Prague Watchdog on November 19 published a piece that warmly praised Ingushetia’s new president, General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who replaced the wildly unpopular Murat Zyazikov (North Caucasus Weekly, October 31). The website called Yevkurov “an idealist in general’s stripes.”
“From the very first moment of his appointment, General Yunus-Bek Yevkurov has behaved like a man sent to the front line with a special mission,” the piece stated. “He cancelled the inauguration ceremony and the celebrations that are normally held when a new Ingush president takes office. On his first day he visited the central mosque to take part in the evening prayers. His predecessors have also made such visits from time to time, but only as guests of honor. Yevkurov plans to rely primarily on the people, rather than on the siloviki and the bureaucrats. He let this be understood when, on returning from prayers, he requested support from the elders of the Ingush teips.”
The website noted that Yevkurov also met with representatives of the opposition, including relatives of the slain independent website founder Magomed Yevloev, to whom he expressed his condolences. Prague Watchdog reported that Yevkurov sent a commission headed by opposition leader Magomed Khazbiev to the pretrial detention center in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, in order to ascertain the conditions in which young men from Ingushetia were being held there and to provide them with legal assistance. He also promised to establish a commission to investigate disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial executions, the website reported. In return, according to Prague Watchdog, the opposition said Yevkurov would be given a “trust credit,” at least for the first hundred days of his presidency.
In addition, Prague Watchdog reported that Yevkurov has risked a confrontation with still powerful members of the republic’s previous administrations, such as former republican government chairman Ibragim Malsagov, who, back during Ruslan Aushev’s presidency, closed off a railway tunnel near his home and made the street a pedestrian walkway. That state of affairs continued until Yevkurov’s accession as president: the new president has ordered the street to be unblocked. Yevkurov has also ordered that land which was unlawfully seized by officials be returned to the state and promised to appoint a “normal minister of education” who will end the bribes that parents have to pay for their children’s education.
Yevkurov has also indicated that, in contrast to Murat Zyazikov, he will not take a strictly militarized approach to fighting Ingushetia’s Islamist insurgency, saying that the republic’s rebel groups will “automatically disappear” if such things as “50-50 cash kickbacks”—that is, rampant official corruption—are eradicated.
He has also brought back personnel from the comparatively popular administration of Ruslan Aushev. Kavkazky Uzel on November 14 quoted Magomed-Sali Aushev, a former deputy chairman of Ingushetia’s government and a former member of the republic’s Parliament, as saying that Ingushetia’s new prime minister, Rashid Gaisanov, and the head of the republican presidential administration, Ibragim Tochiev, were both “directly connected” to Ruslan Aushev and were members of Aushev’s team when he was Ingushetia’s president.
Yet despite signs that President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov wants to make positive changes, Ingushetia still faces great challenges. As Prague Watchdog wrote regarding the current situation in the republic, “attacks and killings continue, as if no change of government had taken place.”
Unidentified gunmen in Ingushetia attacked the house of the Malgobek district police chief, Ruslan Archakov, in the village of Achaluki on November 19. The opposition Ingushetia.org website reported that the attackers fired assault rifles and grenade launchers at the house and that the shooting lasted five to eight minutes. No one was hurt in the incident and police who arrived at the scene failed to detain the attackers—who, according to Itar-Tass, had fled in three cars. Ingushetia.org reported that young people had been “brutally tortured” in the Malgobek district internal affairs department several days earlier.
The Regnum news agency reported on November 18 that a member of the patrol and sentry service of the Nazran city police department, Amir Gazikov, was shot and wounded by an unidentified attacker on November 18. Also on November 18, a house belonging to Yakub Yandiev, a bailiff in Kantyshevo, a village in Ingushetia’s Nazran district, was fired on by unknown attackers. Interfax reported that no one was hurt in that attack.
A military convoy came under fire in the village of Troitskaya in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district on the evening of November 17. Itar-Tass reported that unidentified gunmen fired on the convoy, which consisted of a Ural truck and two armored personnel carriers, using automatic weapons and an RPG-26 grenade launcher. None of the servicemen traveling in the convoy were hurt in the attack, but a local resident who was riding his car at the time of the attack, identified as Islam Yevloev, and another passerby, identified as Magomed Tochiev, were wounded.
Also on November 17, gunmen shot a municipal official in Ingushetia’s main city, Nazran, the republic’s Interior Ministry reported. According to the Associated Press, Magomed Barakhoev, the head of one of Nazran’s districts, died in the hospital of injuries from the attack, which also injured his wife.
On November 15, a gunman fatally shot a policeman at a checkpoint on the Rostov-Baku highway near the village of Yandare. RIA Novosti quoted Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Investigative Committee, as saying that after police stopped and inspected a car, “shots were fired from the vehicle as it departed, and police officers returned fire.” He said that one policeman died at the scene and the person in the car was wounded and taken to a hospital.
On November 14, a monument in Nazran’s Barsukinsky municipal district to Idris Zyazikov, who was a Communist Party chief in Ingushetia during the 1920s, was seriously damaged in a bomb blast, Itar-Tass reported. According to the news agency, the monument, which is situated at school No. 6 on Zyazikov Street, was unveiled three years ago. Idris Zyazikov is related to the former Ingush president, Murat Zyazikov.
Also on November 14, an explosion took place in a home belonging to Ingushetia’s acting vice premier, Bashir Aushev. A source in the republican Interior Ministry told Kommersant it was uncertain whether someone fired a grenade launcher at the house or whether an explosive device detonated there. The house has not been occupied for some time and thus no one was hurt in the blast.
Meanwhile, on November 17 a court in Nazran declared that the August 31 arrest of Magomed Yevloev, founder of the independent Ingushetiya.ru website (which is now located at Ingushetia.org) was illegal. Yevloev was shot to death while in police custody that same day. Police claim the shooting was accidental, but Ingushetia.org, members of Yevloev’s family and opposition leaders in the republic have accused the republic’s former president, Murat Zyazikov, and other top officials, including Ingush Interior Minister Musa Medov, of being behind the shooting.
The court’s ruling was hailed by the press freedom watchdog group Reporters Without Borders. “This is a first step towards recognizing the political nature of the behavior of the Ingush security forces in this case,” the group said in a statement. “We hope that a thorough and impartial investigation will soon be carried out into the exact circumstances of Yevloyev’s death.”