On June 7, Taymuraz Mamsurov, the speaker of North Ossetian parliament, was officially declared the new leader of the republic. The process, which in other regions of Russia lasts for days or weeks, was completed in just a few hours. According to gazeta.ru, at 9:00 am the Kremlin press service published two presidential decrees, including one about the resignation of Alexander Dzasokhov, the former Ossetian leader (see EDM, June 6), and the other about the appointment of Mamsurov. At 11:00 am, the Ossetian parliament opened its 26th session where Dmitry Kozak, the Russian President’s envoy to the Southern Federal District, presented Mamsurov’s nomination. The deputies almost immediately voted to approve Mamsurov, with 61 votes in favor and one against (NTV, June 7).
The apparent harmony inside parliament contradicted the mood outside the building. Twelve women from the Mothers of Beslan organization were standing in front of the parliamentary palace shouting “No to Mamsurov” and “We will not let the mafia take power” (gazeta.ru, June 7). “It really hurts me that Dzasokhov’s ally became the head of the republic. This was the main reason why we went to the square,” Rita Tsgoeva, a member of the Mothers of Beslan, told gazeta.ru.
Vissarion Aseev, chairman of the Teachers’ Committee of Beslan and one of the main leaders of the recent protest movement, also came to the square. Aseev said that he believed the appointment of Mamsurov was a big mistake that could create a fissure in the Ossetian nation (gazeta.ru, June 7).
Mamsurov responded to the protests quite calmly. In his interview with NTV he said that, as leader of the republic, he should care for all Ossetians, including those who opposed his appointment (NTV, June 7). However, new measures to repress the opposition have already started in the region. Aseev was beaten up by persons unknown on a street in Beslan one day after an interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta in which he called Mamsurov an “absolutely unacceptable” figure to Beslan protestors (grani.ru, June 2).
The Mothers of Beslan are not going to retreat. On the day of the appointment they started a hunger strike against Mamsurov. They are sitting on the square in front of the parliament attracting more and more supporters from the population. Their slogans also are becoming sharper: “Terrorists in power are more than al-Qaeda, “They shout. “The official who failed to protect children should resign” and “We will not entrust Ossetia to Mamsurov” (gazeta.ru, June 8).
As the Kremlin appointed Mamsurov, the Mothers now oppose not only the local authorities, but federal authorities as well. “Our aim is to demonstrate that neither Moscow nor the local authorities can protect anybody, neither the children nor adults,” said Susanna Dudieva, the Mothers of Beslan coordinator.
After their three-day hunger strike in Ossetia, the Mothers will take their protests to Moscow. The Russian anti-Putin opposition is ready to support the Ossetians. On June 8, Garry Kasparov, the famous chess champion and a leader of the Russian democratic movement, made a statement criticizing the Russian president’s decision to appoint Mamsurov. “The system of appointments of regional leaders failed,” he declared. “According to surveys, only 7% of the residents of North Ossetia support Mamsurov.” Kasparov spoke in favor of restoring the law whereby heads of regional executive branches are popularly elected, otherwise, “The Kremlin’s policy will lead to the escalation of the war in the North Caucasus and the breakdown of the country” (Radio Liberty, June 8).
Yet, the Kremlin continues to ignore such gloomy warnings. On June 7, Dmitry Kozak announced that Moscow would reappoint Murat Zyazikov as president of Ingushetia, another Caucasian republic. Zyazikov is even more unpopular in Ingushetia than Dzasokhov is in North Ossetia. Kozak made this statement after a meeting with Ingush civic leaders and members of the regional parliament. Only a few people knew about the meeting. Nobody knows who was there and where it was held, and opposition leaders were not invited (gazeta.ru, June 7). “Secretly the most hated president is forced on the people again,” complained the website Ingushetiya.ru, the voice of the local opposition (Ingushetiya.ru, June 7). Opposition leader Musa Ozdoev compared the Kremlin’s decision to reappoint Zyazikov with Stalin’s deportation of the Ingush in 1944.
Throughout this spring, the Ingush opposition has tried to organize mass protests against Zyazikov, but this attempt failed in the face of harsh measures from the authorities. Police and special-task units from other Russian regions managed to always surround the venues of planned protest rallies before they started (see EDM, April 1).
The situation with presidential appointments in North Ossetia and Ingushetia proves again that Putin’s new law on appointing regional leaders has created serious problems in the North Caucasus, the most volatile region of Russia. The policy of ignoring people’s demands can lead to more violence and bloodshed. “A mistake was made, and its consequences we will see soon,” warned Rustam Archakov, leader of the Ingush opposition youth movement (Ingushetiya.ru, June 8).
It is not hard to guess what consequences Archakov has in mind. He has previously warned that many young Ingush want to join the rebels hiding in the mountains.