Ingushetia Buffeted Anew By Chechen Hostilities

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 5 Issue: 13

In what may be the final push to close the last remaining camps for refugees in Ingushetia, the Kadyrov administration’s security agencies have apparently blocked off the Sputnik and Satsita camps on the outskirts of the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya near the Chechen-Ingush border. According to a March 29 bulletin from the Nazran office of the Moscow-based human rights center Memorial, a large number of military vehicles entered the camp on that day. “Those displaced persons who have submitted applications that they want to stay on the territory of Ingushetia are expected to be taken to temporary accommodation centers in Chechnya,” said Memorial.

According to a March 24 report from the Prima human rights news agency, the authorities have announced that the Sputnik camp is to be closed by April 1. The same agency reported on March 22 that, as of that date, the camp still contained more than 150 tents, inhabited by about 800 refugees. “The refugees do not have the slightest doubt,” wrote Prima, “that immediately after the Sputnik camp is closed the authorities will throw all their energies into liquidating the last large tent city for Chechen refugees in Ingushetia: Satsita.”

A March 26 statement from the Moscow headquarters of Memorial charged that the past month has seen an explosion of activity by “various security agencies” in Ingushetia, including six kidnappings and eleven murders. Two refugees were beaten while in detention and then released. The human rights group acknowledged that “of course those killed and kidnapped included rebel guerrillas,” but insisted that “the majority of the victims were peaceful civilians.” According to a March 29 report by Ruslan Isaev of Prague Watchdog, gunmen from the Russian special services killed five Chechen residents of Ingushetia on March 26. “It was later reported,” wrote Isaev, “that one of the victims had a belt with explosives strapped to his body. However, several eyewitnesses asserted that the belt had been put on subsequently by the men who killed him.”

Meanwhile, not far from the refugee camps, the life-long Ingush residents of Ordzhonikidzevskaya received another harsh reminder on March 25 that they are ruled by force rather than by law. As local teenagers were relaxing and talking, as they have long been accustomed to do on mild evenings on a street in that village, an air-to-ground missile suddenly swooped down from above and exploded in their midst. One youth, who had just finished tenth grade, was killed on the spot, according to a March 29 article by Anna Politkovskaya in Novaya gazeta. Two others were still in the hospital as of March 28.

So far the Ingush government–headed by Murat Zyazikov, an ex-officer of the secret police who took office after a rigged election in 2002–has been trying to pretend that nothing happened. Though news of the killing has raced around the republic by word of mouth, its mass media have remained silent. The interior ministry’s crime report of March 26 made no mention of the incident. Instead the state controlled television broadcasts showed Zyazikov meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi and reporting to him about Ingushetia’s stability. The president did not even send a sympathy message to the mourners in Ordzhonikidzevskaya.