Ingushetian opposition leader Musa Ozdoev told gazeta.ru that the opponents of Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov are planning to hold demonstrations in Nazran, Magas, Rostov-on-Don and Moscow on April 28 calling for Zyazikov’s removal from office, the website reported on April 4. An unauthorized demonstration protesting the unresolved territorial dispute between Ingushetia and North Ossetia over the Prigorodny district took place on March 28, and while its organizers did not call for Zyazikov’s ouster, it took on an anti-regime character (see Chechnya Weekly, March 30). Ozdoev suggested that the Kremlin’s support for Zyazikov is waning, telling gazeta.ru that “now the center has seen that Zyazikov is absolutely helpless and incapable of governing the republic.”
President Vladimir Putin met with Zyazikov in Sochi on March 31, and the Russian president’s comments could be interpreted as a less-than-ringing endorsement of the Ingushetian president. Interfax quoted Putin as telling Zyazikov that he wanted “a quick reaction” to “lawful demands concerning people’s needs” but also a “strict, hard, insurmountable barrier” to “any form of extremism.” Asked by Putin about the political situation in Ingushetia, Zyazikov said that “on the whole, the situation is normal, stable” but that there are “some problems with the attraction of investment.”
Meanwhile, Anna Politkovskaya detailed in Novaya gazeta on March 31 the findings of an official probe into Ingushetia’s finances during the period of 2002-2004. The investigation was conducted by the Interior Ministry’s main directorate for the Southern Federal District in conjunction with staff from the control department of the Southern Federal District’s apparatus. They found what Politkovskaya described as “bureaucratic debauchery,” with the ruble equivalent of millions of dollars in state funds missing.
Journalist Yulia Latynina warned in her Moscow Times column of April 6 that the people who are organizing protests against Zyazikov but remain loyal to Moscow are “doomed to failure,” suggesting that the fate of Ingushetia, and perhaps the rest of the North Caucasus, will be decided by Islamic radicals.
“By foisting Zyazikov on the Ingush people, Putin fell into a trap,” Latynina wrote, referring to the fact that Zyazikov, a Federal Security Service veteran, came to power in Ingushetia in 2002 in elections that are widely believed to have been rigged by the federal authorities. “As long as Zyazikov remains in power, Putin shares responsibility for his actions. Removing Zyazikov would amount to an admission that mistakes were made. And who can say that the Kremlin’s next protégé would be any less greedy or any less yellow?…But a demonstration organized by people who want to take Zyazikov’s place and who attempt to explain to Russia in a civilized manner that he’s the wrong man for the job bears no relation whatsoever to the coming explosion.”