Zyazikov’s Declining Political Support

Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 34

The sharp growth of rebel attacks in Ingushetia this summer has provoked a wave of criticism against Murat Zyazikov, the Ingush president. Many people in Russia have once again started to talk about the Ingush leader’s possible resignation. On August 30, the Gazeta newspaper published an article citing a Kremlin source that said Zyazikov was the number one candidate for resignation among Russia’s regional leaders. Gazeta predicted that the Kremlin would remove Zyazikov before September 20 of this year. The newspaper reported that a special commission of up to 20 members, consisting of representatives from the different federal agencies now operating in Ingushetia, had been set up. The commission is checking to see how the money that was allocated from the federal budget last year to restore the areas of the republic that had been harmed by floods had been spent. An anonymous source in the commission told Gazeta that the commission had come to the republic in response to the numerous complaints by residents of Ingushetia about the corruption of local officials.

During a press conference by Murat Zyazikov that was held in Moscow on August 29, the Ingush president fiercely rejected any possibility that he would imminently resign. At the same time, as the Newsru.com website reported, he added that “everything is in the hands of the tsar, the commander-in-chief and the most-high” (Newsru.com, August 30). By the tsar and commander-in-chief, of course, Zyazikov meant President Vladimir Putin.

Murat Zyazikov knows that the Kremlin is not happy with his work. The Russian authorities do not care much about corruption in the North Caucasus as long as the region remains quiet, but they start to look for a scapegoat as soon as the Caucasian mujahideen start their spring, summer or fall campaigns.

Nevertheless, it seems that Zyazikov is doing his best to avoid resignation. He points to Chechnya as the main source of instability in the North Caucasus and insists that the militants who conduct attacks in Ingushetia come mainly from Chechnya – from “neighboring regions,” as he put it. To make it clear that he meant Chechnya and not other neighbors like North Ossetia or Stavropol krai, the Ingush president said at the press conference that “many crimes and shootings also happen in our neighbors, but nobody mentions them” (Vremya novostei, August 30).

Indeed, it could be asked why everybody talks about the destabilization in Ingushetia and criticizes Zyazikov for it, but nobody brings up the recent increase of attacks in Chechnya or points to Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s pro-Russian leader, as someone who cannot control his republic.

Murat Zyazikov’s attempt to deflect the Kremlin’s anger from himself to Ramzan Kadyrov infuriated the latter. On August 30, the day after Zyazikov’s press conference, Ramzan Kadyrov also held a press conference in Moscow, during which he particularly stressed that the situation in Chechnya is now calmer than in Ingushetia. Kadyrov mentioned the fact that more than 2,000 additional troops have been deployed to Ingushetia as a reaction to the numerous attacks in the region. Kadyrov also mentioned the name of Magas – Magomed Yevloev, the military commander (Amir) of the Caucasian insurgency who is of Ingush origin. Kadyrov said that “Chechens and Ingush are fraternal peoples and it is not right to point to neighbors” (Novy Region-Moskva, August 30). The Chechen president declared that Chechnya has had a lot of experience in fighting international terrorism and is ready to help Ingushetia any time. Kadyrov added that while Zyazikov refers to the criminals who come to Ingushetia from Chechnya, Ramzan knew of one who works in the Ingush government itself. Kadyrov was referring to Sherip Alikhadzhiev, the former chief of Chechnya’s Shali district, who confronted Kadyrov and escaped to Ingushetia. Ramzan Kadyrov said that a criminal case had been initiated against Alikhadzhiev in Chechnya.

As one can see, both Zyazikov and Kadyrov point fingers of blame at each other in order to try to avoid the Kremlin’s criticism, but the Russian authorities do not trust any of them. Troops are being deployed not only to Ingushetia, but also to Chechnya. On August 29, the Russian independent news agency Sobkorr.ru cited a source in the Chechen police as saying that an additional 3,000 troops were recently deployed to Chechnya. In fact, the Kremlin is worried about a serious deterioration of the situation in both Chechnya and Ingushetia. On September 4, the separatist Kavkaz-Center website reported the shelling and bombardment of Chechnya’s mountainous areas while the independent Ingushetiya.ru website reported artillery barrages of the mountainous parts of Ingushetia – the Nazran and Sunzha districts. Clearly, the Russian military command is preparing to fight simultaneously on both the Ingush and the Chechen fronts.