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Ingushetia Opposition Wants Kremlin To Act On Crisis

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- An opposition activist from Russia's turbulent Ingushetia region called on the Kremlin on July 22 to act to prevent a worsening humanitarian and economic crisis in the mainly Muslim republic.

Lawlessness, graft, and killings by authorities are widespread, bringing the region to a new low, said Magomed Khazbiyev, considered by rights groups as the leader of Ingushetia's small opposition.

He added that if the killers who dumped in Ingushetia the body of slain Chechen rights activist Natalya Estemirova last week are not found, murder with impunity will continue.

"The worsening situation in Ingushetia should not be solved by the Ingush, it needs to be solved by the Kremlin, and in a different way," he told reporters in Moscow.

Khazbiyev declined to specify the action he wanted from the Kremlin, but spoke of the need to root out the "mafia" which he said had permeated all strata of Ingush society.

"The only difference between law enforcement agencies and bandits is that the authorities are legitimate," said Khazbiyev, a close friend of murdered Ingush reporter Magomed Yevloyev who used to run the region's main opposition website.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Helsinki Group, Russia's oldest human rights organization, said corruption in Ingushetia has become "vehement and barbarian," making it one of the most challenging regions for the Kremlin.

The region's governmental, legal, and security sectors are riddled with corruption, both she and Khazbiyev said.

Russia's smallest region and one of the poorest, Ingushetia has taken over from neighbouring Chechnya as the main centre of violence along the country's turbulent southern flank.

In an attempt to defuse a rapidly deteriorating situation there, last October President Dmitry Medvedev replaced unpopular Ingush leader Murat Zyazikov with Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, an ex-paratroop officer who backed wider dialogue with opponents.

Khazbiyev, who campaigned to oust Zyazikov, said more action was needed. "There is no end in sight and the Ingush are tired of this war."

Security forces say the region provides a foothold for global Islamist militant networks and government critics say harsh methods push many young people to join the rebels.

"Young men see their friends become refugees, or live in poverty, come out of their homes and see nothing but blood and begin to wonder what they should do in life," Khazbiyev said of youngsters lured into militant groups.