The course of events in the republic of Ingushetia, the smallest and youngest republic of the Russian Federation, has changed dramatically over the past two years. In particular, changes were seen in the confrontation between the armed opposition, the Sharia jamaat and the pro-Moscow authorities, namely republican head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. The jihadists call the republic the Velayat of Ingushetia within the Caucasus Emirate.
There has been an overall decline in the number of armed clashes in Ingushetia since 2010, primarily the result of the Russian security services successfully planting a mole at the highest level of the leadership of Ingushetia’s insurgency. The agent apparently became very close to Emir Magas (aka Taziev, Yevloev), which allowed the security services to capture alive the insurgent military leader of Ingushetia, who was the second most important person in the militant leadership and Shamil Basaev’s successor (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/169982/). Within just several months in 2010, the Federal Security Service (FSB) eliminated virtually all the leaders of the Ingush jamaat. The death of one of the principal ideologues of the armed resistance, Said Buryatsky, was also believed to be the result of a betrayal by one of his closest associates (www.newsru.com/russia/04mar2010/said.html).
The situation in Ingushetia, in terms of human rights abuses and civil opposition to the existing authorities, is especially interesting because it is still evolving. The so-called Mehk Khel (an Ingush term meaning Council of the Country) is the best organized opposition group. It was set up as an alternative parliament for the republic. One of its leaders is Magomed Khazbiev, widely considered to be the successor to Ingush opposition leader Magomed Yevloev, who was killed under the previous president of Ingushetia, Murat Zyazikov. The civil opposition in Ingushetia is non-orthodox in that it does not sympathize with the rebels, but rather criticizes them for attacking Ingush police officers who work for the pro-Moscow authorities. The civil opposition is as against Yevkurov as it was against Zyazikov and, before him, against the first president of the republic, Ruslan Aushev. Ingushetia’s opposition habitually pins all of its hopes only on Moscow.
Despite the arrest of the Ingush insurgency’s leader and the killings of prominent rebels, kidnappings in the republic did not cease. Even Yevkurov was forced to admit finally that the Russian security services were behind some of the kidnappings (https://kavpolit.com/silovaya-vertikal/?print). Such an admission is impermissible in the current Russian political setting and cannot go unpunished. That means that if Yevkurov is dismissed from his position in the near future, it will be the result not of the general situation in the republic, but of Moscow’s disapproval of his reaction to actions by the civil opposition and the rebels.
The Ingush authorities sometimes react to the opposition’s actions in a very peculiar way indeed. For example, members of the opposition picketed the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. The protesters demanded that the authorities stop extralegal executions in the republic and criticized Yevkurov (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/206646/). One of the protesters, Salman Ugurchiev, told the story of losing four sons. “During Yevkurov’s rule, kidnappings of young people take place every day,” he said. “One of my sons was kidnapped in March 2009, the second was kidnapped in 2011; two others were killed in 2010 and 2011. There is no one to turn to and no one to complain about this to.” Another protester, Sirazhdin Sultygov, explained: “When one son is killed, they warn the father to keep quiet to save the remaining sons. These actions are carried out by the siloviki – the FSB and the so-called Department E, which is the department for fighting extremism. We do not demand anything apart from one thing: the authorities should abide by the Russian Federation’s laws and regulations. If his sons are guilty, let the police arrest them and try them in court. But when a person is simply killed, we do not know whether he was a criminal or not.” Quoting Ingushetia’s human rights organization Mashr, an activist, Yusup Khamkhoev, said that “in 2010 alone, 160 people were killed in the republic and 13 were kidnapped. None of them has been found so far” (https://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/206646/).
The innocuous protest by the Ingush opposition in Moscow produced an indignant and somewhat bizarre reaction from Yevkurov, who said that the protesters had disgraced the Ingush nation. Yevkurov stated that he would summon the leaders of the Ingush clans and ask them how they could allow such a “disgrace” to happen. In other words, according to Yevkurov, to demand legal action against the killers of one’s family members is shameful. Yevkurov thinks that one cannot wash dirty linen in public and the authorities in Moscow should not know about the problems in Ingushetia that are voiced by the protesters. Ingushetia’s envoy in Moscow to the Russian president, Vakha Yevloev, personally tried to disperse the people protesting in Moscow against his boss. As a counterweight to the opposition group of Mehk Khel, the authorities have under their control a similarly organized group called the Council of Teips (Council of all Ingush clans). The pro-government council criticized the picketers in Moscow and voiced approval of Yevkurov’s work as the head of the republic (https://gazeta-serdalo.ru, May 17).
Yevkurov certainly realizes that, with his low support among Ingushetia’s people, his days as the head of the republic are numbered. According to sociological studies by independent experts, in March 2011, 8-9 percent of the people in Ingushetia voiced support for Yevkurov, while in April-May of this year support for him plummeted to the absolute minimum – 1-2 percent (author interview with member of Ingush opposition).
Thus, the situation in the republic is dangerously drifting to the verge of a general uprising, in spite of the significant reduction in the activities of the armed opposition in Ingushetia. This slump in the insurgency’s activities in the republic cannot be attributed to Yevkurov’s achievements, but rather to the achievements of the federal authorities – which, as usual, bypassed the regional government. However, even if some form of public unrest should occur in Ingushetia, it will not be a revolt against Moscow, but rather a rebellion against Yevkurov personally, seeking to replace him with someone else. According to the Ingush diaspora in Moscow, the Kremlin has been looking for someone to replace him since 2011.