Kremlin Policy in Ingushetia is Paralyzed

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 29

The Kremlin’s strategy toward the North Caucasus is based on the old imperial principle of carrot and stick. The stick is the Russian armed forces, special police units and Federal Security Service (FSB) that conduct bombings of the mountainous areas, mopping-up operations in villages and arrests and manhandles young people in the region. When sheer force does not work and the Kremlin sees that the harassment and anti-guerrilla operations are not weakening the local insurgency, the carrot policy comes into play. This strategy involves an increase in financial support for the Caucasus regions, discussion about how to solve the corruption problem and develop the economy, an imitation of a dialogue with the local public promising to improve the human rights situation, an activation of religious policy, the declaration of an amnesty for the rebels, and so on. A program designed to lure ethnic Russians back to the North Caucasus and financial assistance to the region’s professional athletic clubs could be also described as belonging to the carrot part of the Kremlin’s Caucasus strategy.

Anything that goes beyond the carrot-and-stick policy is forbidden. Any political reforms, free democratic elections, freedom of conscience, speech or assembly, let alone political dialogue with rebel leaders, are unacceptable. It seems as if nothing can change this stand by the Russian authorities.

This summer the rebels increased their attacks against Russian troops and police forces across the whole North Caucasus, but the most alarming situation is in Ingushetia. On July 18, the press service of the governor of Kurgan Oblast (a region in the Russian Urals) issued a statement announcing that policemen from the oblast who are on a tour of duty in Ingushetia would be sent home three months earlier than planned. According to Tatyana Geiyl, a member of the press service of the Kurgan police, the policemen will be sent back from Ingushetia to Kurgan “for treatment and psychological rehabilitation” (Interfax, July 18).

Late in June and early July, three officers of the Kurgan police team stationed in Ingushetia were killed and eight wounded in rebel attacks. Kurgan Oblast Governor Oleg Bogomolov asked federal Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev to allow the Kurgan policemen to return home—Nurgaliev reluctantly agreed (, July 18).

The return of the Kurgan policemen from Ingushetia before their end of their tours of duty looks like an escape from the battlefield. It is a bad sign, given that policemen from other Russian regions now serving in Ingushetia could follow the example of their Kurgan colleges and also demand a retreat when several officers of their squads are killed or wounded. In the long run, the federal Interior Ministry may face a mass refusal of Russian policemen to serve in Ingushetia. If that happens, Ingushetia will become like Iraq’s Anbar province, where rebels were able to move openly and even held parades in 2005-2006, ignoring the American troops located in the area. Even now there are indications that this could be the case in Ingushetia in the near future. On July 9, a group of rebels entered the mountain village of Muzhichi and killed three local residents linked to the security services. This was reported by all the Russian news agencies but what the official sources in Russia did not say was that rebels were seen not only in Muzhichi that night, but also in the villages of Ordzhonikidzevskaya and Surkhakhi, in the city of Nazran, and on the Kavkaz highway, where the militants set up checkpoints to look for policemen (, July 9).

Ingushetia is very close to a state of affairs in which rebel posts are seen more frequently than those of the police or the Russian army. Does the Kremlin understand this? Probably so, but it still believes that the problem can be solved using a carrot-and-stick strategy.

On July 18, Vladimir Ustinov, the Russian president’s envoy to the Southern Federal District, visited Ingushetia. His visit to the republic has demonstrated that the Kremlin seeking to avoid changing anything in its policy toward the region, even if this policy is completely ineffective.

Accompanied by Ingushetia’s president, Murat Zyazikov, Ustinov first of all visited Dzheirakh, a mountain district of the republic. During his trip to Dzheirakh, Ustinov spouted all the standard phrases about there being positive tendencies in the economic development of Ingushetia and about how he expected greater results in the future (RIA Novosti, July 19). Ustinov then visited some facilities in Nazran and an Orthodox church in the village of Ordzhonikidzevskaya. Thus the envoy demonstrated the Russian government’s determination to continue to implement the program of encouraging ethnic Russians to return to Ingushetia, despite the fact that many Russian civilians have been killed in the region. After his journey to Ordzhonikidzevskaya, Ustinov went to the Ingush capital Magas, where he met with republican security officials. He called upon them “to improve coordination” between different security agencies (Interfax, July 18). This, in fact, means that the envoy wanted the FSB and police officers from other regions of the country to cooperate closely with the Ingush police. Yet Ustinov did not explain how the Ingush police can be trusted when many of the most active local officers have been killed and others could simply be secret rebel sympathizers.

Ustinov ended his visit to Ingushetia promising offering the obligatory promise to Murat Zazikov to provide more financial support to the republic (Interfax, July 18). He also declared that traditional Islam should be cultivated in the republic and called upon the Ingush youth not to use violent illegal methods of fighting against “social evils that we still have in our world” (Interfax, July 21). The envoy did not explain what methods the Ingush should use, given that everything in Ingushetia is forbidden, including the freedom of assembly.

More money and better coordination between different security agencies: That is what Russian officials have been saying for many years when asked to explain how they are going to solve the Caucasus problem. What else could they say, given that Kremlin’s political will to change anything in the Caucasus, and especially in Ingushetia, is paralyzed? Only when the black flag of jihad is openly hoisted in Ingush, Chechen and Dagestan cities, might they make up their minds to start serious political reforms in the North Caucasus. By then, however, it will already be too late.