Saturday, October 5, 2019

One Year After Protests Began, Ingushetia Only Looks Quiet, Activists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 4 – On October 4, 2018, Ingush started their protests against the border agreement former republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov signed with Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov that gave away 26,000 hectares of the republic’s land. Now, a year later, many signs of the clash have disappeared; but leaders of the protest remain in prison and the Ingush people remain angry.

            “At first glance,” Ruslan Mutsolgov, head of the Yabloko branch in Ingushetia, the situation appears “peaceful. In Magas and other cities there are no obvious intensified patrols or block posts and units of the Russian Guard sent to Ingushetia in the spring apparently have been withdrawn (ингушетия-спустя-год-после-протестов-конфликт-исчерпан/a-50691055).

            “But on the whole, the situation today can be characterized as the deepest social-political crisis,” especially since so many leaders remain behind bars facing serious jail sentences and the new republic head Makkhmud-Ali Kalimatov has shown no sign that he intends to change course and address the issues animating the population.

            Indeed, if anything given the hopes that Yevkurov’s depatrtue and Kalimatov’s installation inspired, the situation may be even worse now than it was a few months ago because many Ingush are losing hope that their strategy of peaceful protest within the law will ultimately generate a positive response from the authorities.

            Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, a close observer of the Ingush scene, adds that “the protests in Ingushetia have been unprecedented in size not only in the republics but in Russia as a whole. For the first time, there was a split in the political elites, for the first time, siloviki refused to obey orders to use force against demonstrators, and for the first time, the republic parliament stood up on the side of the protesters” rather than the executive power. 

“The federal authorities were able to decapitate and suppress the protests,” she continues, “but to say that the conflict has been exhausted by this is wrong. The Ingush have a term ‘sabr’ which means the ability to wait. The protest has quieted down because people understand that for the time being, they won’t be able to achieve anything with this group in power.”

The Ingush people see that the Kremlin supports the land deal in Chechnya’s favor, Sokiryanskaya says; and they are trying to figure out how they can do everything that is possible in these conditions and wait until the possibility appears to again raise this issue.”

Three developments in the last 24 hours suggest that there is enough going on that a new wave of protests may not be beyond the mountains. First, the Ingush police have protested the installation of an outsider from Stavropol as their new head, an action that may make unit cohesion even more difficult to maintain (  and

Second, support for Zarifa Sautiyeva, the only woman activist now imprisoned for her part in the Ingush protests, continues to grow not only across the North Caucasus and the Russian Federation but internationally, with thousands of people, including prominent artists and cultural figures, now speaking out on her behalf (

And third, lest anyone forget about the fate of the prisoners, the MBK news agency has issued a new analysis showing that 22 of those now in detention face ten years in prison if they are convicted, even though the news agency notes that any convictions will be political rather than based on any real evidence of wrongdoing (

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