Reporting from Ingushetia in the February 28 issue of the weekly magazine Profil, Irina Kostyuchenko and Natalya Shiryeva wrote that while special anti-terrorist operations are currently being conducted across the North Caucasus, “behind the noise of a big war, people are disappearing without a trace; murders, searches and raids are taking place that cannot always be blamed on Basaev-Maskhadov. Around Chechnya is a cauldron boiling with Wahabbis, militants, refugees, those who are with the militants out of despair and bandits in official and unofficial camouflage. At times, it is not clear who controls the situation – the local authorities or the bandits.”
According to the Profil reporters, residents of Ingushetia over the last five months have filed official complaints with law-enforcement authorities concerning abductions, beatings and unauthorized searches. “Armed people in masks, in cars without license plates with tinted windshields and special permits figure in all the complaints,” the reporters wrote. “The local police is forbidden from examining cars with special stubs [on the window]. But inasmuch as, for example, the FSB does not inform either the local Interior Ministry or the prosecutor’s office about ‘special measures’ taking place in Ingushetia, it is impossible to determine whether these [permits] are genuine or forged.”
The reporters described an incident several months ago involving a group armed with weapons and special permits. “The brigade in masks and camouflage that on New Year’s Eve kidnapped Adam Bersanov from the city of Malgobek showed some special permits at the GAI [traffic police] post,” they wrote. “The mother and her son were sleeping when the armed group burst into the house, breaking down the door. They grabbed the son, shoved an automatic rifle in the mother’s face with the words: ‘In the corner, bitch! Now we are going to shoot you!’ The mother begged: ‘Let him at least get dressed, he has the flu!’ They answered her: ‘He won’t need clothes there.’ According to the mother, the son was with his family practically all the time, [and] worked with her at a service station. His only sin: he was God-fearing [and]…had studied at an Islamic institute. Maybe they had registered him as a Wahhabi because of that. If he is guilty, [the mother said,] let him be punished, but tell me for what.” The Profil reporters quoted Adam Bersanov’s mother as saying that she repeatedly went to the offices of a top republican FSB official to find out what had happened to her son only to be told each time that the FSB had not detained him.
The Profil article was somewhat exculpatory toward Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov, who told the magazine that he had ordered republican law-enforcement officials not to violate the law or the Russian constitution. “I will not allow lawlessness on the republic’s territory,” he said. “And to cover lawlessness with the idea of fighting terrorism itself engenders terrorism.” The independent Ingushetiya.ru website, which posted the Profil article, also posted reactions and responses from readers. In a response posted on February 28, one reader argued that Zyazikov’s statements to Profil were “empty,” in that they were “spoken by a president who is absolutely not master of the situation, who calmly closes his eyes at the complete lawlessness [bespredel] created by Russian servicemen.”
Zyazikov told a Moscow press conference on February 21 there “will never be a counter-terrorist operation” in Ingushetia and that the republic “will never become a hot spot.” “As the republic’s president, I will not let anyone run riot on my territory,” he said, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on February 22. Zyazikov also alleged that an “information war” had been launched against the republic because it is becoming more attractive to investors, creating jobs, and free of “bandit-free-for-alls.” “Many people do not like this, but I like what my people like,” he said.
In the same press conference, Zyazikov indicated that he supports negotiations to resolve the conflict Chechnya. “I believe that all Chechens, from little children to professors, should reach agreement among themselves and talk to the federal center, so that peace becomes established,” he said. “I believe the most important thing now is to send people back to Grozny and to rebuild it. As for the question of who should talk to whom and at what level, let the Chechen Republic and the federal center resolve that.”