Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ingush Congress Calls on Putin to Annul Border Accord, Restore Elections for Republic Head

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – The World Congress of the Ingush People adopted a resolution calling on Vladimir Putin to annul the border agreement reached by Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov on September 26, whose approval the Ingush Constitutional Court has now said violated the republic’s constitution.

            Ingush representatives from other countries and other regions took the lead in pushing for this declaration, an indication of the caution that even those within the republic who have organized the protests in the past and the congress itself are now showing ( and One Taip leader in fact came out in opposition to such an appeal (

            The Kremlin responded by saying that the issue of the border accord is now under judicial consideration and therefore Putin will not take a position. Indeed, the Kremlin leader’s press spokesman did not even indicate whether Putin favors a review of the accord by the Russian Constitutional Court (

            Moscow’s reluctance to take a stand shows, some Russian analysts argue, that there are few good options available to it, given its desire to avoid offending Kadyrov. As a result, they say, the Ingush crisis is growing and will continue to do so until a final decision is made ( and

            Lawyers both in Moscow and Magas are now discussing the issue, with some wondering whether the Russian Supreme Court will review the accord at all – the court itself has not shown its hand -- and what precedents it might invoke if it does ( and

            Meanwhile, today in Magas, the protesters assembled once again but then went home early. Some say that the group wants to focus on the courts, while others insist the protest was suspended for a memorial service for those who died in the 1992 border conflict (, and

            Three other important developments over the last 24 hours included:

·         The Supreme Court of Ingushetia also took a decision that many will interpret as a rebuke to Yevkurov. It decided that the actions of officials against Ruslan Mutsolgov, a Yabloko member who has been active in organizing the demonstrations, violated the constitution (

·         Chechnya’s Kadyrov has painted himself into a corner with some as a result of the crisis. On the one hand, he has offended many Ingush by his heavy-handed approach to the border accord. And on the other, he has angered many Chechens who do not view the Ingush as a separate nation and therefore believe Grozny should treat them with more respect (

·         Environmentalists are warning that the border agreement is already having a negative impact on a protected area given that Chechen companies are already logging areas that their republic has been granted and that this is leading to the destruction of critical environments (

The fact that there is now a legal dispute has prompted the editors of the After Empire portal to suggest that Ingushetia is now in the midst of its own Maidan given that the original conflict in Ukraine was sparked by election disputes (

Three Troubling Trends in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 30 – In addition to almost losing its only aircraft carrier this week not to hostile action but to incompetence and corruption in the military-industrial sector, the continuation of a long tradition extending back to at least 1905 as Richard Hough describes in The Fleet that Had to Die, Russia was confronted by reports of three other troubling trends:

            First of all, Russians are falling into what Moscow media call “debt slavery” when they report instances of this in other countries.  In the first half of this year, Russians took out 68.3 billion rubles (one billion US dollars) in new loans to cover payments on ones they already had (

                That figure is 70 percent greater than during the same period in 2017 and suggests that Russians are going ever more deeply in debt to try to maintain their standards of living during the deepening economic crisis. In addition to this figure, Russians are refinancing existing loans at an increasing rate as well.

            Second, Russia’s demographic decline is accelerating, with the number of births down 5.2 percent during the first nine months of this year compared to the same period a year ago and deaths up by a small amoount, leading so a natural decline of 173,000 in the total population ( and

                Most of the decline in the number of births reflects the fall in the number of women in prime child-bearing age cohort, but some is the product of individual decisions to put off having a family because of economic problems. The increase in the number of deaths is mostly the result of the aging of the population but some may reflect Putin’s health “optimization” program.

            And third, just where Russia is economically or demographically is becoming ever more difficult to say, experts explain because of what they call the “unprecedented” even for Russia manipulation of official statistics to support whatever position those in power want to promote (

                That troubling trend, perhaps most clearly exemplified by Russian government claims that incomes are going up when Russians can see in their own cases and those of the people around them that that is not the case, the Nakanune press agency says.  But it is unfortunately not limited to that measure but increasingly affects all others.

            Not only does the corruption of the numbers undermine any remaining confidence among Russians that officials are telling them the truth, but it means that the government is often making decisions not on the basis of facts but rather on its own propaganda.  Good information, of course, won’t guarantee good policy; but a lack of it makes good policy an accident.  

            Just how sloppy and dangerous the absence of good data can be is reflected in the current Putin practice of blaming the 1990s for demographic decline on some occasions and ignoring the impact of that decade when it suits him (