On March 30, Ingushetia’s opposition published an open appeal to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The opposition in the republic, which is organized in a group called Mekhk-Khel (People’s Council), demanded the Russian president “force a return of the situation in the republic to the proper legal framework.” The appeal enumerated the Ingush people’s grievances and blamed them on the existing governor of the republic, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, and Moscow’s unwillingness to do something decisive in the region. “During the three and a half years of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov’s rule, none of the most serious problems of the republic has been solved,” the letter read. “There has not been a single improvement. All the reports and statements about achievements and successes in the socio-economic sphere, etc., are blatant lies and hypocrisy.” According to the authors of the appeal, Ingushetia’s economy remains in poor shape and has even deteriorated. The greatest problem is mass unemployment, with an estimated 70 percent of the economically active population in the republic jobless. The unemployed, most of them young people, are in “despair” and the situation cries out for “extraordinary steps to solve this problem,” the letter states (http://www.ri-online.ru/index.php/2009-11-07-18-24-34/2956-otkrytoe-pismo-k-prezidentu-rf-d-a-medvedevu, March 30).
Ingushetia is indeed officially one of the poorest regions of Russia and in 2010 had the second lowest per capita income in the country, after Kalmykia (Russian State Statistical Service, www.gks.ru). According to the Russian Ministry for Regional Development, only 22 percent of Ingushetia’s workforce is “registered unemployed” (http://www.minregion.ru/north_caucasian/ingushetia/). The key is probably in the word “registered,” since many unemployed people do not get registered for various reasons.
The opposition letter to the Russian president stated that “massive, total corruption from the top to the bottom” is the second “scourge” of Ingushetia, after chronic unemployment. The Internet is rife with shocking details of corruption, the letter said, but there is no reaction from the government. Even if some bureaucrats are occasionally held responsible for corruption-related crimes, “it is not for the sake of rule of law, but only in aid of ‘internal’ score-settling and the like,” the letter said (http://www.ri-online.ru/index.php/2009-11-07-18-24-34/2956-otkrytoe-pismo-k-prezidentu-rf-d-a-medvedevu, March 30).
On March 30, the head of the Russian Prosecutor General’s office in the North Caucasus Federal District, Aleksei Melnikov, stated that most of the money siphoned from the budgets in the North Caucasus disappears. Less than 3 percent of the stolen budget funds have been recovered, Melnikov said (http://skforussia.ru/view_news.php?topic=dagestan&id=22309, March 30). On March 29, an employee of the Russian Federal Pension Fund in Ingushetia was arrested in Pyatigorsk, Stavropol region. Some sources alleged that the man arrested was the former head of Ingushetia’s pension fund branch, Movlat Vyshegurov. The suspect was accused of embezzling funds from the federal program designed to boost the country’s birthrate (http://ria.ru/justice/20120329/609341001.html, March 29). Even more shockingly, a former employee of Ingushetia’s prosecution office, Ali Dobriev, is now on trial on charges of organizing an illegal armed group “to destabilize the situation in the republic” (http://ria.ru/justice/20120331/611796322.html, March 31).
The third massive problem in the republic was described as “unpunished, systemic lawlessness on the part of the law enforcement agencies and obscure ‘force services’ in relation to the young male population.” According to the authors of the letter, if previously young people were “massively shot” in Ingushetia, now they are kidnapped both in the republic and beyond its borders. This situation of lawlessness has no end in sight, the letter said. Its authors called the current state of affairs in Ingushetia “genocide” and demanded that President Medvedev end this state of affairs by sacking Yevkurov (http://www.ri-online.ru/index.php/2009-11-07-18-24-34/2956-otkrytoe-pismo-k-prezidentu-rf-d-a-medvedevu, March 30).
Replacing Murat Zyazikov with Yunus-Bek Yevkurov in October 2008 was one of President Medvedev’s first personnel moves after coming to power. When the deeply unpopular Zyazikov was replaced with Yevkurov, many people in Ingushetia appeared to be relieved. The number of victims of insurgency-related violence in the republic significantly plummeted after the notorious Ingush rebel leader Ali Taziev (aka Magomed Yevloev, Emir Magas) was captured in June 2010. However, the situation in Ingushetia never calmed down entirely: in 2011 alone, 19 young men were kidnapped in Ingushetia and subsequently disappeared (http://www.mashr.org/?page_id=7). For Ingushetia, with under a half million people and tightly-knit family and clan networks, that number of kidnapped people is quite significant.
At a meeting with rights activists on February 18, Yevkurov surprisingly admitted that there have been five kidnapping cases this year in which the law enforcement agencies have been implicated (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/201447/, February 19). Yevkurov has recently displayed unusually critical rhetoric in regard to the law enforcement agencies. Ingushetia’s opposition, however, is not convinced, since the situation is not improving. On March 30, a bomb explosion in Ingushetia’s main city Nazran killed an FSB officer. The bomb was attached to the bottom of his car under the driver’s seat. Local security servicemen have reportedly become the primary targets of the insurgents because the security services, with their comprehensive network of informants among the local population, are the main threat to the insurgents (http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1906012?isSearch=True, March 31). On March 30, two suspected rebels were killed in Ingushetia after police reportedly tried to stop a car being driven by the suspects, who opened fire and were killed in the ensuing shootout (http://ria.ru/incidents/20120331/611124644.html, March 31). This scenario, in which suspected rebels are killed in shootouts, has become extremely common in the North Caucasus and raises doubts about the security services’ real operating practices.
According to a ranking of the “electability” of Russian governors done by the newspaper Kommersant, Yevkurov is among those whose reelection is “guaranteed.” Yevkurov was fourth on the list, while Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov was ranked first (www.kommersant.ru, March 30). All of contemporary Ingushetia’s leaders have come from the military and security services. The first president of modern Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, was an army general, while Murad Zyazikov and Yunus-Bek Yevkurov were members of the Russian security services. Yevkurov’s replacement is likely to come also from the same realm, if Moscow decides to dismiss him. Although Kommersant puts Yevkurov’s electability at nearly 100 percent, the reintroduction of elections of regional governors, which is expected in the fall of 2012, could drastically affect his chances. So, with his first term in office coming to an end, part of the reason why Yevkurov may have started to play to public opinion in Ingushetia is his awareness that the rules of the game may soon change.