disguise military movements is consistent with reports, from 
OSCE observation and through other channels, that new heavy 
weaponry is appearing in South Ossetia.  The Georgian 
Ambassador told us June 15 that in his view, based on the 
June 13 meeting he attended between Presidents Putin and 
Saakashvili, the Russians sincerely believe that the 
Georgians are preparing for military action in South Ossetia. 
 
MOSCOW 00006390  002 OF 002 
 
 
 He sensed that the Russians were confident of their 
readiness to meet any such contingency.  (Note:  Russian 
officials have often told us -- and said publicly -- that 
Moscow takes seriously its "obligation" to protect Russian 
citizens.  Most inhabitants of South Ossetia now hold Russian 
passports.  End Note.) 
 
...But Local Authorities
 Target Prigorodnyy 
------------------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) There have been two known incidents in which the 
travel ban has been enforced, and both were related to South 
Ossetia's tense Prigorodnyy District.  On June 6 a UN convoy 
was turned back at the North Ossetian border as it tried to 
enter from Ingushetia along a "non-approved" route -- the 
route the UN had been using for ten years.  The route, the 
most direct road from Nazran to Vladikavkaz, passes through 
Prigorodnyy.  The approved route enters North Ossetia further 
to the north and heads to Beslan (from where another approved 
route leads south to Vladikavkaz), constituting a detour that 
skirts most the Prigorodnyy district. 
 
7. (C) During the week of June 12, the North Ossetian FSB 
began to ban from the Prigorodnyy district Russian citizens 
working for NGOs partnered with foreign assistance 
organizations, including those implementing a USAID-funded 
project.  They cited a hitherto unknown rule that Prigorodnyy 
was part of a "zone of counter-terrorist operations" which 
demanded special local (in addition to federal) registration 
of NGOs.  Attempts by international assistance NGOs to meet 
with North Ossetian officials on the issue have been rebuffed. 
 
8. (C) Background:  Prigorodnyy was originally part of 
Ingushetia.  When Stalin deported the Ingush to Central Asia 
in 1944, Ossetia took it over and Ossetians occupied houses 
left by the Ingush.  When the Ingush were "rehabilitated" and 
permitted to return in 1956, Ossetia held on to the district 
-- and Ossetians remained in the former Ingush homes.  Rising 
tensions led to a brief war in 1992.  Though several thousand 
Ingush live in Prigorodnyy, none have reclaimed their homes. 
Recently President Putin ordered the North Ossetian 
Government to resolve the issue of Mayskiy, where Ingush IDPs 
have been living in tents since 1992.  The North Ossetian 
authorities picked up the tents, transported the people to a 
field two kilometers distant, put them back in the tents, and 
declared that they had fulfilled Putin's order.  Tensions 
between Ingush and Ossetians have been growing since then. 
It was in Mayskiy that the North Ossetian authorities began 
banning the work of local NGOs. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
9. (C) The restrictions will have a serious impact on 
assistance organizations.  Though North Ossetia is the least 
vulnerable of the North Caucasus republics, it has attracted 
an inordinate amount of assistance.  That appears to be the 
result of most aid organizations having their regional 
headquarters there, as well as from the outpouring of 
sympathy in the wake of the Beslan tragedy.  Some 
international assistance projects appear to gratify local 
sentiment in support of South Ossetian separatists -- e.g., 
economic assistance to Ossetian refugees who fled Georgia in 
1992. The area in which assistance inside North Ossetia is 
clearly necessary is to lower tensions in Prigorodnyy -- the 
one place from which local authorities are insistently 
banning international NGOs and their local partners. 
 
10. (C) Even more serious, however, is what this move could 
mean for Russian-Georgian relations.  It comes amid rising 
tensions across the board over the last few months, 
especially over South Ossetia.  It also comes amid rumors 
heard throughout the assistance community in North Ossetia 
that the GOR is building refugee camps there to house a new 
wave of refugees expected from South Ossetia.  Russians cite 
the deployment of Georgia's largest U.S.-trained unit to Gori 
and the construction of a new military hospital there as 
evidence of Georgian intentions.  The moves Russia is making 
to counter these perceived Georgian intentions will lead in 
turn to increased Georgian suspicion of Russia's intentions. 
Expected Georgian parliamentary action on Russia's PKO in 
South Ossetia will only add to this cycle of distrust. 
BURNS

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