The present situation in Ingushetia is comparable to recent events in Chechnya, as well as the Soviet Union in the 1930s, where ordinary people lived in daily terror. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, returned last week from the region, and shared these conclusions with the Novye Izvestiya newspaper (interview below).
“If this practice is not stopped today, it will soon spread to the whole country,” Alexeyeva said. The human rights leader was referring to the constant “disappearances,” abductions, and murders of ordinary people in the North Caucasus region.
Alexeyeva also speaks about the murder of opposition leader Magomed Yevloyev, who was killed in police custody on August 31st. Yevloyev, who ran the Ingushetiya.ru news portal, died of a gunshot wound to the head after he was detained by security forces at the Magas airport. His website has since conducted their own investigation of the events leading to his death, and has published a list of the 14 people they consider responsible.
The list is topped by Ingush president Murat Zyazikov and includes a series of other high-ranking government officials. Yevloyev’s family had earlier called for a blood feud against those responsible for the murder. Since then, one of Zyazikov’s cousins, Bekhan Zyazikov, was killed when his Mercedes came under fire in Nazran.
Alexeyeva was interviewed by Novye Izvestiya on September 22nd.
Lyudmila Mikhailovna, you talked with Murat Zyazikov, the president of the republic. What did you speak about?
- I asked Zyazikov why innocent, peaceful people who are not involved in armed combat are killed so often in Ingushetia. He said that these arrests are not performed by Ingush authorities, but by Federal ones. These people are driven to Vladikavkaz, and he is not a position to track them, because this is a different republic. After this, I met with the Minister of Internal Affairs, and with Ingushetia’s public prosecutor, and they confirmed that the federal authorities are engaged in the abductions.
You spoke with relatives of people who were abducted. Are they also convinced that these were operations by the federal authorities?
- Yes, they also said that these were, most likely, not Ingush authorities, but federal ones. And I had the chance to confirm this, because on the evening of September 17th, I got a call at the home where I was staying, and was told, that there was a “zachistka” [lit. cleansing] happening on one of the streets. I immediately drove there with Valery Borshchev, another member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. There were soldiers in masks. We weren’t allowed in. As we waited for the officer in charge, we spoke with the soldiers. They were all, undoubtedly, Russians, and there were evidently Muscovites among them, judging by their pronunciations and awareness. The superior presented himself as Vitaly Mikhailovich Ivashov, colonel in the Russian Army. He did not let us enter the house, and said that this was a special forces operation to neutralize terrorists, although there were no audible shots. Afterwards, we learned that they checked the paperwork of one person in this house, but that they left him, and did not take him away. The locals said that they didn’t take him because we had walked up. This was already the fourth time they had searched this house. The residents asserted that the first time, they took all the valuables and money from the house.
-The people who drove us there, meanwhile, called someone in the government, and told him that they were worried because we were gone for a long time. When we came out of there, the Minister of Internal Affairs, [Musa] Medov called me on my cell phone and said: “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll sent my guards.” They were scared that in the heat of the moment, we would also be arrested there. I asked Medov: why are you worried, if these are your people? And he replied: these are not my people, this is the FSB with its mobile squadron. I then asked what exactly a mobile squadron was, and I was explained that these are federal troops, who are located in Ingushetia for such operations.
If everything is like this, why doesn’t the president of the Republic raise this issue before the country’s leadership?
-You can ask Zyazikov about this.
Did you speak with the president about opposition meetings? Why are they dispersed by force?
-He believes that the opposition is directly tied with the terrorist underground that is killing Ingush militsiya officers and civil servants, including relatives of Zyazikov himself. I am convinced that this is not the case. The protest actions and signature collections are absolutely genuine. I would say that the atmosphere right now in Ingushetia is how it was in 1937, when every person went to bed not knowing if he would wake up in the morning in his own home, or if they would would be seized in the night, driven somewhere, tortured and then killed. The only difference between 1937 is that everyone was indiscriminately seized then, and now it is principally men aged 15 to 30.
Why them in particular?
-Evidently they believe that this age group is a reserve for terrorists. But by their actions, they are increasing the terrorist resistance, if it exists. I imagine myself in the place of a young person, an Ingush who lives in such fear. Maybe it would be better to go into the woods, go into the mountains and be calm knowing that you won’t be grabbed like a rabbit? Two, three, four people disappear in the republic every day, where the population is 450 thousand.
What do the authorities say about the murder of Magomed Yevloyev?
-They say it was an accident. I told Zyazikov, that not one person I met believes that Yevloyev’s death was a matter of chance. The president said: I am that first person, and I believe that this was a tragic accident.
Which version of events does the public prosecutor propose?
-The public prosecutor said, that besides the version of involuntary manslaughter, the versions of whether this was a political murder or a contract killing are being investigated.
Do Magomed Yevloyev’s relatives believe this investigation?
-I met with his father and uncle. They hold themselves very stoically, speak businesslike, without emotion. They are leading their own investigation, are confirming what they know from everyone who was in the car. They say that many people among the authorities are willingly giving information, asking that they are not referred to publicly. The criminal investigator told them that the summons Yevloyev allegedly received, which he allegedly did not appear at (this was why he taken from the plane for questioning as a witness), were prepared during the two hours before his death. That is to say, when they knew that he boarded this plane and was flying to Ingushetia. Now they are saying that this investigator will be suspended for abuse of authority. Why did he give a summons to bring Yevloyev in as a witness during a non-working day [Magomed Yevloyev was killed on Sunday, August 31st -NI]? He did not come to work on his own, he was called in, someone ordered him to do this. But if the investigator, even if illegally, wrote an order for detention on Sunday, then the order should in no case have been exercised by the guards of the Minister of Internal Affairs. They had their own people for this. But Medov, who was disrupted as he was at a wedding, came with his guards. Quickly, over the telephone he gathered his guards and came to [the airport] with them. This is a small republic after all, what happens there at night appears by day.
But declarations of blood feuds have already sounded…
-This was an emotional outcry. What kind of blood vengeance can they have? They are normal, educated people, who studied in Moscow. Yevloyev’s father and uncle, who are attending to this, they want to know who is guilty and put them on trial, as it should be in the 21st century.
Do the local residents support the opposition’s demands for the president’s resignation?
-No, they are asking that their loved ones be found. They frenetically say, as they said at the time in Chechnya: “We are not interested in social problems. Not housing, not unemployment, we somehow endure all this, if only people didn’t disappear.” Right now, this is the major nightmare and concern and problem. Am I going to ask them: what about Zyazikov? I’m sick of this Zyazikov, the people have different concerns. I brought a whole bag full of declarations [describing abductions], with which I plan to go to the head of the Southern Federal District, [Vladimir] Ustinov, to find out once and for all, where these people are located. If they are being driven out to Vladikavkaz, and Zyazikov doesn’t know, then the head of the SFD must know, because Vladikavkaz is also in his jurisdiction.
translation by theotherrussia.org