Kidnappings and Murders are Again Becoming Routine in Ingushetia
On April 3, in a bloody incident in Nazran, five people were killed on their way home from their jobs at a brickyard. The incident illuminated the authorities’ incompetence and inadequate response to the processes occurring in the republic. Government agents surrounded the car on two sides and gunned down all of the people inside it – Salman Gardanov, who drove the car, his nephew, 24-year-old Salautdin Muruzhev, 56-year-old Zina Velkhieva, 30-year-old Shamsudin Gardanov and his brother Juneid Gardanov. Following the shootout, the agents exited their cars and finished off the victims. The head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, said later in a speech that the attackers were from the Federal Security Service (FSB). Later, another group of government agents arrived and blew up the car. The authorities said they did so because they had information that there was a bomb in the car.
The authorities hurriedly announced that those inside the destroyed car were militants who had been preparing a terrorist attack. To add weight to their claim, the authorities even announced that one of those in the car had a suicide belt that was impossible to disarm safely. In addition, the official statement repeated the now routine assertion that the car’s passengers had put up armed resistance and were killed for that very reason.
Witnesses of the shooting incident, however, said that those in the car not only did not shoot back, but were killed instantly, without even having time to know what was happening. The execution-style killing evoked such a public outcry in Ingushetia that the authorities were forced to change their narrative of the event several times. It was hard to explain, for instance, why people who were preparing a suicide attack had worked all day at a brickyard. In addition, why would Zina Velkhieva, who certainly had nothing to do with the rebels, be among them? Yevkurov exonerated Velkhieva first and several days later was forced to admit that three of the five killed were innocent. Yevkurov cynically remarked that it was the slain people’s own fault they had chosen to travel in a car with two militants. However, the website of Ingushetia’s opposition leader, Magomed Khazbiev, insists that all five of those killed were innocent. By charging two out of the five who were killed, the authorities were shielding the murderers of innocent people.
These developments played a major role in stirring up opposition activities in the republic. The opposition appealed to the members of the Russian parliament who represent Ingushetia to investigate the lawlessness in the republic. In response, one of the parliamentary deputies, Bilan Khamchiev, raised the issue during a discussion with Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev on April 13. The deputy and the minister disagreed over the figures, with Khamchiev saying 88 people had been kidnapped in Ingushetia during the previous two years and Nurgaliev insisting that only 13 kidnappings had taken place in 2010-2011.
It did not escape the public’s attention that Yevkurov had admitted earlier in February that government agencies were behind the kidnappings of young Ingush. For example, out of eight kidnapping cases in the republic in 2011, five were blamed on the government forces. Kidnappings have continued in 2012. On February 17, unidentified people snatched Rustam Aushev at a railway station in the city of Minvody. On March 1, an employee of the human rights organization MASHR, Murad Yandiev, was kidnapped. Yandiev later stated that three other people who had been kidnapped by government forces were with him while he was detained at the police station in Nazran. On March 13, unknown people in uniform and masks kidnapped 21-year-old Akhmed Chumakov. On March 18, a person with the surname Malsagov was kidnapped in the city of Malgobek. On March 22, Abubakar Tsechoev was kidnapped in Ordzhonikidzevskaya.
The republican authorities do everything possible to avoid registering the kidnapping crimes, as the kidnapping of Rustam Aushev showed. Aushev disappeared on February 17, but a criminal investigation into the case was launched only on April 11. The number of disappeared people in Ingushetia during the past 10 years, according to rights activists in the republic, totals 214. Sixteen people were killed and injured in the conflict in Ingushetia in the first quarter of 2012. This forces society to take preventive measures against a government that provides cover for law enforcement agents who are conducting an undeclared war against Ingushetia’s population. The period of relative peace that was tied to the FSB’s successful operations against Ingushetia’s Sharia Jamaat in 2010 appears to be eroding. The relative quiet in the republic was achieved thanks to the neutralization of almost all the top Ingush rebel leaders, including the capture of the military leader of the North Caucasian armed resistance – Emir Magas (aka Yevloev, Taziev).
Against the backdrop of increased tensions in the republic, the Mehk-Khel (Council of the Country) organization, led by its chairman Idris Abadiev, announced its decision to hold an all-Ingush protest rally on April 28. The organizers hope their event will attract from 5,000-10,000 persons. The authorities arguably will do whatever they can to prevent a demonstration of this magnitude from taking place in the republic, as it will represent a troubling verdict for Yunus-Bek Yevkurov’s regime.
Meanwhile, Yevkurov blames nearly all his problems on the absence of a ministry for inter-ethnic relations in Russia. In his opinion, it is necessary to return to a Soviet type of society in which the Kremlin’s regional representatives act on orders given from above. Yevkurov’s proposition reveals the primitive level of the contemporary North Caucasian politician, who is apparently incapable of acting on his own without a call from Moscow. As a former general, Yevkurov is expecting orders and is prepared to carry them out regardless of their substance.
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov has shown that he is incapable of being a competent leader of the republic, and he will likely soon be replaced by someone more acceptable from among the Moscow Ingush diaspora. This move will come sooner if clashes between the militants and government forces in Ingushetia intensify against the backdrop of an overall deterioration of the security situation in the North Caucasus.
Dr Mairbek Vatchagaev
19.04.2012 – The Jamestown Foundation