If the 100 or so fighters who staged a deadly raid from Chechnya into neighbouring Ingushetia Tuesday intended to demonstrate the failure of Vladimir Putin’s war policy in Chechnya, they succeeded. The ability of the attackers to plan and execute such a military operation outside Chechnya suggests that instead of eradicating Chechens’ willingness to fight for self-rule, Putin’s reliance on repressive force risks dispersing the violence into surrounding regions. In a salient admission that the Tuesday strike in Nazran does portend an enlargement of the Chechen conflict. It is always difficult for a statesman pursuing a failed policy to admit failure, particularly when his antagonists have inflicted on him an embarrassing tactical defeat. In Putin’s case, the usual motives for ploughing ahead with the same futile strategy are magnified by political considerations.

The Russian populace has shrugged off what Amnesty International has called “credible reports that Russian forces have been responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” in Chechnya. For the sake of Russians as well as Chechens, Putin ought to reverse course and open genuine negotiations with the government of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov that was elected in 1997, but is ignored today by Moscow. — The Boston Globe