Unidentified men in civilian clothes disrupted a conference of the opposition A Just Russia party in Makhachkala on February 21 and assaulted and beat up the head of the party organization in Daghestan, Gadjimurad Omarov. In a video clip posted on YouTube, Omarov, his face visibly badly bruised, accused his “former friend and comrade-in-arms,” Republic of Daghestan head Ramazan Abdulatipov, of instigating the assault. Omarov has since returned via Chechnya to Moscow, where he said he is being treated for his injuries.
Meanwhile, Daghestan’s Interior Ministry has released a statement saying its officers went to the hotel where the conference was taking place because they had received a tip-off that there was a bomb in the building, which they evacuated and then searched with sniffer dogs, but failed to locate any explosive device. The statement noted media reports that Omarov had been hospitalized after being beaten and said it would “take measures in accordance with Russian law” on receipt of a complaint from the victim or formal notification from a hospital.
Omarov, who turns 53 on February 23, is a controversial figure who has reportedly switched his political allegiance more than once. He is an Avar, as is Abdulatipov. A trained lawyer, Omarov was a professional Komsomol activist prior to the collapse of the U.S.S.R., then worked for a time for the oil company Dagneft, which was headed until his untimely death in a Moscow automobile crash in December 2013 by another Avar, Gadji Makhachev. Both Omarov and Makhachev were elected to the Russian State Duma in 1999.
In June 2012, Omarov was named by A Just Russia’s leadership to head the party’s Daghestan organization, having reportedly previously been affiliated first with Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and then with the ruling Unified Russia party. (Commenting on Omarov’s appointment, one Daghestani blogger described him as “a top-quality opportunist.”)
Omarov attributed his appointment to the party leadership’s displeasure that its Daghestan chapter had covertly backed candidates from United Russia in the elections to Daghestan’s National Assembly one year earlier.
A Just Russia is the second-largest faction in the republican parliament, with 13 of the 90 mandates. Omarov said in an interview two months ago, however, that those law-makers owe their mandates to Abdulatipov’s predecessor as republic head, Magomedsalam Magomedov, who “made them into an offshoot of the party of power.”
Omarov acknowledged nonetheless that he has reasonable working relations with all members of the faction except for one of its leaders, whom he declined to name. (He may have meant Kamil Davdiyev, whose positive assessments of the republic’s leadership are quoted regularly by Daghestan’s state-controlled media. When Omarov was appointed to head A Just Russia’s Daghestan branch in June 2012, Davdiyev threatened to quit the party in protest.)
In that same interview, Omarov divulged that his party is trying to collect 50,000 signatures to a petition demanding Abdulatipov’s resignation. He said he cannot see anything good in what Abdulatipov has done since being named republic head in January 2013: On the contrary, the republic is virtually bankrupt and corruption has increased. He further pointed out that since Abdulatipov does not control the “power” ministries, he cannot take any credit for the decline in the activity of the North Caucasus insurgency’s Daghestan wing.
At the same time, Omarov voiced clear regret that a man who had been his close friend, and whom he had personally assured the Russian presidential administration was the most suitable candidate for the post of republic head, had changed so much. “For 20 years I knew him as one person, and now he is a completely different person,” Omarov said.
Omarov returned to that theme in the video clip filmed after he was beaten up. Addressing Abdulatipov, Omarov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had sent him to Daghestan to lift the region out of crisis and to give the population a respite from corruption, jobs, and a decent life, but Abdulatipov has failed to meet those expectations.
-- Liz Fuller