Roza Malsagova, the editor of the opposition Ingushetiya.ru website, has left Russia and plans to ask for political asylum abroad. Ekho Moskvy radio on August 6 quoted her lawyer, Kaloi Akhilgov, as saying that Malsagova left Russia with her three children around two weeks ago after she was charged with a “massive” number of criminal and administrative violations. The lawyer did not say where she was located or in which country she would appeal for asylum, but the Moscow Times on August 7 quoted him as saying she had traveled to Germany.
In June, Moscow’s Kuntsevsky District Court ordered that Ingushetiya.ru—which has repeatedly accused the administration of Ingushetia’s president, Murat Zyazikov, of corruption and accused security forces in the republic of murder and kidnapping—be shut down for publishing extremist statements. According to the Moscow Times, authorities in Ingushetia last month also opened a criminal case against the website on charges of inciting ethnic hatred.
According to the Moscow Times, Malsagova, a former actress and the top director at the Ingush Dramatic Theater, claimed in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty last April that men dressed in camouflage had threatened her and her children at her home in Nazran. The newspaper quoted Akhilgov, her lawyer, as saying that Malsagova moved to Moscow last November after large-scale protests in the republic led to an intimidation campaign against opposition leaders by local law enforcers. It also quoted Tatyana Lokshina, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Russia office, as saying that Malsagova had told her in June that the crackdown on the website could result in the persecution of her relatives in Ingushetia but that Malsagova “obviously didn’t plan to leave the country then.”
On August 4, Ingushetia’s opposition submitted 80,000 signatures to President Dmitry Medvedev asking him to dismiss Zyazikov and appoint former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev in his place (North Caucasus Weekly, July 10). Lokshina told the Moscow Times that Ingushetiya.ru was a major organizer in the signature campaign and that its employees fear retribution from Zyazikov’s administration.
News that the editor of the opposition website fled Russia came against the backdrop of a deteriorating security situation in Ingushetia, with a sharp rise in the number of insurgent attacks on police and security forces in the republic (see Andrei Smirnov’s article below).
Meanwhile, Ruslan Aushev said in an interview published in the August 4 edition of the Gazeta newspaper that he cannot ignore the opinion of the 80,000 Ingush who signed the petition asking for his return as Ingushetia’s president. “I understand that my countrymen, in signing [the petition], gave their passport numbers [and thereby] displayed bravery. Therefore I cannot say: ‘You people, get out of here’. When I left office in 2002, I said: ‘All the same, I remain with you’. I am also saying that now.”
Aushev said that the situation in the republic has worsened, noting that 70 policemen have been murdered in Ingushetia during the past six months. He also said that young people in the republic have become increasingly radicalized and no longer believe in the republic’s political authorities or the religious establishment, while the idea of living according to Sharia law is heard with increasing frequency. At the same time, the former Ingush president said it may indeed be time to introduce elements of Islamic law in the Muslim regions of Russia. “That would reduce the high degree of dissatisfaction,” he said, adding that corrupt officials “long ago stopped fearing secular laws.”