The Landmark Murder of Maksharip Aushev

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Writing for Yezhednevny Zhurnal, journalist Yulia Latynina chronicles the events leading up to Sunday’s murder of Ingush opposition leader Maksharip Aushev. Aushev was on his way to visit family when assailants sprayed his vehicle with machine gun fire.

The Ingush President has pledged full support for the investigation, but his ability to control the violence in Ingushetia is in doubt.

The Russian republic of Ingushetia borders Chechnya in the North Caucasus. Ingush security forces in charge of controlling spillover insurgent violence are blamed for hundreds of kidnappings and extrajudicial murders, but are rarely investigated.

“They killed this man two hours ago, but he walks among us here on film.”
Yulia Latynina
October 26, 2009
Yezhednevny Zhurnal

On Sunday, October 25, 2009, in the North Caucasian city of Nalchik, one of the most influential people in the Republic of Ingushetia was killed – Maksharip Aushev; the killers peppered his car with machine guns. It happened on the day after Maksharip appeared on Marianna Maksimovskaya’s REN TV news show and gave a piercing indictment of former republic president Murat Zyazikov.

“Nobody has established yet who to suspect,” said Yakhya Aushev, Maksharip’s father. “You could get bogged down in the fact that he just recently was speaking out against Zyazikov. Not long ago, a team from REN TV was photographing their [the Zyazikovs’] mansions, and there was an incident with Ruslanbek Zyazikov. It was as if there were forces hunting him down.”

Ruslanbek Zyazikov is the cousin and former chief security detail of former president Zyazikov.

“I have a feeling it’s because of us,” says Marianna Maksimovskaya. “Maksharip saved our film crew literally ten days ago.”

Leonid Kanfer’s film crew was shooting a story in Ingushetia on the corruption of the former president. Among other things, they filmed their mansions in the village of Barsuki. When the film crew returned to the hotel, armed men came for them.

“They beat up the driver. Ruslanbek Zyazikov beat him personally,” said Maksimovskaya. “Our journalists called Maksharip, he arrived by himself, drew out a Stechkin [automatic pistol], and in Ruslanbek’s eyes brought out our cameraman and correspondent to the presidential administration, where they their testimony was taken.”

On Maksimovskaya’s program, Maksharip had said that the republic’s old leadership gave money to militants and sabotaged the actions of the new president; he gave as an example the fate of Construction Minister Ruslan Amerkhanov. According to Maksharip, he was appointed by new president Yevkurov and shot in his own office after refusing to continue business as usual.

Two hours after Maksharip’s murder, a rerun was aired of “The Week with Marianna Maksimovskaya.” “They killed a man, but he walks among us here on film.”

Two people managed to remove former President Zyazikov: the first owner of, Magomed Yevloyev, and the second owner of the site, Maksharip Aushev. Both are dead.

Warnings and Tanks

The site had reported on September 12 about plans to murder Maksharip. “The would-be murder was commissioned to a member of one of the ORB-2 units to be committed at the moment of Aushev’s departure outside the republic,” the site asserted [ORB-2 (Operations and Search Bureau) is a federal police bureau in Chechnya accused of flagrant and widespread violations of the law, including torture of civilian detainees].

Maksharip was stopped three days later on September 15 at the post office, alongside which stood federal BTR tanks and Gazelle light trucks. Men from the BTR attempted to apprehend Maksharip, but were beat off by friends and chance bystanders – including the vice chairman of the government of the republic.

Having barely escaped, Maksharip phoned the president of the republic, Yunus-bek Yevkurov. The president called the security forces to a meeting the next day. It became clear that the BTR had been placed so as to not fall within view of any cameras. However, authorities now assert that had been a routine security check, and that Maksharip, who had been warned about plans of an attempt on his life, simply lost his nerves. Furthermore, he for some reason presented the Russian inspectors with his son’s identification, and not his own.

Forty days later he was shot.

How Maksharip Became Engaged in Politics

Maksharip Aushev was not a professional politician. He became engaged in politics after a “death squad” abducted his nephew Magomed on June 17, 2007. Magomed was taken out to the forest, tortured by being shot point-blank while standing in a waist-deep hole (first being outfitted with two bulletproof vests), and then freed upon signing an agreement of cooperation. Instead of cooperating, Magomed submitted a written statement to the prosecutor’s office.

After that, Magomed was of course doomed, and was abducted once again on September 18, 2007. As he had been together in the car with Maksharip’s son – his cousin – both were abducted.

They were tortured for several hours in the Chechnyan village of Goyty, and afterwards brought to the mountains for “snickers” – a practice in which a murdered corpse is bound with explosives and blown up; animals eat up the scattered pieces of meat, and the person disappears without a trace.

While they were being tortured, however, Maksharip assembled a rally in the city of Nazran. The authorities spooked and freed the Aushev boys.

Maksharip began to investigate who had abducted his son and nephew, and determined that it was Urus-Martan District Department of Interior Ministry Chief Ramzan Dzhamalkhanov, who it appears was acting on order of the Ingush Interior Minister Musa Medov – in any event, it was after a personal phone call from Medov to Dzhamalkhanov that the boys were freed.

Whatever the relationship was between the Aushev family and regional militants (and at that time, thanks to the activity of president Zyazikov and his “death squads,” the militants had sympathy or approval from practically everyone besides their targets), it is important to note that Maksharip was actually a legal oppositionist. He did not run off to search through the forest; he investigated the kidnapping of his son, made the results public, and demanded the resignation of Zyazikov. He did what befits a father and a man, and he would not have gotten into politics if politics had not gotten into him.

In the Caucasus, where yesterday’s terrorists now lead anti-terrorism detachments, where family ties mean more than beliefs, and reputation means even more than family ties, Maksharip was one of the central figures in negotiations between the authorities and the militants; or at that time, if I may, between the authorities and the people.

As a legal oppositionist, Maksharip was a thorn in the side of the authorities. He was arrested on February 14, 2008, and the circumstances of this arrest were truly fantastical. Several dozen people accompanied by two BTR tanks arrived at Aushev’s village of Surkhakh, incinerated the house of his brother with a grenade launcher, and sat in wait for Maksharip to arrive on the scene. Maksharip did come, but so many people were with him that the men decided not to arrest him. They sat in ambush until evening, when Maksharip returned alone.

The authorities, however, made a strategic mistake: they had not dared to kill Maksharip immediately upon his arrest. The plan fell to pieces. This mistake was corrected for the following notorious murder – that of Maksharip’s friend and ally, owner Magomed Yevloyev.

The Murder of Magomed Yevloyev

On August 31, 2008, owner Magomed Yevloyev flew from Moscow to Ingushetia and by accidental coincidence wound up sitting in business class with President Zyazikov.

A quarrel arose between Zyazikov and Yevloyev, and Yevloyev left for a different cabin. According to the investigation undertaken by Yevloyev’s relatives, President Zyazikov called his chief of security and cousin Ruslanbek Zyazikov immediately after the argument and ordered him to take care of Magomed.

Ruslanbek then set out to find Ibragim Yevloyev, chief of security for Interior Minister Musa Medov, who had been at a wedding at the house of Medov’s uncle. Ruslanbek, Musa and Ibragim met Magomed Yevloyev at the airport; Magomed was dragged out of the cabin and put in a Volga armored car.

Seeing what was going on, Yevloyev’s armed followers – who were also Aushev’s – took off after him, but went for the wrong part of the motorcade. They were able to cut two armored Volgas away from the motorcade, dragged out Medov’s guards, and began to beat them. They cried out that “the blood is not on us!” which Aushev thought referred to the guards’ previously victims. In fact, it referred to Magomed Yevloyev. It seems that Ibragim Yevloyev shot Magomed in cold blood in the temple even before the motorcade left the airport.

The investigation of this murder itself became possible when the victim’s father, Yakhya Yevloyev, declared blood vengeance on Zyazikov. Almost immediately, participants of the murder, including the chief of police and President Zyazikov himself, came out of the woodwork and began dumping blame for the crime on each other. Topping of the list of Yevloyev’s murderers, published on, is Ingush President Murat Zyazikov.

Ten days after Magomed Yevloyev’s murder, Ruslan Zyazikov’s brother Bekkhan was shot by unknown assailants. It is important to note that Ruslan Zyazikov is the son of Uruskhan Zyazikov, who was kidnapped by militants on March 23, 2007. It was precisely after this abduction that “death squads” began abducting anyone who could possibly be to blame. A five million dollars ransom was apparently paid for Uruskhan.

The murder of Magomed Yevloyev was more than the Kremlin could tolerate. Zyazikov was removed two months later, and named in his place was Yunus-bek Yevkurov.

Yevkurov’s Appointment

That there is disorder and lawlessness in Ingushetia has long since been obvious. But the depth of the rot that was discovered when Yevkurov’s took office simply cannot be described. reported, for example, on the following incident: in December of last year in the central mosque of Nazran, around three thousand people had gathered, demanding that Ruslanbek Zyazikov return stolen budget money and swear on the Koran that he had not given the money to militants. Ruslanbek did not go to the mosque, but he did admit to a crowd that showed up outside his house that he had paid militants thirty million rubles a month to not harm his relatives.

The strategy of the new president was utterly severe: forgive those who may be forgiven, and kill those who had ought to be killed. And no corruption.

Yevkurov’s strategy split the opposition. Oppositionist Kaloy Akhilgov became press secretary for the new president. But oppositionist Magomed Khazbiev, a close friend of Maksharip, continued to indict Yevkurov as a murderer.

The strategy split not only the opposition, but also the militants and the security forces. Paradoxically, these latter two implacable opponents had one thing in common: they both favored a continuation of uncontrolled violence – the militants, because it builds a base for Islamic revolution, and the security forces, because it makes it so easy to earn stars for one’s uniform. They, as well as others still, needed for the deciding tool in the republic to be the axe of the slaughterer, not the knife of the surgeon. For them, violence that was targeted or deemed necessary would not be sufficient.

If militants have left Zyazikov untouched (which you’d figure, for 30 million rubles a month), then Yevkurov, having taken it upon himself to root out corruption and uncontrolled violence, now faces assassination attempts that have befallen him as if from a bucket. The first of these attempts was preceded by a fully incomprehensible – but undoubtedly very historically important – special operation on December 6, 2008. On that day in the town of Barsuki, another Magomed Aushev (please excuse the abundance of Aushevs in this story), right-hand man of the chief of Ingush militants in the village of Magas, was killed. Although actually, while Aushev was thought to be dead, he was really hiding in Barsuki (Zyazikov’s native city). He also at that time apparently had negotiations with President Yevkurov concerning possible surrender, as well as about a meeting that Maksharip Aushev would mediate.

Because of these negotiations, word spread by phone that Magomed Aushev had been killed by federal troops, who subsequently killed his brother Adam. Militants grabbed hold of the incident to blame the “kafir and apostates” of Yevkurov in the entire matter, and assassination attempts came one after another. It was a miracle that the heavily wounded Yevkurov survived after guards dragged him from his blazing car in June.

While Yevkurov lay in the hospital, a suicide bomber blew up a local police station in Nazran. The terrorist act shocked the Kremlin. Medvedev fired then-new Ingush Police Chief Meyriev and appointed Deputy Interior Minister Arkady Yedelev as coordinator for all security agencies in the Caucasus. The appointment was very strange, considering the reputation Yedelev enjoyed in the Caucasus. He is considered a man close to Chechen President Kadyrov and a patron of Musa Medov, that same former Ingush Chief of Police who figures in at number two after President Zyazikov on the list of Magomed Yevloyev’s murderers.

The murder of Maksharip Aushev is testimony to the fact that, aside from obvious discrepancies between Ingush President Yevkurov and the militants on the creation of a Caucasus Emirate, there exists another less obvious but very deep discrepancy between President Yevkurov and part of the former elite – the part wanting violence and impunity.

The murder of Maksharip Aushev is not one of those murders where everything is immediately clear. Like Yakhya Yevloyev, father of the murdered Magomed, said to me on Sunday: “Tomorrow, information should come out.” But this is a landmark murder. Whether or not President Yevkurov can find Maksharip Aushev’s murderers will determine who is in control of the republic. And for Yevkurov, this question is one of life and death – politically and literally.