Is Russian Gold Being Used to Support North Caucasus Insurgency?
Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 13 Issue: 24
On November 16, Russia’s Federal Security Service announced it had intercepted a channel that supplied gold from Russia’s north to Ingushetia. The security services confiscated over 17 kilograms of gold from an unnamed individual in the city of Kazan, Tatarstan. The same individual, a resident of Magadan region, reportedly transported shipments of gold to Ingushetia. “Part of the revenue from this criminal business went to the Caucasus, where it may have been used to support the bandit groups,” said the spokeswoman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) branch in Magadan region, Marina Terentyeva. In addition, Terentyeva said a plot to steal gold involving one of the primary gold-mining enterprises in Magadan had been uncovered, and over 20 kilograms of gold were confiscated. According to the FSB spokeswoman, in 2011–2012, the security agency discovered and stopped the activities of seven criminal groups supplying gold to the North Caucasus. Eight criminal cases were launched, 55 kilograms of gold were confiscated and four people were sentenced to various prison terms (Interfax, November 16).
Magadan region is one of the most remote and isolated places in the Russian Federation. The city nearest to the city of Magadan is Yakutsk, which is 2,000 kilometers away. There is no year-round ground transportation linking Magadan to the outside world, so all transportation is dependent on the local airport and seaport. Gold mining is one of the principal businesses in Magadan region and the Ingushetians have long been known to be well-positioned in this business. Given the anti-Caucasian hysteria in Russia, it is hard to judge whether the intercepted gold was really meant for the North Caucasian insurgency or simply was being transported for more mundane purposes. The FSB spokeswoman evidently did not know for sure and tried to beef up the allegations by stating that the transported gold may have been used by the militants in the North Caucasus. At the same time, once the gold was transported to the North Caucasus, it may well have been used by various actors, including the insurgents.
It is plausible that the story was connected to events that took place earlier in Turkey. On October 18, an aide to Chechnya’s president, Amruddi Edelgeriyev, was stopped in Antalya, Turkey, allegedly attempting to smuggle 12 kilograms of gold bullion to Chechnya. Edelgeriyev was travelling on a diplomatic passport and thus was soon released, after which he flew to Chechnya on a private jet. His companion, Khasan Khakimov, said the gold had been brought in from Chechnya and was now being taken back due to the costs of processing it in Turkey (https://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/chechnyas-deputy-president-caught-smuggling-gold-out-of-turkey-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=33803&NewsCatID=359).
Citing the Turkish publication Milliyet, the Kavkazsky Uzel (Caucasian Knot) website reported that the gold Edelgeriyev and his companion were carrying had Russian stamps from 2008 on it (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, November 7). Chechnya’s notorious human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhazhiev, dismissed the accusations against the Chechen official as a “Turkish provocation.” Nukhazhiev further elaborated that Edelgeriyev was the head of the construction firm that builds mosques in Chechnya and had the reputation of being a “most decent person” (https://ria.ru/world/20121107/909949144.html). Since the Chechen authorities defended Edelgeriyev so ardently, the gold he was carrying had probably nothing to do with the insurgency, but rather with corruption schemes connected to the Chechen authorities. So signs of gold smuggling do not necessarily mean a connection to the insurgents.
Meanwhile, on November 15, the spokesperson for the Investigative Committee in Ingushetia, Ibragim Mogushkov, stated that the rebels in the republic had stepped up their activities significantly in 2012 in comparison to 2011. During January–October 2012, in comparison to the same time period in 2011, the number of attacks on law enforcement agents increased from 32 to 48, Mogushkov said. Overall 92 people were attacked by the insurgents, and 84 of those were law enforcement agents, 18 of whom were killed. In the same period of time of 2011, 12 servicemen died in insurgent attacks (https://ria.ru/incidents/20121115/910916909-print.html).
In November, a delegation from Ingushetia led by the head of the republic, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, visited Belgium. This small European country hosts a large proportion of the growing Ingush diaspora in Europe. Yevkurov’s visit was apparently meant to establish some connections with the Ingush living in Belgium and advance Russian views of the situation in the North Caucasus in Europe. According to some reports, Yevkurov’s delegation was attacked by Ingush émigrés hurling eggs and tomatoes, but others denied such an incident had taken place (https://ingushetiyaru.org/news/35844/). More interestingly, the Ingush opposition provided a video recording of Yevkurov’s meeting with the Ingush during his trip to Belgium. Yevkurov criticized the opposition, saying that they were acting against him and the Ingush people, apparently equating himself with the Ingush nation (https://ingushetiyaru.org/news/35849/). Yevkurov’s diatribe illuminated his political ambitions as his first term as republican governor expires in 2013 and he faces new elections. The Ingush “leader” appears to have followed the path of his predecessor, Murad Zyazikov, who also was popular for a short while in the beginning of his presidency but ended up being removed from office in 2008 amid vehement opposition on the part of the general population.
The increase in the number of attacks in Ingushetia in 2012 is yet another indication of the end of the “Yevkurov factor” that was associated with a reduction of violence in Ingushetia. What initially seemed to be a steady pacification of this violent republic in the North Caucasus has turned out to be simply a temporary decrease in violence related to the restructuring of the jammats there caused by the 2010 capture of the Ingush militant commander of Magas. As the jammats emerge from this period of restructuring caused by this setback, they have started to gradually increase their militant activities, which may go back to their 2010 levels and may skyrocket again at any time, particularly if smuggled gold from Magadan becomes a new outlet to finance rebel activities in the beleaguered Russian republic.