Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Window on Eurasia: Russia ‘Losing Ingushetia before Absorbing South Ossetia,’ Moscow Analysts Say

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 2 -- The death of Magomed Yevloyev, which most Ingush and rights groups blame on the government of Murat Zyazikov, his officials say was an accident, and a few writers suggest was a provocation by the West, has radicalized opinion there to the point that, in the words of one analyst, Russia risks “losing Ingushetia before it can absorb South Ossetia.”
Yevloyev, the owner of the independent news portal Ingushetiya.ru which Zyazikov has long sought to shut down and a major opposition figure in his own right, died of bullet wounds to the head while in the custody of Zyazikov’s militia on Sunday. And his funeral yesterday grew into a mass protest, leading to a meeting today that the authorities dispersed.
At the funeral, opposition figures said that the Yevloyev family had declared a blood feud with the Zyazikovs and the family of his interior minister and indicated that protest meetings would continue until Zyazikov was removed from office and held responsible for his actions against the people of Ingushetia.
Indeed, one of the speakers said that the murder of Yevloyev by Zyazikov’s thugs ends any hope for the rule of law as long as the incumbent president remains. Not only does this make it more rather than less likely that people on both sides will now turn to violence, but it also means more Ingush will call for independence (www.ingushetiya.ru/news/15402.html).
The meeting today adopted a resolution calling on Ruslan Aushev, whom KGB general Zyazikov replaced in 2002, apparently because Aushev was too popular and too independent, to return to Ingushetia in order to lead the movement against his successor and thus prevent the “destruction” of more Ingush (www.nr2.ru/incidents/194104.html).
That meeting, unlike the one today, was broken up by police loyal to Zyazikov, although the interior ministry there said no one had been hurt and although opposition leaders said they would organize new protests (www.grani.ru/Politics/Russia/Regions/m.140837.html and www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1228312.html).
Zyazikov’s confidence that he could arrange the murder of a political opponent with the expectation that Moscow would back him up is disturbing. But even more striking is the way in which this latest action completes his transformation of Ingushetia from one of the most loyal republics in the North Caucasus to one whose people seek independence.
As Sobkorr.ru observer Sergey Petrunin pointed out yesterday, Ingushetia was a relatively quiet place in the 1990s, with a population that did not want to be linked to the independence-minded Chechens and a political opposition that was always interested in working within the law (www.sobkorr.ru/news/48BBCC227BD35.html).
But now thanks to the actions and crimes of Zyazikov, Ingushetia has been “transformed into almost the most unstable [republic in the North Caucasus and the biggest headache” for Moscow, “surpassing even neighboring Chechnya.” Indeed, Petrunin said, “many observers now consider that “what is taking place in Ingushetia can be classified as a real civil war.”
But an even sharper and more devastating comment was made by Moscow commentator Mikhail Delyagin on the Forum.msk.ru portal today. “Russia,” he writes,” has not succeeded in uniting with itself South Ossetia” but it has “already lost Ingushetia,” thanks to the actions of Zyazikov and his clique (forum.msk.ru/material/news/524732.html).
“The actions of the authorities in Ingushetia do not have any reasonable justification or explanation,” Delyagin continues. Indeed, what is taking place there recalls the Gongadze case in Ukraine which triggered the Orange Revolution there. But the situation in Ingushetia in fact is much worse.
(Heorhiy Gongadze was the 31-year-old publisher of the opposition Internet journal “Ukrainska Pravda” in Kyiv when he disappeared in September 2000. He was later found beheaded, and widespread suspicions that the highest levels of the Ukrainian government were behind his murder helped power the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.)
Under Zyazikov, there has been “total lawlessness,” and “no one even thinks to try to hide it.” That is not something that can be corrected if the same people remain in power. Indeed, Delyagin argues, the only thing Moscow can do to try to “save the situation” is “to immediately arrest the entire administration of Ingushetia and all the siloviki there without exception.”
Then, using the resources at its disposal, the Moscow commentator concludes, the central Russian government should vigorously interrogate all these officials which the Putin government dispatched to that region in order to determine “which of them perhaps is less guilty” than the others.
That is unlikely to happen. Were Moscow to do that, other regions in the North Caucasus and elsewhere, including in particular Mari El, would rise up as well. But unless Moscow either sacrifices Zyazikov or applies sufficient force to intimidate and not just enrage, Ingushetia is likely to lead a new “parade of sovereignties” which could threaten Russia as a whole.

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