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Wednesday, October 8, 2008




Ingushetia

No account of the mess Russia is currently creating in the Caucasus can be complete without Ingushetia where an opposition leader died in circumstances that are anything but clear. The death of Magomed Yevloyev has triggered a chain of events that culminated in an attack on the motorcade of Minister of Internal Affairs Musa Medov. It all started when Yevloyev, who was running Ingushetia's main opposition site registered in the US, had decided to pay a visit to the homeland. What made him take such a reckless step is not clear, but it's claimed that he came packed with hundreds of thousands of dollars and with a draft of declaration of Ingushetia's independence. In a bizarre twist of fate, he found himself traveling in the same plane with Ingushetia's president, Murat Zyazikov, appointed by Putin a few years ago instead of the locally elected Ruslan Alushev, who was deemed too soft and compromising in his dealing with opposition and Islamic radicals who based themselves in the republic. A former KGB general, Zyazikov has succeeded in a very short time to radicalize the republic so much that attacks on police outposts and military convoys have turned into almost daily routine.

It's not known whether any interaction between the two men, whose relationships are characterized by implacable hostility, happened on the plane, but Yevloyev was certainly aware that he was sharing the plane with his arch rival, given that he reportedly sent an SMS to his family about this. However, upon the arrival Yevloyev had barely made a few steps inside the airport, when he was arrested, pushed into a police car and driven away. When Yevloyev's family members, who came to the airport to meet him, have realized what happened they opened in pursuit.

They got the police convoy somewhere on the road to Nazran, Ingushetia's capital, and having dragged the officers out of their cars, they then proceeded to beat their very lives out of them. However, either this was another police convoy or for some other reason, Yevloyev was not there. It's at this point, according to clan members, that some police officers were begging for their lives saying that their hands are clean from Yamadayev's blood, hours before the man was officially reported dead. Yamadayev's body later found shot in the head, the official version is that Yevloyev was shot by mistake and unintentionally while Yevloyev's clan claimed that he was shot immediately after he had been dragged into the police car.

The events then followed the regular Caucasian script with Yevloyev's father declaring blood feud on both president Zyazikov and interior minister Medov. Zyazikov's home was attacked with grenade launchers, though Yevloyev's widow denied clan's responsibility for the death of Zyazikov's cousin who was shot dead a few days later. However, what was not the regular Caucasian routine of blood feuding is a suicide bomber who tried to ram a car packed with explosives into the motorcade of Medov a few days ago. The car went off prematurely and Medov had survived the attack intact, however suicide attacks are still not a regular part of the simmering insurgency unfolding in this tiny Caucasian republic which is Russia's poorest region and has the highest birth rate in the Russian federation.

This escalation have left some analysts wondering if another Chechnya, though on a smaller scale, is about to erupt in the Caucasus and what effect this may have on other parts of the Caucasus, in particular North Ossetia, with which Ingushetia has what can be defined as a mega blood feud. A Reuters correspondent was pondering this scenario recently.

NAZRAN, Russia, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Russia thought it had tamed the Muslim regions on its southern flank when it quelled a rebellion in Chechnya, but trouble is brewing again.

Barely noticed by the outside world, increasing violence and clashes between federal forces and rebels in Ingushetia, just west of Chechnya, threaten to destabilise the north Caucasus."

Ninety-three people were killed in clashes in the year to the end of August, the local branch of human rights group Memorial says -- a big death toll for a region with a population of only 470,000.

. . .


It is more than a local problem. As with two rounds of conflict in Chechnya, which killed tens of thousands of people from 1994 and spilled over to neighbouring regions, the clashes in Ingushetia could spread to other parts of the North Caucasus.

They could also re-ignite an ethnic conflict with the neighbouring Christian region of North Ossetia in which more than 500 people were killed in 1992.

. . .

Source

Ingushetia, that until very recently has been quietly seating out the wars in Chechnia and elsewhere in the Caucasus in a remarkable demonstration of loyalty to Russia, has been steadily sliding into insurgency ever since Zyazikov's appointment, but the situation took a marked turn for the worse in the wake of the war in Georgia. Russia's support for independence of South Ossetia, Ingushetia's enemy, seems to have finally tipped the balance in a decisive way. The core of the dispute between the Ingush and Ossetians is about territories taken over by the Ossetians during the Ingush absence from the region following their mass deportation by Stalin during the second world war. When finally allowed to come back, the Ingush, who returned in hugely reduced numbers (some claim that two thirds of them died during the deportation and later in exile), found their homes and much of their territory resettled by their Christian neighbors. Attempts at resolving the dispute by peaceful means failed and an armed conflict erupted in 1992 during which the Ingush had to undergo another ethnic cleansing with thousands of them having been expelled from the disputed region.

The relative docility of the Ingush under their previous president may have to do a lot with a certain expectation of a reward for their good behavior in the form of the Russians moving in to redress historical injustices at the expense of the Ossetians. However no reward has ever come and docility does not appear to be a natural part of the Ingush national character. In fact, during the Russian conquest of the Caucasus the Russians have singled out them together with the Chechens as standing out by the virtue of their warlike nature even in this region teeming with martial races. That the Ingush patience was running thin for quite a while is indirectly confirmed by the fact that most members of the group sent by Basayev to storm the school in Beslan (the school itself is in North Ossetia) were Ingush and by the steadily increasing rate of attacks on Russian servicemen and just ethnic Russians inside Ingushetia itself. Russian recognition of South Ossetia's independence may well be the last straw that breaks the camel's back. Unsurprisingly, the Ingush are not exactly alone in their reviling of the Ossetians, as the recent wars of Russia in the Caucasus have been steadily giving shape to a new alliance in the region.


This one should be counted together with a massive rapprochement between the Georgians and Chechens that started shortly after the first Chechen war when Chechen president came to Georgia and apologized for the Chechen part in the Abkhazian war that ended in dozens of thousands of ethnic Georgians having been driven out of Abkhazia. Incensed by the Abkhazians failure to reciprocate by showing up during the first Russian Chechen war, a serious rethink happened in Chechnya about its alliances. Famous for their militancy, the Chechens have never been equally famous for being idiots and the fact that in Abkhazia they have been skillfully exploited by the locals to serve the imperialist agenda of the hated Russian enemy haven't escaped their attention. In 2001 Hamzat Gelayev, one of the best known Chechen warlords who together with Basayev fought on the Abkhazian side in 1992, led a force of hundreds of Chechens and Georgians across the border to storm the Kodori gorge, though they were beaten back by the Russians and Abkhazians.

The incoming uprising in Ingushetia will probably be crashed and quickly because there is simply not enough Ingush to keep this uprising going on for long. The Chechens seem to be (temporarily) exhausted and with no energy left to send enough volunteers to sustain the uprising. The same goes about Georgia that's still in the state of shock and despair after the last war. Nevertheless, in any case this uprising will serve one more valuable lesson to the next generation of separatists. It's basically the same old lesson about the impossibility of winning independence from Russia in one single country and the need for a coordinated action across several republics at once. Apart from learning this lesson, the future generations of Caucasian separatists will have much less difficulty in determining who should fight who, as the Ossetians and the badly depopulated Abkhazia are set to be swallowed by Russia in the near future or at least to become Russia's satellites totally dependent on Moscow to survive economically and defend their territory against the Georgians and Ingush. The front lines of the future conflicts are already well established.

In many ways the Caucasus is the Russian version of Lebanon and the legacy Putin leaves to the next generations of Russians in the region may soon reveal itself as toxic to the extreme. The strong side of Putin's policies is based on the determination with with Russia is rebuilding its military muscle and using it inside its borders. Their weakness is that any achievements created by such policies may quickly unravel the very moment Russia finds itself either lacking in military power or determination to put it to good use. In this sense the Russians should better bear in mind that Russia may not get another Putin to replace the current one when he dies or becomes disabled by the old age and by that time Russia may find itself vastly debilitated by the seemingly unstoppable process of the rapid shrinking and aging of its population. But the Caucasus, with its centuries old traditions of banditry, mafias and kidnappings, now supplemented by regular Islamic radicalism and terrorism, is not a region that allows easy disengagements, once one gets in.

The Russians should do something really smart and fast before the situation in Ingushetia too gets out of control. Removing Zyazikov or letting the Ingush get him may go some way in reducing the tension. The Russians may also try to build something in Ingushetia just as they did in Chechnya where large scale reconstruction projects are credited by some with the relative calm of the last few years (this is a somewhat doubtful claim to say the least). The failure to salvage Ingushetia would mean that Russia is left with Dagestan as the only critical region in the Caucasus still not messed completely, never mind that Dagestan has a low scale insurgency going on in its mountains too. But if the Russians want to try reconstruction in Ingushetia then they will find this task much easier if they start with it right now, before they find themselves left with no other option but to flatten the whole place just as they had to do in Chechnya.

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