Will Yevkurov Follow the Chechen “Model” for Restoring Order?

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 9 Issue: 42

In an article published in Gazeta on November 1, Sanobar Shermatova quoted an anonymous official who knows Yunus-Bek Yevkurov as saying that the colonel was appointed president of Ingushetia with the specific task of introducing order in the republic. The official also said that Ingushetia’s new leader is expected to “follow the Chechen path of recovery” and may take pages from the playbook of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov by presiding over the withdrawal of “excessive” federal troops from the republic and announcing an amnesty for rebel fighters.

Shermatova quoted the source as saying that the federal authorities have decided to allocate 140 billion rubles—more than $5.1 billion—for socio-economic development in Ingushetia, and the article suggested that such funds would go toward creating new jobs for youths at risk of joining the rebel ranks. (It should be noted, however, that while significant federal funding has gone toward reconstruction efforts in Chechnya, unemployment there remains extremely high.) Shermatova wrote that Yevkurov will be focused mainly on “military operations” and may end up being assisted by “a strong figure capable of overseeing economic issues”—perhaps a prime minister who is a local official with experience in such matters—together with an “envoy from Moscow.”

In an article published in Moskovksy Komsomolets on November 3, correspondent Vadim Rechkalov wrote that Yevkurov’s appointment as Ingushetia’s president means that the unification of Ingushetia and Chechnya is unlikely to take place any time in the near future despite recent “spontaneous” pro-unification demonstrations along the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia and in Grozny (North Caucasus Weekly, October 16). Rechkalov noted that Ramzan Kadyrov came out publicly against unification (indeed, the Chechen president said on October 29 that he was “absolutely against” merging the two republics and called the idea “senseless”) and added that while he did not doubt Kadyrov’s sincerity, the fact that Kadyrov felt the need to comment on it publicly showed that it has been under active discussion inside the Kremlin. Yevkurov’s elevation means that “those who tried to push through the republics’ unification with an unseen hand have lost this round,” Rechkalov wrote.

According to Rechkalov, Yevkurov is an “associate” of Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, the former commander of Russian forces in Chechnya who now heads the armed forces’ Main Combat Training and Service Directorate, and Anatoly Kvashnin, the former chief of the armed forces’ general staff who is now presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District. This makes Yevkurov’s elevation like “the arrival of a howitzer battery in a theater of war,” Rechkalov wrote. “Even if the howitzers are not fired, their presence alone drastically alters the balance of power,” he added.

Rechkalov also wrote that Yevkurov is a military man for whom orders from his superiors is more important than clan ties, and that while Yevkurov is an intelligence officer, his main ties are with the Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), not the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Whatever the case, Yevkurov’s accession as Ingushetia’s president has not brought about an immediate end to rebel violence in the republic. On November 5, a traffic policeman was injured when a bomb went off as his car was standing at an intersection in the city of Malgobek. On November 2, two bombs went off near a private house in the town of Ordzhonikidzevskaya in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district. Citing a local police source, RIA Novosti reported that a home-made bomb went off in the courtyard of a pensioner’s home and while no one was injured in that blast, a second bomb exploded when a police squad arrived at the scene, injuring seven police officers.

On October 31, a local resident in the city of Karabulak was injured when a bomb went off under his car.

Yevkurov said on November 4 that the working conditions of employees of Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry need to be improved, Kavkazky Uzel reported. Because police personnel have to work in a difficult environment, it is necessary to try and provide them with help in terms of uniforms, weapons and technical equipment, as well as providing them with “social support,” the new Ingush president said.