Last week’s events saw the wave of high-profile murders rumbling through the North Caucasus continue, with Ingushetia again leading the way.
Valentina Miroshnichenko, wife of the deputy mayor of Ordzhonikidzevskaya, was gunned down on October 24. According to a representative of Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry, “unidentified individuals driving a white VAZ-2107 vehicle approached Ms. Miroshnichenko as she was walking down the street, opened automatic fire and fled the crime scene” (Ingushetia.org, October 24). The incident may not have warranted much publicity had it not been for the ethnicity of the victim: the attackers in this case may have specifically targeted a member of the republic’s ethnic Russian population.
Back in 2006, nearly a dozen murders and assaults designed to foster intimidation were committed against ethnic Russians in Ingushetia (Kommersant, July 19). Among those assassinated that year was Galina Gubina, deputy head of the administration of Ingushetia’s Sunzhensky district, who was killed in Ordzhonikidzevskaya on June 9, 2006 (Chechnya Weekly, June 15, 2006). Gubina was in charge of programs supporting the return of ethnic Russian residents of Ingushetia who had fled the republic earlier due to societal tensions and the surge in rebel actions.
Another high-profile incident that took place on October 24—the same day Valentina Miroshnichenko was murdered—was roundly condemned by the public. An unidentified armed group seized ten to fifteen (according to various reports) patrons in a gambling machine hall on the outskirts of Ordzhonikidzevskaya and took them to an unknown location (Lenta.ru, October 25).
Notably, on October 16, a week before the mass kidnapping, an explosion went off at a similar gaming establishment in Ordzhonikidzevskaya without inflicting any casualties (http://lenta.ru/news/2008/10/16/blast1/) and was widely interpreted as a warning from the rebel underground movement, which exhorts people to stay away from gambling and alcohol in its video addresses (see the Ingush Sharia Jamaat’s website, http://hunafa.com/?cat=1). Like that earlier incident, many believe that the mass kidnapping was the work of the Sharia Jamaat, which apparently decided to move from warnings to meting out punishment to those violating Sharia laws in Ingushetia (http://lenta.ru/news/2008/10/25/casino/).
Yet another incident that disturbed the Russian military took place on the afternoon of October 24, when a military helicopter was shot at during paratrooper landing around the settlement of Dattykh, not far from Ingushetia’s administrative border with Chechnya. Although the army reported no casualties among its servicemen, the mere fact of this brazen attack against landing paratroopers indicates that the rebels feel a lot more comfortable and confident in the area than the Russians would like (http://ingushetia.org/news/16254.html).
Data released by the office of Ingushetia’s chief prosecutor on October 23 revealed that while overall crime levels in the republic have declined, assaults against law-enforcement personnel skyrocketed by 103.4 percent (http://ingushetia.org/news/16246.html)—indirect proof that rebel activity in the region is on the rise. Just four days later on October 27, Ingushetia’s chief prosecutor Yury Turygin felt compelled to qualify the data by explaining that his statements did not imply that crime was on the increase and insisted that Ingushetia’s crime statistics are consistent with the rest of the region (http://www.yuga.ru/news/137582/).
On the evening October 24, shots were fired at a government-owned television station located in Nazran across the street from the Assa Hotel. The next morning (October 25), the head of the inter-district department of the Interior Ministry assigned to larceny and vehicle theft, Ahmed Tarshkhoyev, was shot dead at the same spot (Interfax, October 25). The government admitted that Tarshkhoyev’s murder was related to his police duties. Tarshkhoyev was killed by sniper fire, and this assassination may well have been committed by the armed opposition, although a gangster-style showdown cannot be ruled out (Itar-Tass, October 25).
In the meantime, relatives of Murat Zyazikov (who resigned as Ingushetia’s president on October 30) continued to be targeted for attack this past week. On October 26, the vehicle of Arsamak Zyazikov, a deputy republican Minister of Economics and close relative of the Murat Zyazikov, was blown up in Nazran (Ekho Moskvy Radio, October 26). Murat Zyazikov’s nephew and assistant for public relations, Said Kotiev, was also traveling in the car at the time of the blast (Ingushetia.org, October 27). The bomb went off after both men got out of the car and while they were exchanging greetings with Timur Marziyev, head of Ingushetia’s electronic communications network, which probably averted a more gruesome outcome. The republican chief prosecutor’s office rejected the blood vendetta version of the story and claimed that the assassination attempt was staged to destabilize the situation in Ingushetia. The government is loathe to have the public see these events as acts of revenge for the murder of Magomed Yevloev, the former owner of the independent Ingushetia.org website, who was murdered on August 30 after arriving in Ingushetia on a flight on which Murat Zyazikov was also a passenger. Yevloev’s family called for blood revenge against Zyazikov and Ingushetia’s Interior Minister Musa. (Vendettas are common in the North Caucasus as an alternative to the government justice system, which is seen as too corrupt and politicized to be fair.) Thus this latest incident became another link in the chain of assaults targeting Zyazikov’s relatives that started in 2007 and are still on the rise.
On October 27, an explosion went off across the street from the state prosecutor’s office in Ingushetia’s Sunzhensky district, injuring the deputy head of the Sunzhensky district department of the Interior Ministry, Police Lieutenant Alikhan Geroyev, who was on his way to work. Geroyev was hospitalized with multiple wounds and a brain injury (Regnum.ru, October 27).
In the face of the wave of attacks in Ingushetia, Murat Zyazikov—in what turned out to be his last week as the republic’s president—tried to shift the focus from the republic’s political instability to his political statements. Responding to the strong public resistance that greeted the talk about re-merging Ingushetia and Chechnya, Zyazikov was forced to say that it would lead to the “destabilization of the republic. Russian media quoted Zyazikov as saying: “I believe that anyone raising the subject voluntarily or forcibly, consciously or unconsciously, is committing an act of political hooliganism and political illiteracy” (Gazeta.ru, October 25). His Chechen colleague, Ramzan Kadyrov, was a bit more reserved and did not rule out a potential merger, leaving everything to the “will of the people” (Rosbalt.ru, October 27). However, Zyazikov’s apparently forced resignation from the post of Ingushetia’s president would appear to have returned the idea of merging the two republics to the back burner.