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Chechen, Ingush Leaders Cross Swords Over Galashki Deaths

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov
Republic of Ingushetia head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov have each rejected the other’s account of a recent incident in the Ingushetian village of Galashki close to the border between the two republics in which at least two insurgents were killed. Kadyrov has gone even further, accusing Yevkurov of seeking to drive a wedge between the Chechens and Ingush, and of not supporting those members of Ingushetia’s Muslim clergy who reject Islamic extremism

Yevkurov initially said on July 31 that two insurgents were killed and a third injured late on July 29 when an improvised explosive device they were assembling apparently detonated prematurely. He named the two men killed as Idris Abayev and Alikhan Dovladov. Yevkurov’s website posted pictures of the devastation caused by the blast.

Kadyrov, however, told journalists in Grozny on August 1 that the incident in Galashki, in Ingushetia’s Sunzha district that borders on Chechnya, took place the previous day. Kadyrov said Chechen Interior Ministry personnel launched a special operation and succeeded in killing senior Chechen insurgency commanders Zaurbek Avdorkhanov, Ibragim Avdorkahanov, and Ayub Khadov, who had come to Galashki to fetch a bride for Ibragim Avdorkhanov.

Kadyrov recalled that Zaurbek Avdorkhanov headed one of the three bands of fighters who attacked Kadyrov’s home village of Khosi-Yurt (Tsentoroi) in late August 2010.

Some Republic of Ingushetia officials offered a slightly different version of events after Russian media reported Kadyrov’s statements. Republic of Ingushetia Security Council secretary Akhmed Kotiyev told the daily “Kommersant” that the men killed were indeed the Avdorkhanov brothers and Khaladov. Unnamed Republic of Ingushetia security personnel told the same paper that the incident took place on July 31.

Yevkurov, however, stuck to his original account. He convened a press conference on August 2 at which he denied point blank that any security personnel from Chechnya took part in a “special operation” to kill insurgents. Yevkurov said that the Ingushetian authorities were informed that insurgents from Chechnya regularly come to villages in Ingushetia close to the border between the two republics, and that “we knew they intended to stage a series of major terrorist acts.” Yevkurov said again that two men were killed and one injured when a bomb exploded. He said the Chechen authorities were informed, and came to collect the two bodies and the wounded fighter.

Kadyrov for his part professed “perplexity” that a professional security officer such as Yevkurov (who served for years in Russian military intelligence) should fail to acknowledge as such what Kadyrov termed “a meticulously planned special operation to wipe out terrorists, planned in the utmost secrecy and carried out by a handful of operatives.”

Kadyrov further alleged that Yevkurov telephoned the Chechen presidential administration after that special operation to request that the press be informed that Republic of Ingushetia security personnel also took part in it. He went on to accuse Yevkurov of inconsistency in affirming, first that insurgents do not use Ingushetian territory as a base, and then that he was aware that they were planning terrorist operations in Ingushetia.

Kadyrov warned that if Yevkurov is incapable of “restoring order” in Ingushetia, or has no interest in doing so, “we shall do it for him.” Kadyrov even claimed the Avdorkhanov brothers “lived more or less permanently” in Galashki. That assertion is difficult to reconcile with video footage of a council of war convened on April 20 by self-styled Caucasus Emirate head Doku Umarov, in which Zaurbek Avdorkhanov was identified as amir of the Kurchaloi district east of Grozny, some 80 kilometers from Galashki.

Kadyrov said the Chechen authorities had alerted their Ingushetian counterparts to the presence of insurgents in border villages and proposed joint operations against them, but that Yevkurov declined that offer as encroaching on the territory of his republic. The Ingushetian authorities were reportedly not informed in advance about the air strikes in March 2011 that killed more than a dozen Chechen militants near the Ingushetian village of Verkhnii Alkun, including veteran fighter Supyan Abdullayev, one of Umarov’s closest associates.

Kadyrov alleged that Yevkurov’s “thoughtless pronouncements” only serve to fuel enmity between the populations of Chechnya and Ingushetia. For good measure, Kadyrov accused Yevkurov of failing to support “traditional Islam” in Ingushetia. And recalling the celebration in June of the 20th anniversary of Ingushetia’s separation from Chechnya, he warned that Grozny might insist on formally demarcating the border between the two republics. Four years ago, Chechen ombudsman Nurdi Nukhadjiyev implied that Chechnya might lay claim to Sunzha and part of the Malgobek district of the Republic of Ingushetia, both of which were part of Chechnya prior to the creation in January 1934 of the Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Oblast.

Yevkurov immediately hit back at Kadyrov, telling the radio station Ekho Moskvy he expects Kadyrov to call him to explain precisely what he meant by his remarks. Yevkurov added that his own methods of combating insurgents differ from those of Kadyrov. He also expressed surprise that Kadyrov personally, rather than one of his aides or the head of the Chechen Interior Ministry, should have announced the alleged operation by Chechen security personnel. “We are heads of [federation] subjects and ought to refrain from such mutual accusations,” he was quoted as saying.

Yevkurov’s term as Republic of Ingushetia head expires in less than three months, and since the start of the year, the opposition Mekhk Kkhel (shadow parliament) has repeatedly petitioned first Dmitry Medvedev and then Vladimir Putin to replace him. Yevkurov’s defiance of Kadyrov suggests that either he does not care whether or not he is reappointed to serve a second term, or that he has received assurances that as the sole North Caucasus republic head willing to stand up to Kadyrov, he can rely on the Kremlin’s continued support.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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