An apparent worsening of relations between the republics inspired visits to North Ossetia and Ingushetia by a group of top Russian officials. The group included the first deputy chief of the presidential administration, Vladimir Putin, Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Kovalev, Deputy Interior Ministers Petr Latyshev and Leonty Shevtsov and Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, who paid visits to Vladikavkaz and Nazran, the capitals of North Ossetia and Ingushetia. They met with North Ossetian President Aleksandr Dzasokhov and Ingush President Ruslan Aushev. According to the RIA news agency, they made the trip out of concern for the deterioration in relations between the two republics provoked by the kidnapping of six residents of North Ossetia on Sunday and of five residents of Ingushetia on Monday. (See the Monitor, June 10)
In Nazran, Ingushetia’s President Aushev used the occasion to complain about the lack of federal support for efforts to help Ingush refugees resettle in North Ossetia’s Prigorodny District, which they fled following an outbreak of interethnic violence in 1992. He snubbed his North Ossetian counterpart by turning down an invitation from President Dzasokhov to meet in person to discuss the crisis. Aushev described the kidnappings of the Ingush as a deliberate provocation aimed at halting the return of the refugees.
According to Putin, relations between the two republics are plagued not only by “eternal questions,” which are hard to crack, but also by socio-economic problems, “which can and must be solved.” Housing and unemployment rank high on this list. Putin said preparations are being made for a Russian government meeting on implementing last year’s directive to help North Ossetia and Ingushetia with the return of refugees from the 1992 Ossetian-Ingush conflict. (RIA, RTR, June 10)
MOSCOW COLD-SHOULDERS ESTONIAN REQUEST FOR RETURN OF CULTURAL VALUABLES.