Opposition in Ingushetia Plans to Hold a Council and Another Protest

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 9

An initiative group consisting of local opposition activists announced on March 6 that it is planning to hold an extraordinary congress of the Ingush people on March 8, Kavkazky Uzel reported. According to organizers, representatives of various teips (clans) and families have been invited, as have the heads of various public organizations; officials in the administration of Ingushetia’s president, the republic’s government, People’s Assembly and Nationalities Ministry; and the heads of districts and cities.

“We are several dozen people who have united in an organizing committee in order to react to the current situation in Ingushetia, the anarchy and lawlessness, corruption and other problems that are worrying the Ingush people today,” said Magomed Khazbiev, a member of the organizing committee for the congress. He said that the purpose of the congress is to create a public organization made up of representatives from various teips that could in the future create an alternative to the republic’s existing parliament. “We haven’t yet determined what it will be called,” Khazbiev said. “In all probability it will be something like the Council of Elders, Mekhk-Kkhel (Council of the Republic) and so on. The exact name and structure of the organization will be discussed at the upcoming event and confirmed after an agreement [is reached] with the delegates to the congress.”

Khazbiev said there is a need to create such an organization because representatives from the most influential Ingush teips are not represented in the new People’s Assembly, which was elected on March 2. “The makeup of the republic’s parliament is not the result of the will of the citizens,” he said, adding that those elected to the legislature have “no influence” with the Ingush people while those with real authority were not elected. “So we want to create an organization that would represent the interests of all the teips and families,” he said. At the same time, Khazbiev said the new body would not try to take the place of the official parliament or other state bodies and that its decisions will be strictly “recommendations.”

Kavkazky Uzel noted that the opposition Ingushetiya.ru website, citing representatives of various families, has reported over the past month that leading teips have been holding meetings at which representatives to a republic-wide congress are being elected (Chechnya Weekly, February 29). However, the deputy chairman of Ingushetia’s People’s Assembly, Tamara Khautieva, said such a congress would have no legal basis and insisted that the four political parties which contested the Popular Assembly election on March 2 had candidates from all of Ingushetia’s teips. For its part, the office of Ingushetia’s prosecutor said it was told by representatives of the republic’s teips that they have not been holding meetings to elect representatives to a republic-wide Council of Elders or Mekhk-Kkhel.

Meanwhile, a leading analyst of the North Caucasus has raised questions about one of Ingushetiya’s leading opposition figures, Ingushetiya.ru proprietor Magomed Yevloev. Kavkazky Uzel reported on March 5 that Yevloev is wanted by the federal authorities for alleged complicity in a murder that took place in 1999, while he was working in the republican prosecutor’s office, as well as for allegedly instilling inter-ethnic hatred on his website. Yevloev is reportedly also wanted for his alleged role in fomenting “mass riots” in Nazran on January 26, when opposition supporters attempting to hold a protest rally clashed with police and several building were set on fire. Yevloev said the opposition was not responsible for the arson attacks or other acts of violence in Nazran, which he blamed on “provocateurs acting in the interests of the authorities” (Chechnya Weekly, January 31).

Speaking at a forum held by the Moscow Carnegie Center on March 3, Human Rights Watch researcher Tatyana Lokshina noted that despite being a wanted man, Yevloev regularly gives radio interviews, which suggests that the authorities are not really trying to catch him. She said the reason for that might be his connections.

“Magomed Yevloev is not an independent figure,” said Lokshina. Another well-known person stands behind him—Musa Keligov.” According to Kavkazky Uzel, Keligov served in the Soviet army in Afghanistan under the command of Ruslan Aushev—who later became Ingushetia’s president—became vice-president of Lukoil International in 1993 and served in various federal posts starting in 2000. Keligov became deputy presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District in October 2003 and returned to the private sector in May 2004, after he lost his job when the number of deputy presidential envoys was cut.

“Yevloev is Keligov’s man,” Lokshina said. “They have been connected for a long time, and the latter has such an interesting biography that it is possible what we know as the principled opposition in Ingushetia is actually tied to one or another group inside the Russian presidential administration.” She noted that every time the opposition in Ingushetia announced a protest demonstration before the State Duma elections last fall and the presidential election earlier this month, the organizers of the protest subsequently canceled the demonstration, citing requests by the federal authorities. “In November, a demonstration nonetheless took place,” she said. “But it was not a result of the efforts of Magomed Yevloev and other people connected to the Ingushetiya.ru site, but [the efforts] of activists whose relatives had been kidnapped.” Lokshina also noted that the protestors mobilized by Yevloev organized under slogans expressing support for the federal center—”For Putin, Against [Ingushetian President Murat] Zyazikov,” “For Russia, Against Corruption in the Republic.” This, she said, was a signal to Moscow asking for Zyazikov to be removed.

Kavkazky Uzel reported on March 4 that members of the opposition plan to hold a protest in Nazran on March 12. “This demonstration is aimed, above all, against the leadership of the republic and the actions of the members of the power structures, whose victims are often citizens who have nothing to do with the militants, and also against the unsanctioned detention and extra-judicial punishment of young people whose involvement in the illegal armed formations has not been proven,” an unnamed organizer of the protest said. There was no indication of exactly who was behind the announcement of the planned demonstration.

For her part, Tatyana Lokshina of Human Rights Watch said that the lack of avenues for legitimate protest in Ingushetia is playing into the hands of the armed militants. “There is no independent media in Ingushetia, protest demonstrations are broken up, there are no means to express one’s protest,” she said. “An atmosphere is created in which some young people go up into the mountains. I think that they constantly feel under threat and see no other way out. After all, a person who has fallen under the ray of attention of the law-enforcement bodies can be detained again many times. It is predominantly those people who are abducted, detained, shot on the spot, tortured.”

Lokshina said that in order to improve the situation in Ingushetia, “counter-terrorist practice” needs to be conducted on the basis of the law, the “persecution of followers of Salafi Islam needs to be excluded” and the policy of Ingushetia’s authorities aimed at stopping any leaks of information, which simply engenders rumors, must be ended.