Is Ramzan Angling to Take Over Ingushetia?

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 21

Ingush President Murat Zyazikov has said he believes his republic’s political unification with neighboring Chechnya would be inexpedient. “My position has always been that both the Chechen Republic and the Republic of Ingushetia are two independent regions, which, as subjects of the [Russian] Federation, are developing completely independently,” RIA Novosti on May 23 quoted Zyazikov as saying. “Yes, we really are fraternal republics, but we will be uniting in the sense of economic integration, the consolidation of certain resources, just as with other regions. But ‘merger,’ ‘consolidation’ – I think we’ve already been through all of that.”

Zyazikov was responding to press reports that the Chechen authorities, with Moscow’s backing, are poised to impose a political merger on Ingushetia. Specifically, Vadim Rechkalov wrote in Moskovskie komsomolets on May 21 that personnel changes will soon take place within Ingusehtia’s Interior Ministry, with “Ramzan Kadyrov’s men” taking over key ministry posts. Citing unnamed sources “in the Caucasus,” Rechkalov reported that the Chechen president has already obtained Moscow’s “agreement in principle” to getting his own men appointed as Ingushetia’s interior minister and head of the ministry’s internal security department, and that the contender for the latter post is not simply a Chechen but a “rather close relative” of Kadyrov. In addition, a Kadyrov man will become a member of Ingushetia’s cabinet, Rechkalov reported, without indicating what specific post the person would occupy. “If such changes do occur, this will mean that Ramzan Kadyrov will indirectly control the neighboring republic, while Murat Zyazikov, who was reappointed to his post in June 2005, will remain its nominal leader,” Rechkalov wrote.

What is more, Rechkalov predicted that the entire Ingush Interior Ministry will be reshuffled and that “upon the expiration of Murat Zyazikov’s term of office in 2009, there will be one federation subject fewer on the map of Russia. Ingushetia and Chechnya, as under Soviet rule, will become a single Checheno-Ingush republic under Ramzan Kadyrov’s control. The formalities necessary for this, such as a referendum, will be overcome with the help of the notorious administrative resources and to the accompaniment of a publicity campaign that the Ingush and Chechens are fraternal peoples in the literal sense of the word – that is, relatives.”

Rechkalov wrote that his Russia Interior Ministry source did not confirm the possibility of such reshuffles taking place in Ingushetia’s government but noted that “in the North Caucasus such reassignments take place by the will and intention, and with the personally self-interested involvement, of the head of state,” meaning they can happen very quickly within a 1-2 day period.

Kadyrov, for his part, said in an interview with Rosbalt-Yug on May 23 that he “sees no sense” in the idea of merging Chechnya and Ingushetia. “The Chechen Republic, in which more than 70 percent are unemployed, with a destroyed industry and so on, can give nothing to Ingushetia,” Kadyrov told the news agency. “Therefore, I believe that such questions must be carefully considered and discussed in a national referendum.”