On March 23, the Supreme Court of Ingushetia issued a statement complaining about President Yunus-bek Yevkurov’s attacks on the judiciary. According to the statement, Yevkurov had without basis accused the republic’s judges of corruption and supporting terrorism. The Supreme Court judges also alleged that Yevkurov had tried to encroach on their independence granted by the Russian constitution. They indignantly dismissed allegations about abetting terrorists and pointed out that two deputies of the chairman of Ingushetia’s Supreme Court were murdered during the past two years (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 24).
President Yevkurov sought to counter the Ingush judiciary’s revelations with more claims: “On the first day of my presidency, I noticed that sort of a caste formed in the republican judges’ community that did whatever it wished to do,” the newspaper Kommersant on March 24 quoted him as saying, adding, “Every person could receive any decision for a certain price.” Yevkurov complained that not one of 37 corruption cases initiated during his presidency resulted in putting anyone behind bars and that hundreds more were released from detention in the aftermath of the attempt on his life in June 2009. The Chairman of Ingushetia’s Council of Judges, Magomed Daurbekov, told the newspaper that all decisions of the republican Supreme Court were upheld by the Russian Supreme Court, and that Yevkurov’s accusations were groundless. Daurbekov attributed the acquittals to the poor quality of police and security services investigations, and also blamed the security services for misleading Yevkurov and putting him at loggerheads with the republic’s judiciary. “You don’t need courts, you want to have ‘troikas’, as in the 1930’s [a reference to the notorious show trials used during the Stalin era], so that you could solve your issues according to your wishes,” Daurbekov allegedly told Yevkurov at one of the meetings (Kommersant, March 24).
The conflict has already attracted much attention from the Russian public as it is the first case in the country’s modern history in which the judiciary publicly denounced executive branch’s attempts to limit its independence.
Dominance of the executive power over the country’s judiciary is a widespread feature throughout Russia –something that is the rule, certainly not the exception. An open clash between the head of the republic and its judiciary is a very rare phenomenon that indicates there are deep problems in Ingushetia, where the conflict between the formal separation of powers and the de facto supremacy of the executive branch unexpectedly surfaced. As the judges pointed out, all modern leaders of Ingushetia, starting with General Ruslan Aushev in the 1990’s, were military men who tried “to govern the republic as if it were a military unit” (www.gzt.ru, March 24).
Meanwhile, the corruption issue in relation to Ingushetia was once again highlighted as the head of Russia’s Audit Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, claimed that during the work of the chamber’s auditors in Ingushetia in January 2009, they endured “extreme forms of pressure,” and that he had to write a letter about this to the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the federal interior ministry. Stepashin also dismissed claims that one of the chamber’s members accepted a bribe worth over 1 million Euros (more than $1.34 million) (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 24).
As a further indication of the Russian government’s failure to bring order and stability to Ingushetia, yet another wave of appointments swept the republic. On March 16, an ethnic Russian, Victor Pogolov, was appointed interior minister of Ingushetia. The position had been vacant since a suicide bomber destroyed the principal police station in Nazran in August 2009 and the republic’s interior minister was subsequently dismissed (RIA Novosti, March 16).
On March 26, an Ingush businessman with links to the major Russian oil and gas company Lukoil, Musa Keligov became Ingushetia’s representative in the Russian parliament’s upper chamber, the Federation Council. Keligov was known for his opposition to both previous presidents of Ingushetia –Ruslan Aushev and Murat Zyazikov. Keligov has already made a statement forecasting the merger of the North Caucasus republics, which he sees as the only viable option to solve regional problems (Kommersant, March 26). Some observers have alleged that Keligov was also the main backer of Ingush political opposition figures like Magomed Yevloev and Maksharip Aushev. Both Yevloev and Aushev were murdered and some of their relatives were also killed or persecuted.
The situation in Ingushetia remains far from calm, with special operations and violence continuing in the republic. On March 23, three brothers, the Bogatyryov’s, were killed in a police operation in the village of Surkhakhi and three policemen were wounded (www.ingushetiyaru.org, March 23). The FSB announced afterwards that the brothers had been preparing large-scale attacks. In another Ingush settlement, Barsuki, a terrorist suspect was killed in a police operation (www.ingushetia.org, March 27). The same day, police claimed they intercepted a car with explosives that detonated as the police tried to stop it (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 28). A shootout took place in yet another village in Ingushetia, Plievo (RIA Novosti, March 28).
Human rights activists also continue to complain about abuses by Ingush government authorities. On March 24, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteur on the human rights situation in the North Caucasus, Dick Marty, visited Ingushetia and held talks with the local government and NGO’s. He promised to report to his European counterparts on the situation in the republic, and then made his way further to the east to Chechnya and Dagestan (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 24).