Ingush Insurgency Approaches Major Crossroads

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 10 Issue: 11

Ingush President Yunus-bek Yevkurov (L) and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov (R)

Militant actions in Ingushetia increasingly are bearing the signs of an uncompromising struggle against the authorities. At times, the news reports from this republic resemble wartime chronicles. The daily news from Ingushetia in the Russian mass media is filled with reports of armed assaults, explosions and attacks on the law enforcement structures.

Against this background, the president of Ingushetia, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, who was appointed to this position by the Kremlin in late October 2008 and who is a former career military intelligence official, still has not determined his tactics with regard to the processes that are unfolding there. In the eyes of the public Yevkurov’s image is Janus-like, two-faced: on the one hand, he visits mosques, meets the population and interacts with human rights advocates; on the other, he speaks in military jargon when he accuses parents of failing to exercise control over their children who allegedly have joined the militants and, in doing so, he begins to resemble Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

In his public statements at the beginning of his presidential term, Yevkurov emphasized anti-corruption initiatives in the republic and attempted to explain to the befuddled Ingush that all social ills were allegedly rooted in the corruption of authorities. To an ordinary Ingush resident, it was not quite clear how the anti-corruption struggle can influence those who carry out armed assaults and attacks on the representatives of law enforcement structures and clerical establishment across the republic (http://www.ingushetia.ru/m-news/archives/011502.shtml).

According to President Yevkurov, another equally important destabilizing factor in the republic was the problem of blood feuds. According to unofficial sources (http://www.tvc.ru/ShowNews.aspx?top=5&id=cb96619a-dc71-4572-bacf-8abb08aacf8b), close to 180 families in Ingushetia are engaged in blood vendettas. Even though this factor is not decisive, it has always been present in both Chechen and Ingush societies. This is an entirely autonomous dimension of the conflict and President Yevkurov has very little to hope for in positive results. Such disputes, when they are solved by pressure from the authorities, always have a tendency to smolder in society until an opportune moment arrives for them to reemerge again. The vendetta is not taken into consideration by the armed underground because it views the assassination of a state bureaucrat or an employee of the interior ministry or the Federal Security Service (FSB) as falling outside the category of blood revenge and, on the contrary, as being mandatory for any jamaat member. Thus, the concern over the proliferation of blood feuds represents more of a positive public relations campaign for President Yevkurov rather than a genuine desire to solve the problems in the republic.

On March 7-8, 2009, while visiting Kadyrov and celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, Yevkurov could not help but notice the visible well-being prevalent in Chechnya, and may have concluded that it does not matter by what methods and means one achieves the appearance of stabilization, even if that implies imposing a blockade on media access to the republic and prohibiting journalists from operating in the region without an FSB escort. It appears that the president of Ingushetia thought he should learn quite a bit from Kadyrov.

Yevkurov is already trying to implement the results of this sort of personal bonding. During the live local Ingush television broadcast on March 10, President Yevkurov’s position was delivered in explicitly harsh tones. He no longer sought the sympathy or understanding from the population. He already felt confident and ready to propose to the federal center concrete steps for decreasing the tensions.

Precisely here is where Chechnya’s influence is definitely noticeable. Or to be more precise, it is noticeable among those who advise Yevkurov, because he decided to follow the well-trodden path of the Chechen president. This includes a declaration of the amnesty for militants who have not been involved in homicides. The formula is essentially the same as the one that has been repeatedly used by Kadyrov in Chechnya. In practice, neither Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry nor the FSB can reliably verify whether particular individuals were involved in assassinations because for some time now the armed underground has become a well-established and insular closed circle, which makes it impossible to know who is to blame for this or that militant action against Ingushetia’s authorities.

The Ingush jamaat, unlike other detachments of the armed underground in the North Caucasus, does not like to advertise itself in video messages, which is a rare phenomenon. (The rare military operations captured on video camera more often represent joint actions with the Chechen jamaat, whose members usually post them on their websites.) The website of Ingushetia’s Sharia Jamaat (http://hunafa.com/?cat=1) has only sparse information about the actions of the armed underground. One is left with the impression that this website functions autonomously from the jamaat itself. The website mainly features information of an ideological nature, including the speeches of Sheikh Said Buryatsky. Yet, reports about militant actions are detailed only in releases issued by the press-service of the jamaat, which are infrequent. Even statements on behalf of the leadership of the Ingush Jamaat are not signed by Emir Magas (Akhmed Yevloev), but by the Information-Analytical Department of the Headquarters of Armed Forces of Vilayet (region or province) Galgaiche (this is the word for Ingushetia in the Ingush language) of the Caucasus Emirate (http://hunafa.com/?p=935).

In other words, the personality of Magas is not advertised and his statements and speeches have not been publicized by the resistance for a long time. This invariably leads to the speculation that perhaps not all is well between Dokka Umarov and Emir Magas. Otherwise it is difficult to explain why while they are in such close geographic proximity there has been not a single case of them making a joint appeal since the establishment of the Caucasus Emirate.

Considering the aforementioned circumstances, the announcement of possible amnesty for the militants in Ingushetia will yield minimal results for the authorities there and its outcome will not be comparable to what Kadyrov achieved when he sometimes labeled militants—even those who only fought during the first military campaign in Chechnya.

Far more interesting and quite unexpected was the statement made by Yevkurov in his interview with Kavkazsky Uzel and Gazeta.ru on March 6 regarding those Ingush youth seen in Ingush society as adherents of Salafi teachings and, in particular, addressing the question of their persecution based on religious affiliation. President Yevkurov noted that he issued an order to stop the harassment of Ingush youth going to local mosques. At the same time the Interior Ministry has been ordered to stop registering those individuals who refuse to pray in the manner generally accepted in the Sufi tradition. According to Yevkurov, it is impermissible to accuse youth of belonging to the camp of Wahhabis simply because they think differently and not in accordance with the mores prevalent in the Ingush society. It is possible that this new statement will bring certain dividends to President Yevkurov. Up until now the interior ministry monitored all young people who outwardly differ from their peers (be it beards or refusal to participate in the supplemental prayer that follows the Friday prayer that is mandatory for all Sufi Muslims). It was this part of society that was constantly under pressure from special operations conducted by the FSB and Ingush Interior Ministry. The young men who were killed in these special operations were, as a rule, posthumously declared to have been members of armed underground, even though apart from possible sympathy, they probably had very little to do with it. All of this created the basis for popular discontent in Ingush society. If Yevkurov’s statement is actually implemented, then there will be more successes from this than from the sham amnesty for the militants.  

At the same time, it should be noted that President Yevkurov stated that he “harshly warned the Interior Ministry, and advised the Muftiyat, not to persecute under any circumstances” (http://58.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/150750). The Muftiyat formally exists as an independent Muslim body, although it will interpret a recommendation by President Yevkurov as an order to be fulfilled. This is one of the main peculiarities of the religious bodies in the North Caucasus, because they are very sensitive and responsive to the authorities. Thus, they are vehicles for spreading official policy in the region, which invariably produces resentment in a certain portion of the population.

Be that as it may, increasingly one can discern characteristics of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov in the recent actions of Ingushetia’s president. Only time will tell whether the results will be the same.