Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 1

President Putin on December 27 handed out awards to a variety of officials, artists and other VIPs, RIA Novosti reported. Among the recipients were Chechen President Alu Alkhanov, who received an Order of Bravery, and Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov, who received a 4th degree For Services to the Fatherland award. Ingushetiya.ru reported on December 27 that the decoration of Zyazikov “elicited a negative response” from the Ingush population.

“Local observers note that during the years of Zyazikov’s governing Ingushetia has turned from a dynamically developing republic into the most corrupt, impoverished and insecure subject of the Russian Federation,” the independent website wrote. “It is fully understood here that Murat Zyazikov, through his brother Rashid, head of Republic of Ingushetia governmental apparatus, established a system for the personal enrichment of his family, selling posts and receiving ‘kickbacks’ amounting to up to 50 percent of all the items of expenditure financed from both the federal and local budgets…The Russian Federation’s constitution, as well as the criminal procedural legislation, does not operate on the republic’s territory. Operational information, a denunciation that someone or a group of people are ‘militants’ or ‘Wahhabis’ is enough for them to be targeted for extrajudicial execution or to disappear without trace, abducted by unknown persons ‘in camouflage uniforms.’

“Against the backdrop of Zyazikov’s huge unpopularity, the fact that Vladimir Putin backs and encourages him negatively affects the federal government’s authority,” the Ingushetiya.ru commentary continued. “In essence, a bomb is being planted that at some point will explode in the form of a surge in separatist slogans and armed confrontation.”

On December 27, security forces in Ingushetia engaged in a shoot-out with suspected militants in the city of Nazran, RIA Novosti reported on December 28. Three of seven militants were killed and the other four captured. One security officer was slightly wounded. According to the news agency, the seven suspects were members of the Jamaat “Caliphate,” an underground Islamist paramilitary group headed by an Arab identified as Abu-Dzeita that was allegedly involved in the June 2004 attacks on law-enforcement buildings in Ingushetia. Law-enforcement officials claim the militants were planning to launch terrorist acts in the North Caucasus in the near future.