Why the Kremlin allowed Kadyrov to carry out “a mini-‘Crimea is ours’” operation and take part of the land from a neighboring republic is “a complicated question,” Pavlenko says. It is possible that Moscow fears that this is the lesser evil in a situation in which Kadyrov could destabilize the North Caucasus in other ways.
Or it may be that Putin needs Kadyrov for so many other tasks, including seizing portions of Ukraine or developing ties with the Saudis, that the Kremlin felt it had no choice but to go along. Or it may be that Putin isn’t willing to tell Kadyrov that the Chechen leader can’t seize some one else’s territory given that that is exactly what the Kremlin leader has done.
As for Yevkurov, she continues, it seems clear that he felt he had to go along lest Kadyrov demand even more, although the Ingush leader conceded far more territory and oil-rich territory at that to Chechnya than he got in return. And as a result, “the situation developed further along the lines of a Ukrainian scenario,” with the Maidan in Magas.
There has been one significant difference: the Ingush appealed to Moscow to intervene; but the Kremlin washed its hands of the matter, insisting that the territorial transfer was something the two republics should deal with on their own. That attitude only made the situation worse as far as the Ingush were concerned.
They and “not without basis fear that the territorial pretensions of neighboring Chechnya are only part of another, more global plan for the restoration of a single Chechen-Ingush republic which existed before the disintegration of the USSR.” Chechen suggestions that the two nations are in fact “one people,” another echo of the Crimean case, only feed such fears.
“The Caucasus traditionally is a quite explosive place, and any conflict here threatens to grow over into bloody clashes,” Pavlenko says. That prompted delegations from neighboring republics to flood into Ingushetia in the hopes of calming things down. But Kadyrov holds a trump card: he alone has his own 30,000-man armed force.
That makes the situation extremely dangerous for the Ingush, the Ukrainian expert says, because it is not clear that Moscow is prepared to put its own forces in play as long as Kadyrov is involved – and as long as Moscow is avoiding any coverage of what is going on between Chechnya and Ingushetia.
It certainly appears, Pavlenko argues, that Moscow hopes the Ingush will simply get tired of protesting and will fall in line with what Kadyrov wants. But “the land question is very sharp in the North Caucasus as is the question of honor and dignity.” Unless pressed by Moscow, Kadyrov isn’t going to back down – and that appears unlikely.
Consequently, Pavlenko says, the Russian authorities are likely to try to ease the situation by replacing Yevkurov and his team or by seeking to divide the Ingush opposition by playing up divisions within it. How successful Moscow will be with either step remains unclear at least at present.
What all this shows, the Kyiv analyst concludes, is that stability in Russia is very much a relative thing and that the protests in Magas over the past month like the Maidan in Ukraine four years ago promises to produce more “unexpected developments” in Russia itself.