Friday, March 14, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Endgame in Ingushetia?

Paul Goble

Baku, March 14 – Ingush President Murat Zyazikov has sacked his government in the hopes of deflecting blame from himself and winning Moscow’s support, but the opposition to him in Ingushetia, having tasted this victory, now says it will stage more demonstrations against Zyazikov not only there but in Moscow and other Russian cities.
Given that the Kremlin at the time of the handoff from Vladimir Putin to Dmitry Medvedev is unlikely to want to deal with this public relations disaster, Moscow may decide to sacrifice Zyazikov or alternatively, especially if the protesters can be provoked into going too far, support him to the hilt and crush the demonstrators instead.
But whatever course the central Russian government ultimately decides upon, it now must deal with an organized and outraged population in that north Caucasus republic, and virtually anything Moscow does will only add additional fuel to the flames of nationalist sentiment there.
Yesterday, Magomed Khazbiyev, who heads the committee which has organized the opposition to Zyazikov, told that “several hundred activists are currently preparing to conduct mass meetings of protest against corruption and the violation of human rights” under the current president (
He said that these demonstrations will take place in April and May – although he did not provide more exact dates -- that organizers plan to bring witnesses and film all applications for demonstrations, and that the first wave of demonstrations will occur in Nazran, Malgobek, Karabulak, Jeyrakh, and Ordzhonikidzevskaya stantsia.
Then, to increase the pressure on Moscow to sack the Ingush president, Khazbiyev said, his group plans to organize protest meetings and pickets in Pyatigorsk and Moscow as well, places where Zyazikov will be less able to throw a blanket of secrecy over the crimes he and his minions have been committing.
When Zyazikov dismissed his prime minister on Wednesday, he posed as a defender of democracy and openness, saying that “the government and parliament must work in such a way as to have a continuing open exchange of opinions with the population” (
But Khazbiyev said that “everyone in Ingushetia knows very well that Zyazikov is not able to replace even one major bureaucrat bribe taker and that this ballyhooed replacement of the government is ordinary public relations,” designed to fool those who want to be fooled.
The only way to “defeat the system of corruption developed by Zyazikov,” the opposition leader said, is by removing him because “all the bribe-taking bureaucrats pay their dues immediately to the president through Rashid and Ruslanbek Zyazikov and the president will not be able to change either of them.”
“The powers that be” in Nalchik, Khazbiyev said, “refuse to have any dialogue with the people and do not want to listen to the opinion of the population. Zyazikov operates on the basis of the support he receives from the MVD [interior ministry] and other force organs which instead of catching bandits are tracking and threatening us.”

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