Alekseyeva: Situation in Ingushetia Today Resembles Stalin-era Terror

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 36

Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the veteran human rights activist who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group and was recently in Ingushetia on a fact-finding mission (North Caucasus Weekly, September 19), has said that the present situation in Ingushetia is comparable to recent events in Chechnya in terms of kidnappings, torture and extra-judicial killings and also resembles the Soviet Union during the 1930s. Another member of the Moscow Helsinki Group who traveled with her to Ingushetia warned that the republic could explode into a civil war.

Alekseyeva told reporters at a press conference in Moscow upon her return from Ingushetia on September 23 that what is happening in the republic is “unthinkable and shouldn’t happen in a country which respects the rule of law,” the BBC reported. “In Ingushetia, they arrive at people’s homes, some are taken away, others are killed right away, [and] there is torture. These actions by the authorities can never be justified in the name of fighting terrorism.” According to the BBC, another Moscow Helsinki Group member, Valery Borshchev, warned that “civil war could break out” in Ingushetia. “One part of the population is keeping quiet, but another part is taking up the fight,” he said. “Fear creates rebellion; the federal government takes responsibility for that.”

In an interview with Novye Izvestia published on September 22, Alekseyeva, who met with Ingush President Murat Zyazikov and other top republican officials during her trip, said she asked Zyazikov “why innocent, peaceful people who are not involved in armed combat are killed so often in Ingushetia.” She said Zyazikov claimed that people are arrested by federal structures, not the Ingush authorities, and are then driven to Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, and therefore “he is not in a position to track them, because this is a different republic.” Alekseyeva said she met with Ingushetia’s Interior Minister, Musa Medov, and its public prosecutor, who “confirmed that the federal authorities are engaged in the abductions.”

According to Alekseyeva, relatives of abductees also told her that federal authorities, not Ingush ones, were most likely responsible for the abductions. She said that she and Valery Borshchev actually went to the scene of a “zachistka,” or security sweep, and that the security forces involved were all “undoubtedly” Russians. Alekseyeva said that Ingush Interior Minister Musa Medov called her on her cell phone and said he would send guards to ensure that she and her colleagues were also not arrested in the sweep.

“I asked Medov: why are you worried, if these are your people?” she told Novye Izvestia. “And he replied: these are not my people; this is the FSB with its mobile squadron. I then asked what exactly a mobile squadron was, and I was told that these are federal troops who are located in Ingushetia for such operations.”

Asked whether she discussed with Zyazikov why demonstrations by Ingushetia’s political opposition have been violently broken up, Alekseyeva replied: “He believes that the opposition is directly tied with the terrorist underground that is killing Ingush police officers and civil servants, including relatives of Zyazikov himself. I am convinced that this is not the case. The protest actions and signature collections are absolutely genuine. I would say that the atmosphere right now in Ingushetia is how it was in 1937, when every person went to bed not knowing if he would wake up in the morning in his own home, or … would be seized in the night, driven somewhere, tortured and then killed. The only difference between 1937 is that everyone was indiscriminately seized then, and now it is principally men aged 15 to 30 … Evidently they believe that this age group is a reserve for terrorists. But by their actions, they are increasing the terrorist resistance, if it exists. I imagine myself in the place of a young person, an Ingush who lives in such fear. Maybe it would be better to go into the woods, go into the mountains and be calm knowing that you won’t be grabbed like a rabbit. Two, three, four people disappear every day in a republic where the population is 450,000.”

Alekseyeva also met with the father and uncle of Magomed Yevloev, the owner of the opposition website, who was recently shot and killed while in police custody. Ingush officials claim Yevloev was accidentally shot after he tried to grab a gun from a policeman, but his relatives and supporters insist he was deliberately killed (North Caucasus Weekly, September 5). recently posted a list of the 14 people it said were involved in Yelvloev’s murder. The first three were President Zyazikov; the head of his security team, Ruslanbek Zyazikov; and Musa Medov, the republic’s Interior Minister.