Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 71

On Tuesday (April 9), police in Nazran, Ingushetia, raided a building housing offices for the election campaign of Khamzat Gutseriev, the republic’s former interior minister, who was disqualified from the republic’s April 7 presidential election just two days before it took place.

The raid on Gutseriev’s offices was led by armed and masked members of a special police unit who, according to eyewitnesses, smashed several doors, a television and furniture in an office on the building’s third floor. The policemen were followed by officials from the republican prosecutor’s office, who searched the Gutseriev campaign offices, seizing documents and two computers. A lawyer who was present during the search, Svetlana Chudina, quoted the prosecutors as saying that they were acting on the direct orders of Viktor Kazantsev, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Southern federal district. In a kind of non-denial denial, sources in Kazantsev’s office said that a search of Gutseriev’s campaign offices made little sense given that he already had been disqualified as a presidential candidate.

The building that was raided, however, also houses the office of Alikhan Amirkhanov, the State Duma deputy who placed first in the April 7 voting. Amirkhanov, who won 33 percent of the vote, will face Murat Zyazikov, a Federal Security Service general who won only 19.7 percent in the first round despite backing from the Kremlin, in a run-off election set for April 28. The prosecutors did not search Amirkhanov’s office, but warned that they plan to search his campaign headquarters. As the raid was taking place, a crowd gathered outside to protest the action, and Amirkhanov had to come to the scene to prevent the protesters from clashing with the police.

Both Gutseriev and Amirkhanov are close associates of Ruslan Aushev, the charismatic former general and critic of Kremlin policy in the Caucasus who stepped down as Ingushetia’s president last December, and local observers believe Tuesday’s police raid marked the start of an effort to disqualify Amirkhanov from the April 28 runoff. Zyazikov’s campaign, meanwhile, is trying to cast doubt on the results of the first round of voting: members of his election team vowed on Monday that the prosecutor’s office would look into the first round’s results, claiming that “all the voters were bought.” It will be difficult, however, to disqualify Amirkhanov, given that he has announced that he will not do any campaigning prior to the run-off and will even leave Ingushetia so as not to give his opponents the slightest pretext for his disqualification (Kommersant, April 10).