November 23rd 2007 · Prague Watchdog / Alikhan Batayev · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

Tension continues in Ingushetia

By Alikhan Batayev

INGUSHETIA – The Russian authorities persist in trying to pretend that in Ingushetia – which was once one of the most stable regions of the North Caucasus – all is calm. On the threshold of the Russian parliamentary elections and the upcoming presidential elections in March this problem is unlikely to be addressed. Unfortunately the malady, which has many neglected causes, is not being localized by effective methods, and this is naturally aggravating the condition of Ingush society. which is already running a high fever.

At present, Ingushetia is not even on the brink of civil strife. If it were, one would notice the presence of two opposing camps of citizens: those who are happy with the local government, and those who are not. No, it is all more complicated than that, and more dangerous, too, because most of the population are being held hostage by the security services and the military, and people can never be sure that armed men will not break into their homes at night and arrange the summary execution of another of them, whether guilty or not.

The worsening of the situation in Ingushetia began suddenly. Some observers attribute this to the fact that the guerrillas are being squeezed out of Chechnya. There is also the theory that the Ingush authorities have instituted an uncompromising struggle with the guerrillas in Ingushetia itself. In other words, it turns out that for the Federal centre Murat Zyazikov, under whose rule dozens of young men have gone missing or been murdered, is a good president, while the republic’s former leader, Ruslan Aushev, who managed to preserve stability there, was a bad one. Regrettably, this is the normal practice for Russian federalism: in Moscow the leadership of region is judged not by the citizens’ degree of contentment with their regional leader, but by the degree of loyalty to the Kremlin.

Until the elections in Russia this year and early next year are over, Murat Zyazikov has no reason to fear for his position. As the Russian proverb says, you don’t change horses when crossing the ford. But at any rate he is not very secure in it, because the situation has gone as far as it can go. And political longevity is something on which he cannot count. Experience shows that men in uniform tend to interpret their appointment to the post of leader in terms that are too literal. They find it easier to obey and carry out orders from above than to be versatile and to make their main priority that of trying to please their people, not their master. The best that Zyazikov can hope for is to receive a fate like that of former Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, somewhere at FSB headquarters in Moscow. Having emerged from the shadows, he will, as it were, merge back into them with other grey Chekists like himself.

The opposition has cancelled the nationwide rally that was due to take place on November 24.  A new date for this protest, in which the organizing committee hopes tens of thousands of people will take part, has not been set. It is quite possible that the Ingush people will succeed in repeating last summer’s rally in Nazran on a much larger scale. There is also a burning pretext for such an event – the murder of a six-year-old boy during a Spetsnaz raid in the village of Chemulga (see).

The reasons for the rally’s cancellation have not been announced, but it is most likely in connection with talks aimed at preventing people taking to the streets before the State Duma elections that President Putin’s new envoy to the Southern Federal District, Grigory Rapota, has arrived on a visit. For the fact is that if the rally is broken up by force, the opposition will not only declare blood vengeance on Zyazikov, but will threaten to make him an object of universal ridicule and mockery. Representatives of the opposition claim to be in possession of a compromising pornographic videotape about him, and they will make it public if force is used on the protesters. The views of the opposition are divided on this – some think it impermissible to use “dirty” technology in the struggle for political power. There has also been an appeal addressed by the organizers to Ingush police officers, including members of the republic’s OMON troops, not to obey the orders of interior minister Medov if the authorities decide to use force to end the protest.

 For their part, the authorities are taking preventive measures to ban demonstrations. On Thursday all members of the organizing committee received a letter from the republic’s Prosecutor warning them that they will be responsible for an illegal rally. Some of the organizers received these letters at their home addresses, while others simply had them handed to them. Ruslan Badalov, the head of the Chechen National Salvation Committee based in Nazran, also received one. In the last paragraph of this two-page document it is stressed that Ruslan Badalov has been warned of his responsibility for the holding of the rally. Badalov is surprised that he is also considered to be one of the event’s organizers. In an interview with Prague Watchdog he said he did not understand why the prosecutor's office should hold this view. "I have nothing to do with it," he said.

Meanwhile, an appeal to residents to ignore the cancellation order and take part in the rally in Nazran on November 24 as originally planned has been issued by Mukhammed Gazdiyev, a former history teacher at the school where current Ingush President Murat Zyazikov was a pupil. "Each person who comes to this rally has his own reason for doing so, his own pain . This is an imperative of the heart and the conscience of each one of us," he says in his appeal. A few months ago Gazdiyev’s son was abducted during another round of arbitrary action by Russian soldiers, and the young man’s whereabouts are still not clear. Gazdiyev is familiar to Chechens from the first war, when right at its beginning he and his son went to Grozny and helped to evacuate civilians to Ingushetia.

(Translation by DM)




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