I’m delighted to see that presidential (and prime ministerial) plenipotentiary to the North Caucasus Alexander Khloponin seems to be willing to follow my lead, with his recent statement that while he feels that Umarov was involved with the Domodedovo bombing (“There is involvement; Doku Umarov’s participation is being investigated”) he does not see him as being the instigator (Umarov “is no longer as influential as before in the Caucasus in regard to defining positions or setting tasks”). It’s very satisfying to see that he thus appears to be following my earlier line! Obviously my tongue is firmly in my cheek here, but there is a more serious point to be made in that I am encouraged by Khloponin’s willingness not to take the easy route and characterize Umarov as the fiendish mastermind of all North Caucasus terrorism. Doing that, after all, not only gives Umarov more authority and thus power than he deserves, but it also misinforms and misguides policy. Combine that with his support for efforts to build bridges with Islamic and community leaders in the region and suggestions of a renewed effort to tackle the endemic poverty and income disparities which are such a problem in the region (over and above the grandiose and probably futile efforts to build tourist destinations which will largely enrich gangsters, property speculators and officials), and there are faint grounds for optimism. Khloponin’s first year, to be blunt, has been a disappointment, but maybe he has learned enough that he can make his second one count?