The regular reports from the North Caucasus about armed, masked men who rush into houses early in the morning to kidnap young men are old news. Kidnappings, illegal detentions, and disappearances have become daily occurrences for the whole region, especially Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. Civilian protests against the kidnappings also happen quite often. But neighbors managing to prevent such a kidnapping is a rare occasion indeed.
On June 27 an enraged crowd in Ingushetia refused to let armed men from the Russian Special Forces detain a young man. The attempted arrest provoked a wave of protests in the republic and inspired a new conflict between security officials and the Ingush public.
Since this spring Russian security forces have paid close attention to Ingushetia. Large-scale sweeps have taken place in many towns and villages, and several dozen young men have been detained by special squads of the Russian police and the Federal Security Service (FSB). Many of the arrested men have disappeared without a trace, but evidence regarding their whereabouts leads to Vladikavkaz, the capital of neighboring North Ossetia. The hostages who were released or found by their relatives said that they had been brought to the headquarters of the Ossetian branch of the FSB.
This fact is especially painful for the Ingush, whose relations with the Ossetians have been quite tense since 1992, when the Ingush who lived in North Ossetia were forced to leave the republic due to ethnic cleansing organized by the Ossetian authorities.
This year discontent and anger in Ingushetia are rising and becoming stronger after each new kidnapping. On June 17, a motorcade of Russian FSB and police forces entered the village of Surkhakhi. The official report about the incident, published by Interfax news agency, says, “During this operation, two residents of the village of Surkhakhi put up armed resistance. One of them, Ruslan Aushev, was killed by return fire.” The security officials claim that Aushev was one of the local rebel leaders and took part in preparing the bloody terrorist attack on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in 2004. At the same time, locals say that Aushev was not on the wanted list and was innocent. Moreover, according to Ingushetiya.ru, he had no weapons or hand grenades on him, and the FSB officers simply shot him dead. The villagers are especially angry at the fact that the servicemen who fired at Aushev’s house also destroyed two neighboring homes.
That same day Magomed Aushev, a brother of Ruslan, was detained and brought to Vladikavkaz. FSB personnel tortured him, trying to force the man to become their agent in the village. When Magomed Aushev was freed, he appealed to the Ingush prosecutor’s office and told his relatives everything that had happened to him in North Ossetia.
On June 25 the residents of Surkhakhi held a meeting in the local mosque. Two members of the republican parliament were also present. According to Ingushetiya.ru, the meeting adopted a resolution demanding that Ingush President Murat Zyazikov immediately halt the kidnapping and murder of the local youth by the FSB or face a “people’s uprising” in the region.
Early on the morning of June 27, a large convoy of police and FSB forces entered the village. FSB officers and policemen broke into the home of Bamatgirey Aushev, captured his son Khalit, and tried to take him to Vladikavkaz. Another group of officers simultaneously attacked the home of Abubakar Aushev, the imam of the local mosque, and ordered him to not organize public meetings at the mosque anymore.
If the FSB raid on the village was meant to terrorize the residents and destroy their will to resist, the result was the opposite. As security officials left the village, taking Khalit Aushev with them, an enraged crowd armed with farm tools blocked the convoy on the road leading out of Surkhakhi.
A local police inspector arrived at the scene and demanded that the armed men produce a warrant for the search and arrest of Khalit Aushev, which they did not have. Then three more Ingush policemen arrived, and they refused to allow the FSB men to take away the captured Khalit. Ingushetiya.ru reports, “If it had not been for the officers of the district police and the local police inspector, the residents would have lynched the visiting bandits with pitchforks and axes.”
On the same day a protest rally took place near the headquarters of the Ingush police organized crime department. Inside, FSB officers from the North Ossetian and Ingush branches were arguing with the Ingush policemen, trying to make them hand over Khalit Aushev. The FSB men said that they needed Aushev because they had an order to detain all those in Ingushetia who had Russian “model nine” Lada cars with black-tinted windows.
Eventually the FSB officers left Aushev at the police station, and Musa Medov, the newly appointed interior minister of the republic, personally promised the crowd gathered in front of the police building that night-time kidnappings would end.
However, protests continued. On June 29 the Kavkaz federal highway was been blocked near the village of Ekazhevo. According to the Regnum news agency, the 100 women who closed the highway demanded that the investigation of suspects detained in Ingushetia be carried out in the republic, not in other regions of Russia. Again, Medov met with the protestors and promised to satisfy their demands.
The recent protests forced the Ingush authorities, including President Zyazikov, to do something to limit the FSB activities in the region. Nevertheless, the truce is unlikely to last for long, because the FSB lacks the means to fight the militants within the law.