Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 26

Interfax reported on June 29 that during a broadcast of the program “Kriminalnaya khronika” (Criminal Chronicle) on the Chechen state television channel Grozny, Arbi Zakriev, a senior officer with the criminal investigation department of the Urus-Martan police, said that Shamil Basaev and Dokku Umarov were located in the mountains of Ingushetia. Zakriev was quoted as saying that the rebel leaders’ “oxygen” had been cut off in Chechnya and that as a result, they were constantly located in the mountains of neighboring republics.

According to Interfax, the “Kriminalnaya khronika” broadcast included a conversation with Adam Pidiev, an inhabitant of the Ingush village of Dattykh, who had been detained by Chechen law-enforcement organs on the territory of Ingushetia. Pidiev said that during two weeks in May, he had supplied a group of fighters loyal to Umarov with food on practically a daily basis. Pidiev said that the group was based in the woods on the outskirts of Dattykh and would come into the village and spend the night at a home in the vicinity. He also said that in May, he had accompanied Basaev on a drive from Dattykh in the direction of the village of Galashki, also in Ingushetia. “Basaev drove in a UAZ automobile,” Pidiev told the television program. “I drove in front in a Niva automobile. Among my responsibilities was to check the road to Galashki and in case of danger, to warn Basaev.” Pidiev said that Umarov had bought him the Niva car for $3,900 when his own car, which he used to deliver goods to the militants, broke down. Pidiev is currently being investigated by the Chechen authorities.

Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry, for its part, denied that Dokku Umarov and Shamil Basaev are hiding in Ingushetia. Interfax quoted an unnamed ministry official as saying there was no “operational information” to that effect.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the reports that Umarov and Basaev are hiding in Ingushetia is the fact that they are based on the testimony of a resident of the republic who was detained by Chechen law-enforcement officials operating in the territory of Ingushetia. Some observers have speculated that Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov is pushing for a reunification of Chechnya and Ingushetia (Chechnya Weekly, June 15). One of Kadyrov’s close allies, People’s Assembly Speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmaov, has on several occasions called for Chechnya’s merger with Ingushetia (Chechnya Weekly, April 27).

Nezavisimaya gazeta published an article on June 26 headlined, “Ingushetia is turning into a second Chechnya.” The article’s author, Vladimir Mukhin, noted that a high-level separatist figure, “so-called brigadier general of the security service of Ichkeria Sharpudi Amaev,” had recently been captured in a security operation that included both Ingush policemen and staff of Chechnya’s Interior Ministry. “Lately, it has become customary that on the territory of Ingushetia, Chechen police are operating more and more confidently and effectively, and that Ingushetia itself, judging by the activity of the militants, is turning into a zone of constant conflict indistinguishable from Chechnya,” Mukhin wrote. According to Mukhin, “illegal armed formations” conducted more than 20 “terrorist operations” in Ingushetia in just the last two months, including the assassination of Deputy Ingush Interior Minister Dzhabrail Kostoev in Nazran (Chechnya Weekly, May 18) and the murders of Ingush OMON commander Musa Nalgiev along with three of his children and Galina Gubina, deputy head of the administration of Ingushetia’s Sunzhensky district (Chechnya Weekly, June 15).

Likewise, on June 24, Kavkazky Uzel reported that the situation in Ingushetia is worsening. Correspondent Timur Khakhoev wrote that inside Ingushetia, assessments differ as to the reasons for the deteriorating security situation. “Until recently, some of the republic’s inhabitants thought that the terrorist acts against members of the law-enforcement organs might be an attempt by militants to pressure representatives of the power structures into decreasing their activities,” he wrote. “Others did not rule out that relatives of those citizens who had suffered as a result of actions by the siloviki might be involved. After the events of June 9, however, when criminals cold-bloodedly shot an elderly woman and young children, many no longer considered this version credible.”

Khakhoev quoted an independent expert in Ingushetia, who asked not to be identified, as saying, “Today, it is completely evident that someone very much wants to shake the situation in the republic. It is difficult to say who might be behind this. It might be members of the illegal armed formations from among local inhabitants. It might be the Chechen separatists—all the more so, given that they have frequently declared their plans to widen the zone of military actions and take them outside the borders of Chechnya. It cannot be ruled out that what is happening in the republic is part of this plan.”

However, according to Khakhoev, the anonymous independent expert in Ingushetia added that the increase in tension in the region could also play into the hands of the siloviki, because further instability would increase their power and authority. “Today, I do not see that the republic’s authorities or power structures have exerted serious efforts to correcting the present state of affairs,” the expert told Khakhoev. “Personally, I have begun lately to doubt the capacity and desire of the corresponding organs to oppose the wave of violence in the region.” Ingushetia’s deputy prime minister, Bashir Aushev, who is in charge of security issues, also said that the recent killings were aimed at destabilizing the situation in the republic. “Everything was done deliberately, in order to create … instability, chaos; this is unambiguous,” Aushev told RIA Novosti, adding that the siloviki and special services were not working actively enough to prevent this.

Khamkhoev also reported that increasingly frequent bombardments of wooded areas in the republic are upsetting local residents. “I am not a politician and cannot judge who and for what purpose is supercharging the situation in the republic,” a 29-year-old Nazran resident named Akhmed told Kavkazky Uzel. “But what is happening in Ingushetia is horrible and will lead to nothing good.”