Ingushetia is celebrating. People in the streets are participating in folk dances to commemorate the resignation of the president of Republic of Ingushetia, Murat Zyazikov. On October 30, the president of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, signed a decree on the dismissal of the Ingush president, who was replaced by Yunus-bek Yevkurov. The new president of Ingushetia is well known in the world because he was in charge of the detachment of Russian paratroopers, who occupied Kosovo’s airport in Prishtina in 1999 (www.grani.ru, October 30). The new president was born in 1963 in the village of Tarskoe in North Ossetia. The Ingush are prohibited to live in Tarskoe after the tragic events of 1992 in the Prigorodny District of North Ossetia. From his short biography it is possible to discern that he fought in the North Caucasus and, moreover, was decorated with the highest military reward—the Order of the Golden Star and the honorary title of Hero of Russia. While in the North Caucasus, the future Hero of Russia took advantage of his Ingush heritage and mediated between the militants and the Russian military in order to release the captured Russian soldiers. In a decree signed on April 13, 2000 by then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was specifically mentioned that Yevkurov had participated in securing the release of 12 prisoners of war (Ekho Moskvy Radio, October 30). Holding the rank of lieutenant colonel, he was in charge of the headquarters of the 217th Guards Regiment of Airborne Paratroopers of the 2nd Degree Kutuzov Order Red Banner Svir Airborne Division. More recently, he held the position of the deputy chief of headquarters of the Volga-Ural Military District, which in the foreseeable future would have earned him the rank of general.
People waited for a long time for Murat Zyazikov to resign, but it became clear that he would be replaced after the assassination of Magomed Yevloev, the owner of the independent web portal Ingushetiya.ru. On October 30, Yevloev was killed at the airport after arriving in Ingushetia on the same plane with the Ingush president. After the murder, a source in the Kremlin made it clear that this sort of incident would not pass without consequences, which hinted at the possible dismissal of Zyazikov (www.polit.ru, October 3).
Following Yevkurov’s appointment, the opposition website Ingushetia.org (formerly Ingushetiya.ru) congratulated the Ingush people on the arrival of “an honest and courageous person, for whom the interests of his people are not alien” and the hope that many things would change in the republic with his assumption of power. That day, according to the website, became a truly historic date for the republic (www.ingushetia.org, October 30). The leader of the so-called opposition, Magomed Khazbiev, stated that he was ready to cooperate with the new president for the benefit of the people and the republic. Khazbiev also said he believed that Yunus-bek Yevkurov would resolve all the republic’s problems (www.lenta.ru, October 30).
The Ingush Senator Issa Kostoev said as he thinks that the republic’s problems were not rooted in Zyazikov per se, but in the issues that have not been resolved by the federal center (RIA Novosti, October 30). Ruslan Aushev, Ingushetia’s first president who was forced to resign prematurely in 2002 under pressure from Vladimir Putin because of his publicly expressed view that negotiations should be held with then Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov, also positively assessed the change of leadership in Ingushetia. Aushev said that Yevkurov represents “the best option for the republic” (Kommersant, October 31). Kommersant pointed out that the reason for Murad Zyazikov’s dismissal was the Kremlin’s dissatisfaction with his performance. The paper also noted that making it look like a “voluntary” resignation borrowed from Soviet-era tactics and that the best that Zyazikov can hope for now is to become a bureaucrat in one of the federal ministries or assume a position within the Russian presidential administration.
Another matter altogether is the fact that by replacing a Federal Security Service (FSB) general, Murat Zyazikov, with Yunus-bek Yevkurov, a military intelligence officer, Moscow is indirectly confirming that the security situation in Ingushetia is not an issue of individual “bandits,” but quite literally entails combat operations. The large-scale attacks by members of Ingushetia’s Shariat Jamaat, headed by Emir Magas (aka Akhmad Yevloev), have reached a catastrophic level for such a small republic. Daily explosions, attacks, sabotage in different settlements coupled with arson targeting gambling establishments and liquor stores have become part of everyday life in Ingushetia.
Yevkurov declared that he does not intend to radically reshuffle the leadership of the republic and that it is necessary first to listen to everyone about the situation in Ingushetia. The change of government is the most convenient method of getting rid of the second most hated figure in the republic (the first being Murat Zyazikov)—Interior Minister Musa Medov. The question now is whether Moscow will approve such an initiative, given that the head of the local Interior Ministry is beyond the prerogative of Ingushetia’s president, as he is appointed directly by Moscow. This is true of other pivotal positions in the republic, including that of Prosecutor General, the head of the local FSB directorate, judges, etc. At the same time Yevkurov made an alarming statement when he noted, “I do not tend to dramatize the situation—there are problems as in other regions of the country and they need to be resolved” (http://skavkaz.rfn.ru/rnews.html?id=156517&cid=4). His predecessor adhered to the same position when he attempted to conceal from the public the real state of affairs in Ingushetia. On his first day as acting president, Yevkurov began by visiting the Nazran city mosque—where, after the evening prayer, he met with the elders and appealed to them for assistance in his efforts (Itar-Tass, October 31). This fact alone demonstrates how military officers, who have not lived among their people in the past couple of decades, still think through the prism of the “elders” hierarchy, which in the present situation represents social atavism.
The inauguration of Yunus-bek Yevkurov as president was overshadowed by a series of assaults by militants, including the explosion of a car carrying military personnel (www.ingushetia.org, October 31). Thus, the president is new but the problems are old. First of all, the new president will have to resolve the problem of frequent assaults on the law-enforcement authorities by the armed opposition represented by Emir Magas. Another equally serious problem is the refugee issue related to the Ingush, who were forced to leave the territory of North Ossetia-Alania. This problem is rather painful for a majority of the Ingush, who view the forced displacement of their brethren as a moral humiliation of the rights of the Ingush by the authorities. The Ingush consider the disputed territory of the Prigorodny District the historic cradle of the Ingush ethnos. Finally, the third problem will be to regain people’s trust in the government, which plummeted to an absolute minimum during Zyazikov’s reign thanks to his policy of ignoring the problems accumulated in the republic.
Meanwhile, a document signed on behalf of Emir Magas surfaced on the Internet for the first time in the past year and a half. The document is an order accordance to which “any official news report in the mass media issued on behalf of the leadership of the Vilayat Ğalğaj [Ingushetia in Ingush] and its structural subunits that has not been posted on the website hunafa.com or its mirror sites, is invalid and should be considered as a provocation and is subject to investigation by the subunits of the Muhabarat of Caucasus Emirate in the Vilayat Ğalğaj” (www.hunafa.com, October 31). The long absence of official statements and the lack of news about meetings with Chechen rebel leader Dokku Umarov infer that not all is as well within the Emirate as portrayed in the media outlets controlled by one of the main ideologues of the Islamic Party of Rebirth of Chechnya, Movladi Udugov.