Tuesday, December 17, 2019

North Caucasus Plenipotentiary Behind ‘Storming of Ingushetia,’ Buzrtanov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 15 – Ingush routinely pace primary responsibility for the repressive moves in their republic on Magas or Moscow, but Portal Six commentator Akhmed Burztanov argues that, as Moscow’s agent in the region, North Caucasus presidential plenipotentiary Aleksandr Matovnikov is playing the primary role in “the storming of Ingushetia.”

            The plenipotentiary is not only doing what Moscow wants and imposing its will on Ingush republic leaders but taking actions on his own that reflect his own background and are designed to boost his position as Moscow’s “governor general” of the entire region, the commentator says (6portal.ru/posts/матовников-как-руководитель-штурма-и/#more-780).

            And consequently, the level and kind of repression Matovnikov has taken the lead in imposing in Ingushetia is likely to be repeated in other republics in the federal district unless his actions in Ingushetia have taught everyone else the lesson that similar protests will not be tolerated, Burztanov continues.   

            The militarization of all Russian politics “(if one includes in this phenomenon not only the military but also those from the FSB, MVD and even FSO,” is increasingly in evidence, but it is most obvious in the case of the North Caucasus and was so even before the North Caucasus FD was carved out of the Southern FD.

            At first, that did not seem to be the case. Moscow named as its first plenipotentiary there Aleksandr Khloponin who seemed to give preference to civic and economic officials. But after his term, all the plenipotentiaries in the North Caucasus FD have  been siloviki, with each reflecting a different quality of that category of people.
            The first of these was Sergey Melikov, a colonel general who had been deputy head of the National Guard; the second, Oleg Belaventsev, a retired vice admiral who was expelled from London on charges of speying, and now, Matovnikov, a lieutenant general of internal troops and “a classical ‘,” Burztanov says.

            The current plenipotentiary not only was involved in the storming of the hospital in Budenovsk and the Nord-Ost theater in Moscow but was involved in operations in Beslan, both Chechen campaigns and most recently in Syria. For his services in the last, Matovnikov was decorated by Vladimir Putin.

            And while he may now be in a civilian position, the plenipotentiary has made it clear in interviews (see tass.ru/region-officials/5702449) that he views himself first and foremost as an Alpha force operative whose first task is to crush any opposition to the Kremlin, the Portal Six commentator says.

            According to Valery Khatazhukov, a rights activist in Kabardino-Balkaria, Matovnikov’s role shows that “the Kremlin is bringing back its colonial approach to the North Caucasus” and Matovnikov has taken that to mean that he should behave like tsarist general Yermolov and crush any dissent without pity. Ingushetia was his first chance to do so – after Yunus-Bek Yevkurov failed.

            Since 1991, Ingushetia has been a problem for Moscow because its people have retained their “republic spirit.” The opposition is organized and has ties with the opposition Yabloko party. The Muslim hierarchy may be traditional but it has sided with the people. And the Council of Teips has become almost an alternative governing body.

            Just how “anomalous” this all is can be seen if one compares it with neighboring Chechnya where none of these things are true. And consequently, Burztanov continues, no one should be surprised by periodic suggestions that the two Vaynakh republics should be combined so the “good” one can bring order to the “bad.”

            Some Ingush consider Matovnikov “ineffective” in implementing Moscow’s policies because he has radicalized the opposition, “but if one looks at this from another point of view,” that may be wrong: the plenipotentiary is carrying out an operation not just against the opposition in Ingushetia but against all Ingush society.

            Radicalizing the opposition to justify crushing it is an obvious step for someone with Matovnikov’s background, the commentator argues; and now one can expect him to try to force the Ingush to accept the borders with North Ossetia and even the dominance of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov over Ingushetia.

            In this situation, Burztanov says, the Ingush must “preserve their unity and not allow such plans to be carried out.”

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