Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 19

Plans by Ingushetia’s government to hold a referendum on March 1 have provoked a real battle between the republic and the center. Moscow has taken a tough position on this issue, with federal Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov appealing to Russia’s Supreme Court to declare the referendum illegal. The referendum will ask voters to approve republic-level legislation subordinating Ingushetia’s procuracy, Interior Ministry and courts directly to the republic president, rather than to Moscow. Ingushetia’s government denies Moscow’s assertion that the measures are intended to remove Ingushetia from federal jurisdiction. Nazran points to the example of Tatarstan–which, it claims, already has the kind of powers it wants. Moscow denies this, saying that, under the Russian constitution, judicial and legal issues are the joint responsibility of the center and the regions. They are not, therefore, subject to unilateral change by referendum. Moreover, Moscow says, the only unusual power enjoyed by Tatarstan’s president is the right to grant clemency. (Kommersant-daily, January 28)

Neither Nazran nor Moscow is on strong legal ground. Not only has Ingushetia not signed a Tatarstan-type power-sharing treaty with the federal center, it is also the only Russian region, aside from neighboring Chechnya, that never signed the Federal Treaty. It did not sign in March 1992, when Russia’s other regions and republics did, because at that time its status had not been officially settled. Later, its leaders said they were willing to sign, but did not do so in the hope that, by holding out, they might get Moscow to order the return of Ingush territory confiscated by Stalin. Ingush hopes for the restoration of the territory have so far been disappointed.

The referendum is planned for the same day as elections for the republic’s president. Incumbent president Ruslan Aushev is expected to win, though Isa Kostoev, who works for the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office, and Mukharbek Aushev, deputy to the Russian Duma from Ingushetia, are seen as strong candidates. (Segodnya, December 10, 1997; Itar-Tass, December 31, 1997)

Military Shootings Prompt High-Level Response.