Shebzukhov was one of several Cherkess politicians identified as possible candidates to succeed Vladimir Kayshev as prime minister. Visiting Cherkessk last month, North Caucasus Federal District head Aleksandr Khloponin gave Ebzeyev until April 30 to appoint a Cherkess as prime minister in place of Kayshev, who is an ethnic Greek. Ebzeyev's disregard for the unwritten rule that the republic's prime minister should be a Cherkess and the parliament speaker a Russian is one of the factors behind growing resentment over the past two years among the republic's Cherkess minority, who constitute just 11 percent of the total population of 427,000. The Karachais are the largest ethnic group (38 percent), followed by the Russians (33.6 percent).
Ebzeyev duly dismissed the government on April 28 and submitted to parliament last week his proposed candidate to succeed Kayshev. The identity of that candidate was not made public. The parliament promptly postponed its next session indefinitely to avoid the need to vote on Ebzeyev's nominee. Thirty-five of the 72 parliament deputies are Karachais.
In a statement released on May 12, Ebzeyev characterized Shebzukhov as a man for whom he had "boundless respect" and who was "clever," tactful," and "a consummate professional." He said he is convinced the murder was politically motivated.
Shebzukhov worked previously in the republic's Interior Ministry, and then as head of the Adyghe-Khabl district.