Russification of the Ingush Police Continues

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 39

Despite Ingushetia’s relative calm, the Russian authorities have not stopped looking for new ways to fight the insurgency in the republic. The Kremlin understands that this calm is just a strategic break by the rebels and not a result of effective countermeasures by the law-enforcement bodies. It is likely that the number of rebel attacks decreased because of the month of Ramadan (Muslim fasting), which ends on October 13. According to the main source of news from the republic, the independent website, military posts reinforced with armored personnel carriers and machine-gun nests were set up all around the Ingush capital of Magas a week ago. On October 4, the site reported that tents with soldiers had been set up around Magas, including in the area in front of the Parliament Palace. Rumors are now circulating in Ingushetia that the rebels are preparing for an attack on Magas and other large regional settlements just after the end of Ramadan.

At the same time, the Ingush branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Ingushetia’s police force have nothing to boast about. During the summer and early fall, the militants conducted about 50 attacks in Ingushetia, including ones on large military garrisons and the FSB headquarters, and lost only one man and not a single commander. Unlike Dagestan and Chechnya, where officials managed to find and eliminate many rebel groups and field commanders this year, despite heavy casualties and problems with intelligence, all attempts to stop the rise of the insurgency in Ingushetia have thus far failed. Clearly, the FSB has a serious problem with intelligence in the region and without it, reconnaissance raids conducted by Russian troops in Ingushetia’s mountains or security seeps on the plains have thus far failed to yield any positive results. The murder of Ali Kalimatov, an Ingush FSB colonel from the Central Directorate who had been sent to Ingushetia to enlist agents inside the insurgency, was a serious blow to the FSB (see Chechnya Weekly, September 27). Following Kalimatov’s murder, the FSB tried to use technical means to search for the rebels. A radio reconnaissance specialist from the Defense Ministry was sent to Ingushetia, but he was shot on the day of his arrival while driving from Chechnya together with senior police officers from Moscow (Vesti-Severny Kavkaz, September 22).

Local police cadres and village and district chiefs are usually the main sources of information for the FSB in the North Caucasus. After the massive rebel raid in Ingushetia on June 22, the local police structure almost collapsed and has yet to recover fully. Now, imams of local mosques who provide name lists of “Wahhabists” are in fact the only real sources for the FSB in Ingushetia. Special forces units kill or kidnap those who are on the list (see Chechnya Weekly, October 4). Therefore, one of the primary tasks of the Russian authorities in Ingushetia is to make the Ingush police at least as effective as the police in Dagestan. The Kremlin believes that the only way to strengthen the police in the region is to Russify it. Already, in October 2006, “temporary police departments” were established in the republic (EDM, October 19, 2006).

However, this strategy has failed to work. The temporary police departments had already demonstrated their ineffectiveness in Chechnya. Last year, they were disbanded there and Russian policemen were incorporated into the local Chechen police structure. A senior police officer of Russian origin, Nikolai Simakov, from Krasnodar Krai, became the Chechen Deputy Interior Minister (see Chechnya Weekly, November 9, 2006). The Russian authorities appear to be using the same strategy in Ingushetia. On October 10, four Russian police officers from Moscow and St. Petersburg were appointed to the position of Deputy Ministers of Interior Affairs of Ingushetia by Rashid Nurgaliev, the federal Interior Minister. Colonel Sergei Selivestrov was sent from Moscow to head the Ingush criminal police, Vadim Selivanov became the Chief of Staff of the Ingush police and Colonel Sergei Shumilin was named as the head of its personnel department. After these appointments, Musa Medov, the Ingush Interior Minister, has only one Ingush deputy, Magomed Gudiev. Gudiev was most likely kept on as a deputy Interior Minister only because he is responsible for fighting the insurgency (“anti-terrorist activity”), and the Russian officers simply needed somebody from among the locals whom they could trust.

It should be noted that these newly appointed officers have already been working in Ingushetia since last August. On August 8, Sergei Shumilin and 60 other policemen from different district departments of St. Petersburg were sent to Ingushetia “to assist local police cadres,” according to the website of the St. Petersburg traffic police.

It is hard to say if Russian policemen can really change the situation in Ingushetia, but the FSB leadership hopes that they will help to establish an intelligence network in the region and will become mediators between the FSB officers and Ingush policemen who dislike and do not trust each other. Whether they become such mediators, the Kremlin hopes that the further Russification of the Ingush police will at least prevent it from entirely collapsing.