A Nightmare War in a Remote Land

We may lose Dagestan. Things are bad over there," ex-Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin said as he was surrendering his office last week. Bad they are: a new bout of fighting in Dagestan, a tiny Muslim republic of 2.1 million people and more than 30 ethnic groups in the Russian North Caucasus, is turning into a full-fledged war. In Moscow's political back rooms, there's fear it may evolve into something even more frightening: an excuse to cancel coming elections and clamp a state-of-emergency rule over Russia.

Just two days before Stepashin was fired, some 1,500 Islamic militants armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles,...

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