On October 30, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accepted the allegedly voluntary resignation of Murat Zyazikov from the post of president of the Republic of Ingushetia.
That belated decision was greeted with acclaim in Ingushetia, where earlier this year up to 80,000 people (of a population of some 480,000) signed a petition addressed to Medvedev requesting that he dismiss Zyazikov and replace him with former Ingushetian President and Afghan war hero Ruslan Aushev.
Since his election six years ago, Zyazikov has turned a blind eye to egregious corruption among his subordinates that has further impoverished a region already heavily dependent on federal subsidies that has an unemployment rate of 67 percent. He gave carte blanche to security forces to detain any young men suspected of sympathizing with the Chechen resistance and, by doing so, impelled increasing numbers of such young men to join the resistance ranks.
As a result, over the past two years, the security situation in Ingushetia has deteriorated to the point that shootings, explosions, and abductions have become an everyday occurrence, and Ingushetia has overtaken Chechnya and Daghestan
as the least stable of the seven North Caucasus republics. Warnings by NGOs and public figures that the use of indiscriminate force by police and security forces -- including those deployed to Ingushetia from elsewhere in the Russian Federation -- is counterproductive had little or no effect.
Not surprisingly, the combination of indiscriminate violence and unpunished official corruption fuelled domestic political opposition. In response to the rigging of the outcome of the elections in March 2008 to a new republican parliament, comprised exclusively of people loyal to Zyazikov, Ingushetia's various clans each selected delegates to a parallel unofficial Mekhk Kkhel (National Assembly). Critic's Killing
The situation deteriorated even further following the killing on his arrival in Ingushetia
on August 31 of Magomed Yevloyev, the Moscow-domiciled owner of the independent website ingushetia.org (formerly, ingushetiya.ru), which was the sole media outlet to provide uncensored information about the increasingly anarchic situation in the republic. Yevloyev is reported to have had a heated altercation with Zyazikov during the flight from Moscow to Ingushetia's Magas Airport; Yevloyev was apprehended as he left the plane by Interior Ministry personnel and found with a bullet wound in the head hours later. An investigation ruled that his death was accidental.
Yevkurov arriving in Ingushetia
Whether Yevloyev's killing, or the upsurge in violence that followed it, was the final straw that persuaded Medvedev to get rid of Zyazikov is unclear. His motives for appointing a career military intelligence officer, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, as acting president are similarly unclear. In line with the Russian Constitution, Ingushetia's prime minister, Kharun Dzeitov, a former Soviet-era Communist Party functionary, should have assumed the presidential duties pending the proposal by Medvedev of at least two prospective presidential candidates to the republic's parliament.
Yevkurov was born in July 1963 in the village of Tarskoye, which prior to World War II was part of the Checheno-Ingush ASSR, but following the mass deportation of the Chechens and Ingush in 1944 was subsumed into the North Ossetian ASSR. He began his military career serving in the Soviet Navy's Pacific Fleet, then transferred to military intelligence. His greatest claim to fame is as commander of the Russian paratroopers who seized the Pristina airport in Kosovo in June 1999. In February 2000, he was awarded the prestigious Hero of Russia decoration for bravery in action during the second Chechen war. Since 2004 he has served as deputy head of the Military Intelligence Directorate of the Volga-Urals Military District.
Roza Malsagova, the Paris-based chief editor of the website ingushetia.org, was quoted as expressing approval of the choice of Yevkurov. She pointed out that he is unlikely to have any close ties with, or feel under any obligation to, the present corrupt and compromised Ingushetian government. Former President Aushev too expressed approval, telling the daily "Kommersant" that he considers Yevkurov "the optimal choice." Aushev added that he expects the situation will improve somewhat as a result of Zyazikov's departure.