Federal Forces Failed To Block Escaping Ingushetia Raiders

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 27

Just how passive was the federal military during last month’s rebel raid on Ingushetia? Issa Kostoev, who represents Ingushetia in the upper house of the federal parliament, provided further revelations in an interview with Sanobar Shermatova published by the weekly Moskovskie novosti on July 1. According to Kostoev, federal forces were summoned from neighboring Chechnya and Northern Ossetia, but halted at the Ingushetian border, just a few kilometers from the guerrilla attacks. “It’s obvious even to someone with no military expertise,” he said, “that the guerrillas were going to have to leave [Ingushetia] in the direction of the Assa Gorge [in southern Ingushetia]; all other routes were closed to them. And that is just what they did. One group escaped to the gorge through the village of Nesterovskaya [near Ingushetia’s eastern border with Chechnya], another through Surkhakhi and Ekazhevo [just southeast of Nazran]. It would seem that those were the places where they should have been blocked—but that was not done.”

Kostoev provided additional confirmation that the guerrillas’ main targets were federal and provincial security officials directly involved in the Chechen war, not rank-and-file police. “There were cases,” he told Shermatova, “when the guerrillas [captured but then] released traffic policemen.”

A 40-year veteran of Ingushetia’s procuracy, Kostoev said that he was convinced that the Kadyrov administration’s security forces had been enjoying considerable success at disrupting guerrilla operations in Ingushetia, which the rebels were treating as “a kind of rear area” in which they could move more freely than they could within Chechnya itself. In the period just before the recent raid, he said, the Ingushetia’s police had been repeatedly warned that the rebels would strike back in some way, but those warnings were disregarded.

Kostoev depicted Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry and police as having been woefully ill-prepared to face the surprise attack—with a lack of communications equipment, a shortage of small arms other than pistols and without even one armored personnel carrier. “In fact,” he claimed, “Ingushetia as a republic exists only on paper.”

A somewhat different explanation for the Ingushetian authorities’ communications failures surfaced at a June 30 session of the State Duma in Moscow. According to the Russian television network NTV, Vladimir Vasiliev, head of the Duma’s Security Committee, said that the Ingushetian Interior Ministry’s communications system was temporarily disabled by the rebel raiders.