Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Russian Security Officers May Have Murdered Ingush Opposition Figure, Yevkurov Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, October 27 – Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov says that “the force structures could have taken part” in the murder of Maksharip Aushev, because “officers of law enforcement organs sometimes participate in fights among bandit groups.” But that does not mean, he adds, that “the powers that be have given them such taskings.”
Yevkurov’s statement, made in an interview on Ekho Moskvy and published today in “Vremya novostey,” calls attention to what may be the most disturbing aspect of this latest murder of an opposition figure: the increasing extent to which those nominally in power do not effectively control Russia’s security agencies (www.vremya.ru/2009/198/4/240437.html).
And while Yevkurov added that he was “inclined” toward a different explanation for this murder, the Ingushetia president’s willingness to acknowledge this possibility likely is more immediately significant: After all, his predecessor Murat Zyazikov was removed after Magomed Yevloyev, one of Zyazikov’s most vocal opponents, died while in MVD custody.
But regardless of what the investigation reveals or doesn’t about who was behind this killing, Sergey Markedonov, one of Moscow’s most thoughtful observers of the North Caucasus, argues today that it is already possible to draw “certain preliminary political results” from this case (www.chaskor.ru/p.php?id=11741).
Like Yevloyev, Markedonov points out, Aushev was not only the owner of the Ingushetia.org but a leading member of “the secular opposition” in the North Caucasus, someone who regularly criticized “not only the republic’s powers that be but also radical extremist Islamism.”
His murder – and the Moscow analyst says that preliminary reports from the scene of the crime over the weekend suggest that it was carried out in a “professional” way – thus removes from the scene precisely the kind of individual who could help create civic center between the radicals and those in Moscow who believe that force is the only proper response to radicalism.
In an essay on the Chaskor.ru portal yesterday, Markedonov suggests that there are three conclusions that should be drawn now. First, he says, this murder shows that “the electoral successes of the ruling party [United Russia] and the proud reports about the stabilization of the situation [in the North Caucasus] are far from reality.”
Indeed, the Moscow political analyst suggests that the way in which Moscow insisted that the elections be carried out had the effect of undercutting and isolating precisely those like Aushev who could, were more competitive contests to be permitted, attract local people who otherwise will be more inclined to support the radicals.
Second, Markedonov continues, Aushev’s murder represents “not simply a challenge to media freedom or the activities of non-governmental organizations as such. It is a challenge to Russian statehood in exactly the same way the murder of the head of the Daghestani MVD and the assassination attempt against the president of Ingushetia were.”
That is not “a beautiful metaphor,” Markedonov says, “and even more it is not a gift to official Kremlin propaganda.” That is because Maksharip Aushev was a member of the expert council of the apparatus of the human rights ombudsman in Russia” and thus an official of the Russian state, however few reports about his death have pointed that out.
And third, the longtime observer of developments in the Caucasus says, Aushev’s murder is tragically typical. “With rare exceptions, those very human rights activists” who have been killed in that region “have condemned extremist and terrorist methods of struggle and demanded from the Russian authorities [only] that they observe Russian (and not some other) law.”
In that sense, Markedonov argues, “it is impossible to overrate their role in preventing the splitting apart of the country,” however few among the powers that be understand the significance of people like Aushev for the future of the North Caucasus and indeed of Russia as a whole.
Russians must “stop considering the murders of leaders of social groups and NGOs as some kind of ‘risk’ of those professions,” he said, and instead recognize that “the murders of those who are trying to improve the quality of the powers that be – including law enforcement structures, which are the basis of the state machine – are a direct challenge to the state.”
The only people who benefit from such murders, Markedonov concludes, are either radicals who want to destabilize the situation or those “who want to convert [the state] into a profitable private business, in which there exists only one goal – superprofits not constrained by law or other standards.”

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