Violence also continued this past week in Ingushetia (Chechnya Weekly, July 19). A well-known religious figure, Vakha Vezizhev, was killed on July 21. As Kommersant reported on July 23, Vezizhev formally held a minor post in the republican nationalities affairs ministry, but was also an informal adviser to Ingush President Murat Zyazikov and a “highly influential person in the presidential entourage.” The incident took place while he was driving to the city of Karabulak from the village of Ekazhevo along with his daughter. Another car pulled up along side his and forced it to stop. Someone from the other car then fired an automatic rifle at Vezizhev’s car, wounding Vezizhev, who died while being taken to the hospital. His daughter was unhurt.
Kommersant quoted an unnamed source as saying that Vezizhev was an informal adviser to Zyazikov and had a strong influence on “very important decisions” taken by the Ingush president. The newspaper quoted a republican law-enforcement source as saying that Vezizhev was a victim of “the war declared by the extremists on Murat Zyazikov.” Kommersant reported that Zyazikov, noting the worsening situation in the republic, sharply criticized the work of the heads of local administrations and law-enforcement bodies.
Various media, including the Ingushetiya.ru and separatist Kavkaz-Center websites, reported on July 22 that Zyazikov’s motorcade had been fired on with automatic weapons and grenade launchers the previous day in the republican capital of Magas. According to the reports, several cars were damaged but no one was hurt in the attack. The Ingush Interior Ministry’s press service said that no such incident had taken place and that the reports were “a fabrication by those who are trying to destabilize the situation in the republic,” the Caucasus Times website reported on July 23. “We ask that the editorial board of Ingushetiya.ru and other media outlets not circulate unverified information in the future,” the ministry’s press service stated.
Newsru.com reported on July 24 that one policeman was killed and another wounded when their car was fired on from another car in the village of Srednie Achaluki in Ingushetia’s Malgobeksky district. Also on July 24, unidentified attackers opened fire on an automobile in which federal servicemen were driving in the center of Ingushetia’s largest city, Nazran, Gazeta.ru reported. No one was hurt in the incident. Unknown gunmen fired automatic weapons at a branch of the Rosselkhozbank in the center of Nazran on the evening of July 24, Kavkazky Uzel reported. No one was injured in that attack. Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 26 that unidentified attackers fired grenade launchers at the Interior Ministry Internal Troops’ base in Nazran, but that no one was hurt in the attack.
In an apparent indication of the alarm with which the federal authorities viewed the deteriorating law-and-order situation in Ingushetia, Russian Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev said on July 25 that the federal Interior Ministry had launched a “special preventive operation” in Ingushetia. According to ITAR-Tass, Yedelev indicated the order for the operation to start had been given by federal Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev. “The very recent events produce disgust among the population,” Yedelev said. “First, gangsters are operating on the roads. Second, fragments of militant formations that managed to get out of Chechnya are still functioning, too.” According to ITAR-Tass, Yedelev also referred to the situation in the Ingush regional Interior Ministry, saying there will be a chain of new appointments there. “We’ve coordinated them with Ingushetia’s president and the newly appointed Interior Minister, Musa Medov,” Yedelev said. He added that Ingushetia’s deputy Interior Minister in charge of logistics was in Moscow trying to arrange supplies of telecommunications and other equipment, transport and weaponry.
Meanwhile, Kavkazky Uzel reported on July 20 that the family of Azamat Gorbakov had appealed to the Memorial human rights group about his detention due to suspicion of rebel activity. According to the website, the 24-year-old was detained at his home in Karabulak by members of the federal Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office in the Southern Federal District. The Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate in Ingushetia accused Gorbakov of being the leader of “the so-called Karabulak militant group” and said he had been captured with several homemade grenades. The FSB claimed that another grenade had been found hidden in his home along with other items, including a Kenwood radio receiver, a camouflage sleeping bag and a black mask. Azamat’s father Arsemat Gorbakov denied his son’s involvement in any of the crimes he was charged with and said that the items seized during his sons arrest did not belong to his family and that he did not know to whom they belonged.