On March 6, several hundred protestors in Ingushetia’s Plievo settlement, which is situated in the vicinity of Nazran, the republic’s largest town, blocked local highways and demanded that authorities investigate the kidnapping of Mikail Pliev. Ingushetia’s leading opposition figure, Magomed Khazbiev, joined the demonstration. Police used armored vehicles and force to disperse the protestors, but eventually the relatives of the kidnapping victim agreed to unblock the highway after Ingushetia’s President, Yunus-bek Yevkurov, promised to meet with them. However, the protest actions continued on March 7 as no clarification as to Pliev’s fate was provided. Opposition leader Khazbiev received an official warning not to take part in the demonstration (www.ingushetiyaru.org, March 6-7).
A 33 years-old father of five, businessman Mikail Pliev was kidnapped on March 5 while he was visiting the market in Pyatigorsk, in the neighboring Russian-speaking Stavropol region. Pyatigorsk hosts one of the largest marketplaces in the North Caucasus and has been designated as the capital of the newly created North Caucasus Federal District.
Witnesses allegedly saw Pliev being arrested by the police; however, police denied they had arrested him. Pliev’s relatives feared that he was snatched by the security forces. “We simply want to know, where our relative [Mikail Pliev] is,” one of the protesters said, adding: “We have addressed the local police, Pyatigorsk law enforcement agencies. The practice of recent years shows that if a person is not found within the next few days after his disappearance, he is unlikely to ever be found. So we will stand as long as we can” (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, March 6-7).
On March 2, the World Organization Against Torture expressed its fears that four Ingush men (Ali Dzhaniev, Yusup Dobriev, Yunus Dobriev and Magomed Adzhiev) had been “subjected to enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing.” In a letter addressed to President Dmitry Medvedev, the secretary general of the organization, Eric Sottas, wrote that these men, all relatives of the widow of the well-known Ingush opposition leader, Maksharip Aushev, had disappeared in St. Petersburg on the night of December 28, 2009. According to relatives of the disappeared men, they found surveillance camera video footage showing eight cars chasing and blocking the car of the kidnapped men. Investigators reportedly refused to take this video into account. The organization urged President Medvedev to ensure that a proper investigation of the disappearance of the four men was carried out.
Scores of Maksharip Aushev’s relatives disappeared or died in unexplained attacks since his death on October 25. On December 16, before the four men vanished in St. Petersburg, a car with Aushev’s widow, her mother and two brothers blew up after it was searched at a police checkpoint in Ingushetia. Only the widow survived the attack, which took place a week after the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a posthumous award for Maksharip Aushev as one of two “exceptional human rights champions” (www.state.gov, December 9, 2009).
There are strong signs that Russian government authorities were involved in the attacks on Ingush opposition leader and his relatives. This can be described as an unprecedented pressure on a single group of relatives.
It is remarkable that the increased number of attacks with the apparent involvement of government forces on citizens of Ingushetia has been reported outside of the republic. This may be indicative of the law enforcement agencies’ extremely weak position in the republic and their fear of a possible popular revolt. This means that the government has lost control over the situation in Ingushetia, with only fear remaining as one of the few instruments for imposing any semblance of order in the republic.
On March 2, the North Caucasus insurgency leader Aleksandr Tikhomirov, aka Sheik Said Buryatsky, was killed in a massive police operation along with several other rebels in Ekazhevo, Ingushetia. It is noteworthy how differently President Medvedev and Ingushetia’s leadership reacted to what the Federal Security Service (FSB) portrayed as its big success. Medvedev hailed the FSB’s achievement and ordered its head, Aleksandr Bortnikov, to prepare a list of servicemen to receive state awards (RIA Novosti, March 6). Ingush President Yunus-bek Yevkurov, expressing his wariness, was quoted as saying: “He [Said Buryatsky] was killed, but some other ideologist, like ‘Said Kitaisky,’ (Said the Chinese) will replace him” (www.news.km.ru, March 6).
While the Russian government is in the pursuit of that special “silver bullet” that would miraculously solve the profound security problem in Ingushetia, as well as in the rest of the North Caucasus, local pro-Moscow leaders seem to understand that there is no single cause of instability and no easy solutions are around the corner.
On March 2, a court ordered the release of the killer of another prominent Ingush opposition figure, lawyer and journalist Magomed Yevloev. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the decision. “With today’s ruling, the Supreme Court of Ingushetia is fueling impunity for those who kill journalists –an endemic problem for Russia,” the CPJ said in a statement (www.cpj.org, March 2). Yevloev, who owned the opposition Ingushetia.ru website, which battled with the authorities, was killed in police custody within hours after his arrest in August 2008. In December 2009, his killer, a high-ranking police officer, was convicted of negligent homicide and initially sentenced to two years imprisonment. This is an oblique sign that the state authorities are strongly in favor of suppressing Ingushetia’s legal opposition, using all accessible means, including unrestrained violence.