On August 1, Chechen and Ingush police clashed on the administrative border between the two republics. A heated argument between the two groups turned violent and one of the Chechen police officers reportedly fired his gun, injuring his own colleague. According to the Ingush side, an armed group of Chechens accompanying Chechnya’s general prosecutor arrived at the Ingush border checkpoint Volga-20, which is 5 kilometers away from the Ingush-Chechen administrative border. The Chechens did not respond to a question about the purpose of their visit, failed to display their identification documents and behaved in an adversarial manner, the Ingush police claimed (ingushetia.ru, August 4).
For his part, Chechnya’s outspoken human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, criticized the Ingush police, calling the incident “a planned provocation.” Nukhazhiev stated that Chechnya’s general prosecutor, Sharpuddi Abdul-Kadyrov, was on his way to meet Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Sydoruk. Three police officers and a police patrol car accompanied him. Chechnya’s ombudsman asserted that the Ingush police were supposed to know about the meeting between Sydoruk and Abdul-Kadyrov, so the insistence that they declare the purpose of the Chechen prosecutor general’s visit to Ingushetia was unreasonable. “Abdul-Kadyrov’s guards obeyed all the demands of the police at the checkpoint and behaved utterly well,” Nukhazhiev stated. “The same cannot be said about the police at the checkpoint, whose actions led to the conflict. We conclude from this that this was an egregious preplanned provocation” (Kavkazsky Uzel, August 6).
According to unconfirmed reports, the Chechen official traveled to Ingushetia to pave the way for the relocation of Chechen refugees who are still living in Ingushetia. Despite the fact that more than a decade has passed since the second Russian-Chechen war was officially declared over, war refugees remain in Ingushetia, without adequate housing and thus still living in temporary shelters (habar.org, August 7).
The Ingush and Chechen authorities have clashed regularly over the past several years. Trying to expand his influence across the administrative border into Ingushetia, Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov sent armed men to the neighboring republic to carry out various tasks with little consideration for Ingushetia’s authorities. The Ingush authorities eventually started to resist the Chechen forces’ unwarranted trespasses on their territory. Kadyrov also for some time harbored the dream of unifying Chechnya and Ingushetia, but the Ingush authorities and people strongly spoke out against the idea. Starting in 1934, Chechnya and Ingushetia comprised a single autonomous republic, in which the Ingush minority was relegated to a secondary role. After the emergence of Dzhokhar Dudayev as Chechnya’s first separatist president, Chechnya became clearly pro-independence, whereas Ingushetia indicated its willingness to stay within the Russian Federation. Moscow was thus incentivized to allow the division of Checheno-Ingushetia into two separate entities.
For Kadyrov, expanding his influence into the neighboring and ethnically-related Ingushetia was a “natural” move. However, he encountered stiff resistance on the part of the Ingush, who are possibly quietly backed by Moscow—this situation does not allow Kadyrov to outgrow the role of governor of Chechnya. Relations between Kadyrov and the governor of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, have predictably been strained. In 2013, Kadyrov accused Yevkurov of sheltering militants inside Ingushetia. The Ingush authorities rejected Kadyrov’s accusations and vilified Kadyrov for his encroachments on their autonomy. The dispute between the two republics often resembled that between two sovereign countries.
On August 4, Yevkurov held a government meeting on the border incident, calling for a meticulous investigation of the clash. “Whether these are Ingush, Chechen or other law enforcement agencies, they must coordinate any of their professional activities on somebody else’s territory with that territory’s authorities, notify them,” he said. “Such incidents do not lead to any good and only aid those who like to exaggerate, spread rumors and make up things.” To remedy the situation, Yevkurov proposed building a guesthouse at the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya, where the Chechen side would stay before proceeding to other parts of Russia or to meet their Ingush colleagues (ingushetia.ru, August 4).
The road infrastructure in this part of the North Caucasus is such that Chechens often have to pass through Ingushetia to reach other parts of Russia. Yevkurov effectively proposed a restricted movement regime for Chechen officials that would contain their regular incursions into his republic.
Even though it is not entirely clear what role Moscow is playing in the continuing dispute between Ingushetia and Chechnya, Yevkurov is certainly receiving support from the central government in his efforts to contain the spread of Kadyrov’s influence. Since the Russian authorities cannot, or do not want to take active part in containing Kadyrov, they instead relegate this task to the regional governors—in this case, to Yevkurov. In order to do that, however, Moscow is forced to give more authority to Yevkurov to match Kadyrov’s level of self-rule. As a result, Yevkurov is proposing increasingly bold measures, such as imposing a restricted movement regime for Chechen officials, something that many other Russian governors would probably like to levy on Chechen officials, but have not been able to openly advocate.