Events in Ingushetia Spin Out of Moscow’s Control

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 40

The Kremlin does not control Ingushetia and that is why control of the republic may be transferred to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Yet this sort of “Chechenization” will only further exacerbate the Ingush crisis. The territory of Ingushetia became a zone of active and large-scale military operations this past week. Both sides carried out operations, although from the geographic and tactical viewpoints the Ingush Jamaat led by Amir Magas was more active and effective. As a result, the Russian forces limited their response to necessary defensive actions, whereas the Ingush underground pursued offensive operations that covered practically the entire territory of Ingushetia, including the republic’s main cities and adjacent settlements.

A number of Russian and Ingush experts characterized the situation as the completion of the process of “Chechenization” of Ingushetia by comparing it with the beginning of the second war in Chechnya (http://www.rbcdaily.ru/2008/10/20/focus/386603). In an interview with Gazeta.ru published on October 20, the former president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, assessed the situation as a full-scale civil war (http://www.gazeta.ru/politics/2008/10/17_a_2858634.shtml). Echoing the well-known journalist Andrei Babitsky, Aushev stated that it is very likely that the Kremlin will attempt to transfer control of Ingushetia to Kadyrov. According to experts, the Kremlin is no longer confident that such anti-crisis measures for Ingushetia as replacing its unpopular president, Murat Zyazykov, will be effective. Experts say that for the Kremlin, the so-called “Kadyrov” methods that proved to be effective in Chechnya are like the last ditch effort of a drowning man. According to Babitsky, evidence of this is the demonstration held in Grozny demanding the incorporation of Ingushetia into Chechnya (http://www.ingushetia.org/news/16133.html). Babitsky noted that such public events are impossible without the organizational involvement by the Chechen authorities and that such demonstrations are intended to prepare public opinion before beginning the unification of the two republics.

However, Aushev and Ivan Sukhov, a correspondent with the newspaper Vremya Novostei, believe that the “Kadyrov-ization” campaign is not in the interests of either the Ingush or Chechen people and it will lead to a drastic deterioration of Chechen-Ingush relations (http://www.svobodanews.ru/Transcript/2008/10/20/20081020180505557.html).

The experts, however, may be making a mistake in assuming that either “Chechenization” or “civil war” characterizes the situation in Ingushetia. In practice, the military operations in Ingushetia cannot be classified as an internal civil conflict, but as a liberation struggle brought to Ingushetia from the outside by the Russian military and police detachments, who are resisted by the partisan groups from the Ingush sector of the rebel Caucasus Front.

Over the weekend of October 18-19, the combat jamaat of Ingushetia announced a resumption of active combat operations against the Ingush employees of the law enforcement structures. The moratorium on combat activities against ethnic Ingush who collaborate with the Russian authorities and who are also referred to as “murtads,” which was adopted during the holy month of Ramadan, did not extend to the “kafirs,” as the rebels call Russian military personnel and operatives from the special services. That is why defensive and offensive combat operations were intensively carried out in Ingushetia even during the period of the ban on the killing of ethnic Ingush. The Ingush Jamaat’s statement announcing the resumption of active offensive operations against kafirs and murtads, which was posted on the Kavkaz-Center website on October 20, includes an account of the clashes that took place daily in September (http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2008/10/20/61666.shtml). According to the figures quoted in the statement, the militants’ combat losses amounted to 9 “mujahideen,” while the Russian side suffered 27 dead and 45 wounded. “We quote figures of which we are certain,” the Ingush Jamaat stated. “The real combat losses of the murtads and kafirs are actually above those which are published, but we did not include them because we do not have sufficient information about them.” The statement also noted that in September alone the combat groups of Ingush Jamaat carried out 22 attacks on various facilities, detachments or individual employees of the law-enforcement structures and that the combat losses on the Russian side included a number of high-ranking officials from the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Interior Ministry.

The character of assaults indicates that the Ingush guerrilla leader Magas possesses good intelligence about the plans and movements of the enemy on the territory of Ingushetia. That he is well informed is also evident in the factual details cited in the aforementioned statement by the Ingush Jamaat, which includes specific information on all Russian special services employees killed and wounded (i.e. names, ranks, positions and places of service). The statement mentions, for instance, the combined police teams that have been dispatched to Ingushetia from Rostov-on-Don, Kemerovo, Khabarovsk and Magnitogorsk, and the precise names of combat units, FSB special squadrons as well as “kadyrovtsy” from the personal army of Kadyrov. Such details are usually classified and their possession suggests that Magas controls not only the forests and mountains of Ingushetia, but also has agents or sympathizers in the various branches of power.

Special attention should be given to the fact that the list of operations carried out by the jamaat was entitled “The Report for the Muslim Population of Ğalğaj (Ingushetia in Ingush) on Accomplished Tasks.”

The positive image of jamaat within the population is one of the main conditions not only for the continued success but also for the very existence of the resistance underground. Magas pays attention to the ideological war and his victories on that front are no less impressive than in the area of combat operations.

The jamaat report card describes in detail each operation that led to the killing or wounding of not just Russian but Ingush military officials or special operations officers. Such acts are explained as punishments or warnings. Punishment is assigned for such crimes as active cooperation with or participation in the Russian power structures. The high-ranking officials and officers of the Interior Ministry and FSB, Ingushetia’s Interior Minister Musa Medov and President Murat Zyazykov all fall under this category. Among others who were targeted for punishment is a pimp who used to send women of dubious reputation to the military barracks and a university rector who prohibited female students from wearing a hijab. Hence, Magas is inculcating in the population of Ingushetia the idea that he is not fighting against common folks and that he targets the marginal elements who betray the interests of the people. The jamaat members do not refuse their Ingush enemies a chance to “return to the people.” Interior Minister Medov, who earlier recently survived an assassination attempt (North Caucasus Weekly, October 3), is openly offered a choice—to die or to join the jamaat.

Apart from the punitive measures, the ideological arsenal of the jamaat also incorporates a clearly organized support system for the families and relatives of the mujahideen with the special attention paid to the families of the deceased.

The romantic portrayal of the slain mujahideen and the creation of a heroic narrative, in which they are portrayed as having fought and died for their faith and land, should also be counted among the Ingush Jamaat’s ideological victories. In principle, the creation of a heroic image is not that difficult because many jamaat members represent fine examples of Caucasian nobility and selflessness. Many stories about the lives and deaths of these heroes have a special place in contemporary Ingush folklore. As these stories are repeated orally from person to person they become important vehicles for recruiting an increasing number of young Ingush who lost faith in the ideals of democratic society because its Russian manifestation assumed particularly ugly features in the North Caucasus.

The time when it was possible for the Ingush crisis to be resolved with Moscow’s participation has probably already passed. From now on the course of events will develop independently of the will and interests of Russia, given that the crisis of Moscow’s credibility within Ingush society reached its apex in the aftermath of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict in August and with the subsequent recognition of South Ossetia’s independence.