The Ingushetian leadership has formally asked the Russian Interior Ministry to increase the manpower of the republic's police force by 50 percent, and to create additional sub-departments within the ministry, Ingushetian Prime Minister and acting President Rashid Gaysanov announced
on July 21. He did not specify how many new sub-departments are envisaged, or what each one would do.
Gaysanov said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressed support for that proposal during their meeting last week
near Sochi, and that he has also discussed it with Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev.
Nurgaliyev arrived in Magas late on July 22, reportedly to discuss counter-terrorism measures with Gaysanov
Gaysanov explained on July 21 that the republican Interior Ministry's current strength is predicated on a total population of just 340,000, while the population of Ingushetia is now more than double that figure. He added that the manpower shortage would not be so acutely felt but for the upsurge in recent years of attacks on police by the North Caucasus resistance.
Last year more than 80 police and other security personnel were killed in Ingushetia, and 167 injured; during the first six months of this year, there were 58 attacks on police which left 37 uniformed personnel dead and 79 wounded.
But Gaysanov apparently failed to mention a second trend that has depleted police ranks even more dramatically. Between early July and early August 2008, more than 1,300 officers reportedly resigned from the police force to protest the ministry's refusal to pay them overtime and other special allowances.
That wave of resignations continued through September, but apparently stopped following President Medvedev's decision in late October to fire Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov.
It is not clear how the decision to increase the strength of the Ingushetian Interior Ministry meshes with the division of responsibilities between the various "power" agencies outlined by President Medvedev at a meeting with senior personnel on July 20.
On that occasion, Medvedev characterized the situation in the North Caucasus as a whole as "very, very complicated."
At the same time, he specified that the law-enforcement organs (meaning in the first instance the police) should concentrate on protecting citizens' rights and freedoms, combating corruption, and ensuring public and economic security.
Medvedev called on the Interior Ministry to intensify its efforts to counter "extremism," while the task of fighting terrorism was identified as a key task for the Federal Security Service (FSB).
How effective the larger police force will prove to be in containing the low-level insurgency in the North Caucasus remains to be seen, especially in light of Ingush oppositionist Magomed Khazbiyev's July 24 claim that most government officials and businessmen in Ingushetia pay a regular "tribute" to the resistance in return for immunity from attack.
The planned expansion of the police may, on the other hand, be intended to serve an entirely different purpose: either as a warning to Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov not to attempt a power-grab in Ingushetia in the course of the ongoing joint operation against the resistance in the area along the border between the two republics, and/or to ensure the Ingushetian Interior Ministry is better able to counter any such attempt.
The Chechen police alone numbers some 14,000 men, not counting other security bodies directly subordinate to Kadyrov.