Who Is Killing the Non-Muslims in Ingushetia?

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 35

There has been a recent upsurge in the murders of non-Muslim residents in Ingushetia. On September 11, a Gypsy family was killed in the village of Sleptsovskaya (Ordzhonikidzevskaya). Four days earlier, a Korean family in the village was shot dead by masked gunmen.

These brutal night killings are something new for the troubled region. Last year and particularly this summer, there were several night raids on private houses of ethnic Russians in Ingushetia. But other non-Muslim ethnic groups have never been targeted.

More than a dozen ethnic Russians have been killed in Ingushetia during the past two years. An ethnic Russian woman, Natalya Mudarova, who was the chief physician at a blood transfusion center in Nazran and the wife of a Chechen, was the latest victim. She was shot dead in Nazran in broad daylight. Russian officials have no doubts that this terror campaign against Russians is being conducted by rebel gunmen. Nikolai Kovalev, the former Federal Security Service (FSB) director who is now a State Duma deputy, said: “I think that Chechen militants who want neighboring Ingushetia to be drawn into the bloodshed and to take a more active position in opposing the federal center are behind this” (Izvestia, September 10).

The article published on September 10 in the Kremlin-controlled Izvestia newspaper stated that the main goal of the killing of Russians in Ingushetia is to force them to leave the North Caucasus. Indeed, after the demonstrative murder in August of the husband and two sons of Vera Draganchuk, many Russians started to look for ways to leave Ingushetia. On September 1, Vremya novostei reported that neighbors of the Draganchuks had loaded their belongings onto a truck and left the next day after the murder of Vera’s family.

The suggestion that the rebels are killing ethnic Russians in order to force them from Ingushetia and to ruin plans of the authorities to settle more Russians in the Caucasus looks natural. Early last year, on January 9, the rebel Kavkaz-Center website published an interview with the Chechen warlord and then-commander of the North Caucasus rebel forces Shamil Basaev who said that it had been decided at a meeting of the Caucasian rebel field commanders “to eliminate the colonists across the entire Caucasus who collaborate with the Russian occupation forces.” That same year, two Ingush officials in charge of the program to entice Russians to return to the republic were targeted. Magomed Chakhkiev, a deputy to the parliament of Ingushetia and the father-in-law of Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, was kidnapped, while Galina Gubina, deputy head of the Sunzha district administration, was shot dead.

This year, a new wave of murders of ethnic Russians in Ingushetia began almost simultaneously with rebel attacks on police and Russian army facilities in the republic. What is strange is how the Russian media, usually under the firm control of the Kremlin, especially with regard to the topic of the Caucasus, has been covering the recent rise of violence in the republic. This summer, almost all newspapers and TV channels focused on the murders of the Russians, while much more serious events such as attacks on military garrisons were barely mentioned. When an additional 2,500 troops were sent to Ingushetia, the reason given for the troop increase was the rise in crime and attacks on Russians in the republic. It looked as if the Russian authorities had an interest in the attacks on Russians. The murders of Russians could be used for propaganda purposes since they helped shift public attention away from the serious rebel operations, which demonstrated the weakness of the Russian police and military forces and at the same time allowed the insurgents to be described as brutal inhumane criminals.

On September 3, the rebel Daymohk website posted a statement by the Ingush insurgents declaring that “we (the militants) do not distinguish people by ethnic origin and if people live quietly and do not take part in the struggle against Islam and Muslims, we do not have anything against them.” The rebels declared in the statement that the bomb that detonated during the funeral of Lyudmila Terekhina, a Russian teacher killed by masked armed men, was planted by Russian intelligence. They pointed to the fact that the explosion was filmed live by a journalist from the state-owned ORT TV channel. The rebels appealed to Russians by saying that their sons were sent to the Caucasus to die by the authorities who defend the interests of a small group, but not those of the Russian nation.

The murders of Russians continued and expanded in Ingushetia despite the statement by the rebels. After the murder of the Korean and Gypsy families, it was possible to talk about a demonstrative terror campaign against not only Russians, but all non-Muslim residents of Ingushetia. It is becoming more and more difficult to say who really has an interest in such killings.