#19 - JRL 2009-157 - JRL Home
Moscow News
August 24, 2009
Ingush intervention may backfire
By Anna Arutunyan

President Dmitry Medvedev is taking a tough line in the wake of the Nazran bombing on 17 August, firing the Ingush police chief and ordering a criminal investigation to punish those who failed to prevent the deadliest suicide bombing that the republic has seen in years.

But analysts are sceptical whether such direct federal intervention in a restive internal republic will yield positive results, even while a policy of transparency adopted by Ingush President Yunus-bek Yevkurov, who was nearly killed in a June attack, tragically appears to have backfired.

The Nazran attack was "slap in the face for Yevkurov," said Alexei Malashenko, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Yevkurov, he said, tried to get tough on the rampant corruption that was a legacy of his predecessor, former FSB general Murat Zyazikov, whom Medvedev sacked in October. In return, Yevkurov suffered an attempt on his life in June that killed four bodyguards, a spate of shootings, and now, just days after his recovery was announced, a bombing in Nazran.

Medvedev fired Ingush Interior Minister Ruslan Meyriyev immediately after the attacks and sent the federal deputy interior minister, General Arkady Yedelev, to personally direct all interior forces in the republic.

"We need to figure out what happened and respond to what it was - slovenliness, treason, or a combination of crimes that could not be affected," Medvedev told the Security Council in Sochi last week.

The next day the Investigative Committee for the Southern Federal District announced that it had launched a criminal investigation for negligence against top brass at the Ingush Interior Ministry - punishable by up to seven years in prison.

In a break from a common habit of blaming outside forces, Medvedev said much of the problem came from within the country: "You talked about the influence of a number of factors, including international ones, such as funding of terrorists [and] religious extremism. These external factors do exist - you are right - but the main cause is inside the country, however sad it sounds."

Investigators believe that police failed to track the GAZel even though there were reports two days before the attack that such a vehicle could be used for a suicide bombing.

"It's traditional for Moscow to react by appointing people from Moscow," said Yury Fedorov, a security expert at the London-based think tank Chatham House. "But basically those people who are coming from Moscow have very little knowledge of the local situation, and cannot understand what is going on below the surface."

What all North Caucasus republics have in common, said Fedorov, is that they are dependent on the federal government for funding. "Local elites are dividing the money coming from Moscow - and one of the main sources of conflict within those elites is competition for budget money between different groups."

He suggested that this may have been an additional incentive for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov to try to get more involved in handling Ingushetia's security forces.

"After the attack on the Ingush president, Kadyrov wanted to infiltrate local security institutions with his own people," said Fedorov. "This hasn't happened. But the so-called Kadyrov model is very attractive for Moscow because it helps the Kremlin to put the main burden of responsibility on a local leader in return for demonstrative loyalty."

Yegelev, the new security chief responsible for Ingushetia, has excellent relations with Kadyrov and the two are apparently close, said Malashenko. "But that doesn't mean that [Yegelev] will let him [have free rein in] Ingushetia," Malashenko said. "If [federal forces] let Kadyrov in, they will regret it. I believe they are aware of this. If they are thinking logically, then they understand that this is dangerous."

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