On October 30, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree ordering an early end to Murat Zyazikov’s term as Ingushetia’s president, Itar-Tass reported, citing the Russian presidential press service. Zyazikov, the former KGB general who headed Ingushetia for six and a half years, said that his resignation as Ingushetia’s president was absolutely voluntary and connected to his transfer to another job. “I will be working in Moscow,” Interfax quoted him as saying. Zyazikov did not indicate what his new job would be.
Medvedev’s decree also named Lieutenant Colonel Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, deputy chief of staff in the Volga-Urals Military District, as temporary acting president. The Moscow Times on October 31 quoted the Kremlin as saying that the appointment was based on a recommendation by Zyazikov. The English-language newspaper, citing state-owned Channel One television and the Warheroes.ru website, reported that Yevkurov commanded Russian troops in Kosovo in 1999 and received the Hero of Russia award for his participation in military operations in the North Caucasus.
Few observers doubt Zyazikov was forced to resign against the backdrop of spiraling violence in Ingushetia. Indeed, Kommersant reported on October 31 that, according to its information, Zyazikov had been asked to resign because of “the numerous loud scandals” surrounding him and “his inability to control the situation in the republic.”
The move, predictably, was greeted positively by Ingushetia’s opposition. Rosa Malsagova, editor of the opposition website Ingushetia.org, told Ekho Moskvy radio that Medvedev “showed some common sense firing Zyazikov.” Malsagova said she was sure the bloodshed would finally end in Ingushetia and that she personally knew Yevkurov, whom she called “a man of a noble character.” Malsagova left Russia earlier this year in the face of a legal onslaught waged against the website and has asked for political asylum in France.
The website has publicly accused Zyazikov and other Ingush officials, including republican Interior Minister Musa Medov, of being behind the shooting death of its founder, Magomed Yevloev. The website was previously known as Ingushetiya.ru.
Ingushetia.org stated in a commentary that Yevkurov “is known as an honest and courageous person, for whom the interests of his people are not alien” and congratulated the people of Ingushetia on “this significant day in the history of our nation.”
One of the leaders of Ingushetia’s opposition, Magomed Khazbiev, said that the opposition is ready to work with the republic’s new president. “Yevkurov is a military man, a respectable Ingush,” RIA Novosti quoted Khazbiev as saying. “I think he will be able to handle the situation. We are ready to direct all of our energies toward helping Yevkurov. We will stand up together with that person, if he wants that.” Khazbiev also said that residents of Ingushetia were “rejoicing” over Yevkurov’s appointment as the republic’s leader. “Ingush from all over the world are calling me with congratulations,” he said. “In Ingushetia itself, people are going into the streets, stopping traffic and dancing lezginka.”
Ingushetia’s former president, Ruslan Aushev, who was replaced by Zyazikov in an April 2002 election that was widely viewed as rigged, called the change in the republic’s leadership a correct decision. “Haven’t you heard about the situation in the republic?” RIA Novosti quoted Aushev as saying. “Of course, not all the fault for the situation in the republic is his [Zyazikov’s].” Aushev also spoke positively of Yevkurov, adding: “Although he, of course, has been involved in something else— these are two different things [military service and politics-NCW]—but I wish him success,” Aushev said. Asked by RIA Novosti whether Yevkurov was the right choice, Aushev said that among those who were available to choose from, “it’s a good choice.”
Earlier this year, Ingushetia’s opposition collected 80,000 signatures on a petition calling Ruslan Aushev to replace Zyazikov as president and forwarded it to President Dmitry Medvedev (North Caucasus Weekly, May 1, May 16, July 11, and August 7).
Gazeta.ru on October 30 quoted Kavkazky Uzel editor-in-chief Grigory Shvedov as saying that Zyazikov’s resignation was above all connected with the fact that over the past month, “tension in the republic grew radically” and additional federal troops there “were unable to cope with the situation.” He also suggested that Zyazikov’s resignation is an indicator that Regional Development Minister Dmitry Kozak has strengthened his position in Moscow. “The actions of the Kremlin were taken along the lines of recommendations made by Kozak when he was still presidential envoy in the Southern [Federal] District, but at that time he was not listened to,” Shvedov said.
RIA Novosti quoted State Duma Vice Speaker Oleg Morozov, a member of the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party, as saying he felt that the situation in Ingushetia has become so “complicated and tense” that Zyazikov himself has decided to step down. Another Duma vice speaker, Communist Party member Ivan Melnikov, called Zyazikov’s decision to step down “a recognition of the existence of serious problems in Ingushetia,” adding that mistakes made in the republic recently had further heated up the situation there. He added, however, that Zyazikov’s resignation would not solve the republic’s problems and that much would depend on “how properly, skillfully and with due consideration of the region’s special characteristics” the appointment of a full-fledged (as opposed to acting) president of Ingushetia is made.
Another United Russia member, Duma Nationalities Committee Deputy Chairman Arkady Baskaev said that Aushev’s removal back in 2002 had been “the correct decision” because, according to Baskaev, many mountain districts of Ingushetia had become “a base for the rehabilitation of Chechen militants.” Zyazikov, he added, had “tried to bring order in the republic in that quite difficult situation, also taking into consideration inter-clan relations.” Baskaev conceded, however, that mistakes were made along the way and that the situation in Ingushetia had worsened recently and thus something had to be changed.
Gennady Gudkov, the deputy chairman of the Duma’s Security Committee and a member of the A Just Russia faction, predicted Zyazikov’s resignation would have a positive effect on the situation in Ingushetia. “I know that the situation in Ingushetia was extremely tense, and despite the fact that an opposition supposedly did not exist, in reality it did exist and there were all sorts of problems,” Gudkov said. “It was understood that there many problems were unresolved, and it appears … that preconditions accumulated that led to a change in the republic’s leader.” Ingushetia’s leadership, he said, must try to reconcile the conflicting sides in the republic.
Likewise, Sergei Ivanenko, a member of the Yabloko party’s political council, called for “political negotiations” and “political consultations” in Ingushetia and said the question of who will become the republic’s full-fledged leader is a “key” issue. Opposition politician Boris Nemtsov stated that Zyazikov’s authority in the republic was nil and his tenure had worsened the situation in the republic. Nemtsov said: “The fact that he has resigned is a correct thing,” and added, “Better late than never.”<iframe src=’http://www.jamestown.org/jamestown.org/inner_menu.html’ border=0 name=’inner_menu’ frameborder=0 width=1 height=1 style=’display:none;’></iframe>