Staunton, February 2 – The Kremlin’s decision to sack Aleksandr Matovnikov as the presidential plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus Federal District appears to have given Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov more freedom of action and thus flexibility in dealing with his own people, according to Portal Six’s Akhmed Buzurtanov.
The commentator says that the clearest indication of this was the republic head’s press conference this week at which he declared that the issue of those who have been detained for protesting against his predecessors border accord with Chechnya is “not a taboo” for him (6portal.ru/posts/с-темы-ингушских-политзаключенных-дл/#more-988).
That unexpected remark represents a remarkable shift given that for the six months he has been in office, Kalimatov has studiously avoided making any comments about the detainees and the protests or meeting with any of the family members or lawyers of those now charged with resisting arrest or organizing an extremist organization.
His words do not necessarily mean there will be a change in direction, but they are likely to have two consequences: they will make it easier for those who want to raise the issue to do so because they will be able to cite him, and they will create expectations for change in the absence of which many will be even angrier than they are now.
Another comment Kalimatov made at his press conference is already having a result he may not like. The Ingush republic had said that it was important that the government solve the problem of providing housing for those Ingush displaced persons who had to flee the Prigorodny district or Chechnya in the 1990s (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/345410/).
Instead of reassuring this group, his words have further angered them; and leaders of the DPs say they are going to launch a media campaign to get support from the international community. That is not the kind of attention Kalimatov wants unless he can find a way to use this threat to extract additional resources from Moscow to address this neuralgic problem.