On April 28, the Kremlin scored another “success,” this time in Chechnya’s neighbor, Ingushetia, where Murat Zyazikov, the Kremlin-backed candidate for the republic’s presidency, won a surprise second-round victory. Zyazikov, an FSB general and deputy to Viktor Kazantsev, Putin’s representative in the Southern federal district, defeated Alikhan Amirkhanov, a close associate of Ruslan Aushev, the former Ingushetian president and long-time critic of Kremlin policy in the Caucasus, who stepped down last December.
At first glance, Zyazikov’s victory was somewhat surprising, given that he was previously little known in Ingushetia, was otherwise associated with the highly unpopular Kazantsev and had come in far behind Amirkhanov in the first round of voting on April 7. It soon, however, became clear from some Russian media–for the most part, from papers belonging to opposition tycoon Boris Berezovsky–that the Kremlin had ensured the victory of its candidate the old-fashioned way, by ballot-stuffing and using gun-toting cops to intimidate those who cried foul.
Still, fewer and fewer Russian media nowadays accentuate the negative, and the waning fortnight delivered up another bit of good news for the Kremlin. Fitch Ratings, the international rating agency, announced it had upgraded Russia’s long-term ratings from “stable” to “positive,” saying it expected that “under President Putin’s leadership, the Russian authorities will continue to introduce and implement structural reforms that are vital to raise living standards and diversify the economy.”