Staunton, June 24 – As news spread last night that Yunus-Bek Yevkurov had requested that Vladimir Putin allow him to leave his position as head of Ingushetia, residents of that North Caucasus republic went into the streets to celebrate, sounding horns and setting off fireworks. But many are already expressing concerns about what may come next.
Yevkurov said he was requesting relief because of the deep split in Ingush society which he blamed on Ingush public organizations and the Muslim leadership of the republic, a dishonest euphemism for the split and protest he provoked by signing a border agreement with Chechnya and repressing all who opposed him (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/337060/).
But the Ingush are already looking beyond Yevkurov recognizing that unless the law is changed, their parliament will be forced to accept one of the candidates named by Putin, quite likely another Ingush but one like Yevkurov who had made his career beyond the borders of that North Caucasus republic and not willing to defend it against Moscow or Chechnya.
Opposition figures were unanimous in saying that their protests had led to Yevkurov’s withdrawal and so this event is victory, but they also said that his departure was only one of their three main demands. The others, restoration of direct popular election of the republic head and the release of all political prisoners, remain unfulfilled and may remain so.
Magomed Mutsolgov, an Ingush activist and blogger, said there was some reason for optimism. After all Yevkurov had departed as a result of public protest just as his predecessor was ousted in 2008 when Ingush went into the streets to condemn his violent attacks on Ingush opposition figures (kavkaz-uzel.eu/blogs/342/posts/38413).
“This shows,” he says, “that the effective source of power really is the people even when the powers that be do not recognize this or when the people themselves don’t believe it. Anyone sent by Moscow after Yevkurov should remember this and act accordingly – otherwise, Mutsolgov said, he will suffer the fate of his predecessors, an early ouster.
Yevkurov has apparently tried to offer his resignation before, and Putin’s press spokesman even called his latest offer “expected,” yet another indication that the entire process has been stage-managed by the Kremlin rather than being the personal decision of Yevkurov alone (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/337090/).
It appears that the proximate cause of Yevkurov’s action was a Moscow conference on Ingushetia that had been scheduled for June 25. At such a meeting, his relations with the republic’s population could have been expected to be sharply criticized. With his departure, the meeting has been cancelled (zamanho.com/?p=9735).
Some commentators are already speculating about what Yevkurov’s resignation in the wake of massive protests means more generally. One has suggested that in the short term at least, his departure strengthens the hand of Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov who now will wield even more influence in Ingushetia than he did (rbc.ru/politics/24/06/2019/5d1106aa9a794772f8da1446