Magomed Mutsolgov, a respected Ingush public figure and human rights defender, has for the first time in his career come out with an overtly political demand, one that is likely to exacerbate the long-standing enmity between him and Republic of Ingushetia head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.
In a brief statement posted on February 27 on his Facebook page, Mutsolgov called for the resignation of both Yevkurov and the region's parliament in light of a proposal, which he denounced as "treachery," floated by parliament speaker Zelimkhan Yevloyev four days earlier.
Speaking on the anniversary of the 1944 deportation to Central Asia of the Chechen and Ingush nations, Yevloyev had suggested that in future that deportation should be formally commemorated on October 30, which since 1991 has been marked across the Russian Federation as the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression. That category encompasses not only the nations that Soviet leader Josef Stalin had deported en masse as politically unreliable, but the tens of millions of other victims of his reign of terror.
Shifting the date of the commemoration, Yevloyev reasoned, would enable the Ingush people to join in the nationwide celebration on February 23 of Defenders of the Fatherland Day glorifying the Soviet (and later Russian) armed forces.
Mutsolgov immediately rejected that proposal, suggesting in a blog post on the news portal Caucasian Knot that while that idea originated in the Kremlin, it was Yevkurov who put Yevloyev up to making it public.
Yevkurov's own comments on the deportation anniversary were more muted. He recalled the suffering of the victims (half the 96,327 Ingush deportees died); the charity of other ethnic groups that helped the deportees survive; and the nation's collective responsibility to ensure the memory of the deportation endures and to strengthen Ingushetian statehood.
Mutsolgov's anger at what he termed "using the memory of our ancestors and our national interests to score political points" is understandable. But to vent that anger on Yevkurov, rather than simply on Yevloyev, is arguably neither rational nor entirely fair. True, Yevkurov, himself a former Russian military intelligence lieutenant colonel, did not publicly distance himself from Yevloyev's proposal, but neither has he endorsed it.
That is not to say that calls for Yevkurov's resignation are not justified: he has long been widely perceived as ineffective and corrupt. During his eight years as republic head, Ingushetia's rundown economy has continued to stagnate. High-level corruption continues to flourish, with government ministers leaving their posts under a cloud with monotonous regularity: in early February, Regnum reported the arrest of Construction Minister Mustafa Buruzhev in connection with the embezzlement of 54 million rubles ($930,000) earmarked for building a school.
Meanwhile, the police and security services still engage with impunity in the arbitrary detention, torture, and killing of anyone suspected of links with either the North Caucasus insurgency or, more recently, the extremist group Islamic State. An apparent recent victim was Magomed Daliyev, who died of torture hours after being taken into custody in July 2016 for questioning over a robbery at the bank where his wife worked. (She too was subjected to torture.) Center to Counter Extremism head Timur Khamkhoyev and one of his deputies have been arrested in connection with Daliyev's death.
Moreover, Mutsolgov has personal grounds to loath Yevkurov. Yevkurov is rumored to have sought on numerous occasions either to put an end to the activities of the NGO Mashr (Peace) that Mutsolgov founded in 2003 to provide advice and legal aid to the relatives of people killed or abducted by the security services, or even to engineer his death. The most recent campaign to discredit Mutsolgov dates from November 2015, when a search of his offices allegedly yielded evidence that he had downloaded child pornography onto an office computer. After a protracted investigation, the Investigative Committee recently announced it had found no grounds to bring criminal charges against him, Caucasian Knot reported on February 10.
Until now, Mutsolgov has scrupulously avoided becoming involved in either politics or religious issues, as he assured Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2013 in a detailed account of the pressure brought to bear on him by the Republic of Ingushetia leadership. But having been exculpated by the Investigative Committee, he may feel that he is currently in a stronger position than ever before to confront Yevkurov openly, and may never have another such opportunity. The enthusiastic response to his call for Yevkurov to resign suggests that many Ingush support that demand.