Thursday, February 14, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Moscow, Not Militants, Destabilizing Ingushetia, Memorial Says

Paul Goble

Baku, February 14 – The current rulers of Ingushetia and their Moscow backers have only themselves to blame for the rapidly deteriorating situation in that North Caucasus republic, according to a detailed report released this week by the Memorial human rights center in the Russian capital.
Their behavior, a mix of brutal suppression of the population and celebratory claims about how wonderful things there now are, has turned virtually the entire population of Ingushetia against both Nazran and Moscow and made them increasingly willing to listen to the militants.
Moreover, the 80-page Memorial report suggests, official actions and inactions in Ingushetia have almost completely compromised the ability of the authorities to combat terrorism, however often these same officials insist otherwise. The full text of report can be found at
In releasing it, three Memorial experts emphasized that Russian and Ingush officials have done far more than the militants could to destabilize the situation and alienate the population ( and
Oleg Orlov said this was especially discouraging because almost three years ago, Memorial had personally presented to Russian President Vladimir Putin their earlier report which suggested that the actions of the force structures and the Ingushetia government were driving things in that direction.
Svetlana Gannuushkina added that the authorities there “are not able to defend the interests of the people who did not elect them.” Instead, the officials have as their only goal the creation of “the impression [for Moscow and the outside world] that everything in the republic is in order.”
And Aleksandr Cherkasov, said that he felt that there may no longer be any chance of reversing the situation: Earlier, he said, human rights groups had talked about the possibility “a catastrophic scenario” in the hopes that Moscow or Nazran would do something. “But [now, that scenario on paper] is now almost completely realized.”
. “A couple of years ago,” he said, “the population of Ingushetia was quite prepared to support the government in its struggle with the militants, but as a result of its own heavy-handed and openly illegal methods – including torture and kidnapping – the authorities have turned Ingush society against themselves.”
The report devotes most of its text to chronicling the increasing cycle of illegal violence by the authorities, growing anger among the Ingush population against it, and the government’s increasing willingness to use force against anyone who protests and to lie blatantly about what is taking place there.
But Cherkasov stressed that no one should indulge in any “conspiracy theories” as to how this came about. It occurred, he said, not according to some master plan but simply because first the Russian security forces and then the Ingush government recognized that under Putin they could act as they wanted with impunity.
Initially, the Memorial expert continued, Ingush officials kept their distance and even did not allow their own militiamen to follow the course of the Russian siloviki. But more recently, both the officials and the militia have followed the lead of the Russian forces there, thereby sacrificing whatever authority they had left.
Now, the government in Ingushetia has no choice but to use force against their own people in the hope that somehow the situation they find themselves in will change and to blame “outside agitators” for any problems so that Moscow will not fire those whom it has appointed – specifically notorious republic leader Murat Zyazikov.
But eventually, the Memorial activists suggested, Moscow will have to remove those who are creating the current disaster in Ingushetia or face the prospect that the problems in that North Caucasus republic that this report describes will combine with problems elsewhere and constitute a much larger threat to the center’s control.

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