Friday, October 19, 2018

Ingushetia’s Constitutional Court to Consider Legality of Ingush-Chechen Border Accord

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 18 – Ingushetia’s Constitutional Court has agreed to consider whether the border accord Yunus-Bek Yevkurov signed with Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov is legal. Its hearing will take place on October 25; and its outcome is not a foregone conclusion: its head has called for a referendum on the accord ( and

            Even though the protesters did not return to the Magas square today, the issue remains an explosive one, with commentators discussing what has in fact happened in Ingushetia, where such things might spread, and how the peoples of the North Caucasus should act to avoid continuing to be exploited by Moscow.

            In a comment to Israeli television, Avraam Shmulyevich, a specialist on the North Caucasus touches on many of these issues. His remarks thus serve as a matrix into which the other discussions now and likely in the coming days can be fit ( ).

                Shmulyevich says that it is a mistake to see the border accord as the result of the independent action of Ramzan Kadyrov.  He points to the fact that when the agreement was signed, the plenipotentiary representative of Vladimir Putin for the North Caucasus Federal District was in attendance.

            At the very least, that suggests that the Kremlin approved what Kadyrov did. More likely, the Israeli analyst continues, this means that Kadyrov was doing exactly what Moscow wanted and that the center hoped to provoke a violent reaction so that it would be in a position to exploit it.

            However, the Kremlin may not have expected that 80 percent of the leading social figures in Ingushetia would come out in opposition and conduct protests for two weeks. Even though those have now been suspected, “the situation continues to remain in its hot stage” and Moscow may still use force to crush the protesters and proceed to more regional amalgamation.

            And it may be significant in that regard that two days before the signing of the accord, Moscow launched a major military exercise in North Ossetia near the Ingush border.  Some of the units involved even appear to have been moving into Daghestan which put them in a position to go into Ingushetia from two directions.

            It remains very difficult to predict what will happen next, Shmulyevich says. Moscow almost certainly wanted to spark something; but it is entirely possible that it did not realize what it had started and may now be rethinking the situation.

            According to the analyst, the next developments in the North Caucasus may be within Chechnya. That is because Cossacks in Stavropol kray have now begun to speak about reclaiming for themselves the two districts of Chechnya which were transferred from the kray to the Chechen Republic in the 1950s. The Cossacks need land and see the fact that the situation is now in motion as a time to get it.

            Shmulyevich says he suspects that Moscow is also behind this given that senior Russian officials are involved with this particular group of Cossacks. They may want to use the latter to rein in Kadyrov – or at the very least to warn him that Moscow won’t tolerate any independent action – or even to trigger the regional amalgamation Putin has long sought.

            He says that conflicts in the North Caucasus are “continuing to spread,” another indication either of the Kremlin’s intentions or its miscalculations.  It may be that Putin hopes not only to put Kadyrov in his place and to subsume North Caucasus republics under Russian regions but to use this as the trigger for constitutional reform.

                Both regional amalgamation and constitutional reform have been the subjects of the limited Moscow coverage of the North Caucasus, Shmulyevich says, with the latter getting more because any constitutional revisions could set the stage for new arrangements that would allow Putin to remain in power in an entirely “legitimate” way.

            The Israeli commentator concludes with the following observation. In the period before the collapse of the USSR, the Soviet leadership made use of “a beloved tactic of the Bolsheviks: first, create a conflict, and then resolve it.”  In his words, “sometimes this tactic works and sometimes not.”  What will be the case with Ingushetia remains to be seen.

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