The authorities in Ingushetia on April 30 broke up a demonstration in Nazran by President Murat Zyazikov’s political opponents. The oppositionists had vowed to go ahead with the protest despite the fact that Nazran Mayor Sultan Sultygov had on April 29 refused to grant the demonstration’s organizers permission to assemble, ostensibly because they failed to file the required documents. According to an Ekho Moskvy radio correspondent at the scene, some of the 100 people who gathered for the protest despite the fact that it was banned were attacked by club-wielding “people in masks,” who made their way to the stage that had been set up for the event, where they grabbed Musa Ozdoev, the Ingushetian parliamentary deputy who heads the opposition, along with several other organizers. Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty on April 30 likewise reported that an unspecified number of protesters who managed to gather near Nazran’s main square were attacked and dispersed by club-wielding masked men shortly after Ozdoev began to address the demonstration, and that he was forcibly taken to the local Interior Ministry headquarters. According to RFE-RL, armored vehicles were deployed near Nazran’s train station early on April 30, up to 1,000 police and troops blocked off the main square, roadblocks were set up on all highways leading to Nazran and “numerous buses transporting would-be participants to the protest were halted and turned back.”
Interfax, on the other hand, reported on April 30 that only several dozen people had tried to gather on the square and were blocked by police. Likewise, a representative of the Memorial human rights group’s in Nazran, Timur Akiev, said that only around 50 demonstrators showed up. He explained the low turnout by both the passivity of the Ingush public and “fear of the authorities,” Kavkazky Uzel reported on April 30. Akiev said he did not see any instances of rights abuses by police and said that while the circumstances surrounding Ozdoev’s detention raised questions, the police did not use force when they detained him.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding his detention, Ozdoev announced on May 1 that he was going on a hunger strike. He was released from custody the following day, after which he declared that he has no intention of quieting down and will call for new protests, gazeta.ru reported on May 2. Ozdoev told Kavkazky Uzel that he plans to file a complaint about his detention with Ingushetia’s Supreme Court. “I and several of my comrades were detained at the April 30 demonstration ostensibly for ‘organizing disturbances’,” he told the website. “We were taken to the Nazran police headquarters, where we were held for around 12 hours, and neither relatives nor lawyers were allowed to see us, and were even refused the option of telephoning us. At midnight, I was taken before the magistrate, who read the charges of ‘hooligan actions and resisting the law-enforcement organs’, after which I was sent to Nazran’s temporary detention facility for three days. Naturally, I did not agree with any of these accusations because I believe they were all trumped up from start to finish.”
The suppressed opposition rally was not the only sign of unrest in Ingushetia. On May 1, the chief of police of Nesterovskaya in Ingushetia’s Suzehensk district, Timur Belkhoroev, was shot to death in his car as he was driving into the village, Kavkazky Uzel reported on May 2. A young woman with whom he was reportedly driving was seriously wounded in attack. The day before that attack, federal servicemen carrying out reconnaissance near the village of Alkhasty, also in Ingushetia’s Suzhensk district, were the targets of unknown attackers, who fired on the soldiers from a wooded area using automatic weapons and grenade launchers. One serviceman was wounded in the attack.
On April 27, Ingushetia’s Supreme Court found five participants in the June 2004 attacks on law-enforcement offices and police checkpoints in Nazran and elsewhere in the republic guilty of various charges, including terrorism, banditry and attempted murder of law enforcers. The five residents of Ingushetia – Ali Yandiev, Aslan Bakhtiev, Abukar Barkinkhoev, Ruslan Barkinkhoev and Mairbek Gaparkhoev – received prison terms of 17 years, 16 years, 14 years, 13 years, and 13 ½ years, respectively, Itar-Tass reported. The June 2004 attacks killed 88 people and wounded 120 others.
RBK on May 3 quoted the press center for headquarters of the Russian military operation in the North Caucasus as reporting that a fighter from the group once commanded by the Arab warlord Abu Zeit was captured in Ingushetia during a document check of vehicles traveling along the Kavkaz highway. Abu Zeit was reportedly killed in February of this year (see Chechnya Weekly, February 23).
Meanwhile, Irina Khalip, special correspondent for Novaya gazeta in Ingushetia, reported in the bi-weekly’s April 28 edition that the head of the Ingushetian branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Sergei Koryakov, has been reassigned to his hometown of Irkutsk. Calling Koryakov the “evil demon” of Ingushetia, Khalip suggested that the kidnappings that have occurred in Ingushetia have taken place with his knowledge, if not approval. She quoted Shakhman Akbulatov, head of the local branch of Memorial as saying: “It is difficult to correlate how many kidnapping have been carried out by the Chechen FSB and how many [by the] Ingush [FSB],” he said. “But the available information permits one to confirm: the special services of both republics are connected to what is taking place. Sometimes raids are carried out by groups of armed people from North Ossetia and from Stavropol Krai. But they do it, I believe, with Koryakov’s knowledge. This situation cannot but trouble us. It often happens that a person has connections to the [rebel] fighters and his detention is necessary. But detention, not kidnapping!” According to the Novaya gazeta article, President Zyazikov did not approve of Koryakov’s actions but was too weak to counter them.