Ingushetia Takes Chechnya’s Place as the North Caucasus Hot Spot

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 34

Developments in Ingushetia over the last several weeks have added to its growing reputation as the new “goryachaya tochka,” or hot spot, in the North Caucasus. Three Russian Interior Ministry troops were wounded on the evening of September 4 when unidentified attackers fired a grenade launcher at a military unit located in the republic’s Malgobek district and escaped in an UAZ automobile. Kavkazky Uzel on September 5 quoted doctors as saying that the servicemen’s wounds were not life threatening. On August 31, a bomb blast in Nazran, Ingushetia’s largest city, killed three policemen and injured two. An official of the republic’s prosecutor’s office told Reuters that the incident took place when police patrolling in a jeep were dispatched to check on reports that a Lada car packed with explosives was parked next to the cultural center in central Nazran. “When police approached the Lada, it blew up,” the official told the news agency. “There was virtually nothing left of the Lada car.” Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry, however, insisted that the explosion was an accident that took place when a police jeep collided with the Lada and a gas canister in the latter exploded.

On the evening of August 30, gunmen in the Ingush town of Karabulak shot to death Mikhail Draganchuk, the husband of a local ethnic Russian teacher, Vera Draganchuk, and their two sons, Anatoly, 24, and Denis, 20, in their home. The Regnum news agency, citing Russian state television’s First Channel, reported on August 31 that Denis Draganchuk died later in a local hospital. Vera Draganchuk was in another room of the house at the time of the shooting and was not hurt. The attack was similar to one that took place in the Ingush village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya on July 16, when Lyudmila Terekhina, a 55-year-old ethnic Russian teacher, and her son and daughter, both of them university students, were shot to death by unknown gunmen in their home. On July 18, ten people were wounded when a bomb detonated during the funeral for Lyudmila Terekhina and her two children, which was held at a cemetery in Ordzhonikidzevskaya (Chechnya Weekly, July 19).

Russian news agencies reported on September 3 that the gunman suspected of killing Mikhail Draganchuk and his sons was himself killed during a special operation in Karabulak on September 2. A military source told Interfax that the slain militant was Apti Dolakov, “an adherent of Wahhabism” born in 1986. “He is suspected of being a member of a terrorist group which killed a Russian family and wounded two Dagestani shepherds,” the source said, adding that a grenade was confiscated from the slain militant. The source said that a relative of the slain militant, who was also an “adherent of Wahhabism” and believed to belong to an illegal armed group, was detained. Interfax also quoted the source as saying that several law-enforcement agencies were involved in the special operation against the two militants and that “uncoordinated actions of law enforcement agencies resulted in a shooting.” The source added: “Relevant measures are being taken to prevent such uncoordinated actions in the activity of law-enforcement agencies involved in searching for and eliminating militants in the region.”

Kommersant on September 4 quoted Karabulak residents and human rights activists who gave a version of what happened during the September 2 special operation that differed significantly from the official one. According to the newspaper, a group of Federal Security Service (FSB) spetsnaz commandos arrived in Karabulak on September 2 at five in the afternoon in two Gazel microbuses, one of which went to a gaming machine arcade where the two alleged militants were believed to be. Around ten armed commandos in masks got out of the vehicle and started to surround the arcade. “However, the operation did not get off the ground: upon seeing the men with submachine guns, several young people ran out of the arcade into the street and scattered,” Kommersant wrote. “Then the chekists opened fire.” As Kommersant was told by the Ingush branch of the Memorial human rights group, whose staffers interviewed eyewitnesses to the special operation, “the FSB [commandos] fired despite the fact that it was a Sunday and there were apartment buildings around where children were playing in the yard and peaceful people were walking.” The newspaper reported that 21-year-old Apti Dolakov, who it described as a local resident, was among the youths who ran out of the arcade before he was fatally wounded. Another local resident who had fled from the arcade, 23-year-old Iles Dolgiev, was captured nearby and was pushed by the FSB commandos into the Gazel microbus with a bag over his head.

According to Kommersant, the special operation almost ended in a shootout between the FSB commandos and local police when a group of local policeman and members of the republic’s OMON police commando unit, which is based near Karabulak, heard shooting from the special operation and arrived at the scene. The FSB had not given the local police advance warning of the special operation, fearing possible leaks, and as a result the appearance of the masked FSB commandos firing weapons was an “unpleasant surprise” for the local law-enforcers, who demanded that the FSB commandos present identification. The latter refused and demanded that the local law-enforcers get out of the way and not “disturb the work of the federal special services.” The local police officers backed down and left the scene, but the OMON commandos refused to back down and aimed their weapons at the FSB commandos, who were ultimately forced to go to the local police quarters. However, the FSB commandos were freed after twenty minutes, when three armored personnel carriers with another ten FSB spetsnaz arrived at the scene.

Ingushetia’s chief prosecutor, Yury Turygin, said the FSB commandos’ actions were justified. The Karabulak prosecutor’s office launched a criminal case based on charges of infringement on the life of law-enforcement personnel and illegal weapons’ possession against the slain and captured alleged militants. The office claimed that the slain militant, Apti Dolakov, had tried to throw an F-1 grenade at the FSB commandos, forcing them to use their weapons. The FSB also claimed that Dolakov and Dolgiev were “Wahhabis” and active members of the “Karabulak underground” who had been involved not only in the murder of schoolteacher Vera Draganchuk’s husband and two sons, but also a number of other attacks carried out in the republic in August and early September.

However, according to Kommersant, the local branch of Memorial is certain that Iles Dolgiev had nothing to do with the murder of schoolteacher Vera Draganchuk’s family and that the FSB is fabricating a case against him. “One of the chekists went up to the [wounded but] still living Apti Dolakov and shot him in the head, and then placed a grenade next to him,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed Memorial staffer as saying. “That is being told by many eyewitnesses … How is it possible after that to believe what the FSB [officers] are saying?” According to Kommersant, the independent website has already posted an open letter from Karabulak residents calling on republican prosecutor Yury Turygin to resign over the extra-judicial killing of Apti Dolakov. The newspaper also quoted a source in the republican prosecutor’s office as saying that Dolgiev had nothing to do with the murder of Vera Draganchuk’s family.

France’s Le Monde reported on September 3 that a similar incident took place on August 29 at a market near Nazran, when republican OMON killed 18-year-old Islam Garakoev, who the police commandos claimed was an armed terrorist. However, the website quoted a Radio Liberty correspondent on the scene as saying that, according to eyewitnesses, Garakoev was shot at point blank range and had not offered any resistance, and that the OMON commandos had not allowed anyone to come to his aid. According to Le Monde, a crowd gathered around the morgue where Garakoev’s body was taken and demanded the resignation of Ingushetia’s president, Marat Zyazikov.

Le Monde quoted Magomed Mutsulgov of the non-governmental organization “Macher” as saying that police brutality is the cause of the chaos in Ingushetia. “The law-enforcement bodies and military are responsible for numerous human rights violations that remain completely unpunished,” he said.