MOSCOW, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- A decade of Russian military operations in its Muslim provinces has converted a nationalist movement into a religious one, experts say.
The government declared victory in Chechnya in April. The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington says that insurgent activity increased dramatically, with 519 deaths between May and September, up from 299 in the same months in 2008, The Washington Post reports.
Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria, semi-autonomous republics in southwestern Russia, have been the focus of the violence. The worst has been in Ingushetia, the poorest region in Russia, where the president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, spent two months in a hospital after a June car bombing that killed two of his bodyguards.
The conflict has made Moscow reluctant to put pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear program, with Russian leaders fearing Tehran might begin to arm insurgents in the Caucasus. The U.S. government is worried about recruiting in the region for fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan.