Residents of a village in Ingushetia may have provided the Kremlin with the perfect pretext for removing Republic of Ingushetia President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Earlier this week, they addressed a formal complaint
to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that one of Yevkurov's relatives extorted 5 million rubles ($162,011) from them under false pretences.
Ruslan Yevkurov, 33, reportedly showed up in Dalakovo in June and introduced himself as an employee of the republican Ministry for Economic Development and Yunus-Bek's cousin. He told villagers that they qualified for grants for opening their own business, but that they would have to pay 15,000 rubles
($487) up front to expedite paperwork and the cost of a qualified lawyer.
Between 300 and 400 families jumped at that opportunity, which is not surprising given that Ingushetia has one of the highest unemployment rates in Russia
-- almost 54 percent.
Ruslan Yevkurov was arrested on November 17 and formally charged with extortion. At a face-to-face meeting with his victims, he pledged to return their money, which he said he had planned to use to open his own business
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov has sought to distance himself from the incident, telling the Russian daily "Izvestia" that Ruslan Yevkurov was a distant relative whom he had never actually met. He suggested that Ruslan Yevkurov might have been used by a criminal gang.
That hypothesis is unlikely to cut much ice either with the victims of the scan or with the population at large. One of the primary reasons why Yunus-Bek Yevkurov's initial popularity plummeted to the point that he is reportedly
just as resented and hated as his predecessor, Murat Zyazikov, is the widely held perception that he condones, or turns a blind eye to, corruption on the part of his relatives.
As of midday Prague time on November 18 no statement clarifying Yunus-Bek Yevkurov's official position on the incident had been posted on his official website. www.ingushetia.ru It may be a coincidence that mobile Internet access in Ingushetia has reportedly been disrupted for several days
, since the opposition website ingushetiyaru.org first publicized the scandal on November 16.