Top Kremlin idealogue visits Chechnya as violence mounts

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Kremlin's top ideologue Vladislav Surkov paid a rare visit to Chechnya where he said the insurgency-infested North Caucasus would remain part of Russia as he sought to dissuade youth from joining militants.

Russian authorities are battling a Muslim insurgency in the North Caucasus where attacks on officials have become daily occurrences as security analysts say the Kremlin is losing its grip over the region.

Surkov, the Kremlin's first deputy chief of staff, said on Friday during a visit to Chechnya, site of two wars with separatists in the 90s, that the country's political leadership would never agree to let the Caucasus become independent.

"The Caucasus is the foundation on which the whole of Russia stands," Surkov told youth activists in comments released by the Chechen government.

"There are different people in Russian politics. And there are unfortunately those who believe that state policy in the Caucasus is doomed to failure, that it is not effective and 'why we need this Caucasus anyway'".

"No doubt, the country's political leadership proceeds from absolutely different messages," he said, adding the ruling tandem of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin never questioned the country's territorial integrity.

Putin in July said time was running out for militants as he unveiled an ambitious economic drive to bring prosperity to the violence-torn region by enticing investors there.

Sceptics scoff at those plans as they point to an increasing number of attacks on officials and key infrastructure sites in the region. Widespread unemployment, especially among young adults, is the region's most acute problem and helps militants recruit new fighters, analysts say.

Surkov sought to dissuade local youth from taking up arms, calling on them to grow up.

"Youth is always prone to extreme activities. The very physiology calls for it at a certain age," he said, noting however that "we can't allow ourselves to be children all our life."

Surkov, who is credited with coining the phrase "sovereign democracy," praised Chechnya's 34-year old leader and former rebel Ramzan Kadyrov, who in turn called Surkov "the most respected Chechen."

The Russian-language edition of Newsweek, whose closure was announced this week, has reported that Surkov's father was an ethnic Chechen, a fact the Kremlin's secretive ideologue does not like to publicise.

© 2010 AFP

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