Staunton, September 13 – The way in which Russian officials are using the pandemic restrictions as a kind of Catch 22 against those who want to protest is on view today in the Ingush capital of Magas. There, officials denied an application by those who wanted to demonstrate in support of Malsag Uzhakhov, the head of the Union of Teips.
In doing so, the authorities said that any gathering would have to wear masks in conformity with restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus but that participants in such a meeting who wore masks would be arrested for hiding their faces in a public activity, an action that also violates the law (fortanga.org/2020/09/ne-soglasovali/).
The best the Ingush officials could offer was to suggest that those who want to demonstrate give up on that until the anti-coronavirus restrictions are lifted. At that time, they suggested, officials would be willing to consider applications. What this may mean is that some pandemic restrictions may be kept in place not to fight the virus but to fight the people.
The Ingush opposition has been punctilious in seeking to follow the rules governing demonstrations. But it is unclear what they will do now when confronted with a regime that tells them as far as taking part in protests is concerned, you’re damned if you wear a mask and you’re damned if you don’t.
At least some voices may be raised against following the directives of the people in power given that the latter seem committed not to following any constitutional rules but rather to creating a situation in which the authorities always get what they want and the Ingush people never do.
The focus of concern behind this effort to organize a protest, Malsag Uzhakhov, remains in detention for taking part in the March 2019 protests against the border deal with Chechnya that cost Ingushetia ten percent of its territory. All of the hearings in this case have occurred not in Ingushetia but in Russia’s Stavropol Kray.