Staunton, March 30 – In what may be the first but certainly will not be the last case of its type, Chechnya’s decision to close its borders in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the already tense relations between that republic and neighboring Ingushetia and even more between Chechens and Ingush.
The Chechen action has had two direct effects so far: It has blocked a highway out of Ingushetia producing a many kilometers-long line at the border, and it has forced the Moscow-Grozny flight to land in Magas (novayagazeta.ru/news/2020/03/27/160168-aeroport-groznogo-otkazalsya-prinimat-passazhirov-s-propiskoy-za-predelami-chechni).
Both are infuriating the Ingush but the second especially so. That is because while it is entirely reasonable for a republic to defend itself against an epidemic, it is not reasonable to have it defend it in such a way that it harms its neighbors as this does, allowing potentially infected people to pass through their territory (fortanga.org/2020/03/zhiteli-ingushetii-nedovolny-skopleniem-tranzitnyh-passazhirov-iz-chechni-v-usloviyah-epidemii/).
And this rerouting of flights could not have happened without Moscow’s support and Magas’s acquiescence, further angering the Ingush at both. One Ingush told Fortanga that apparently it is all right for Ingush to be exposed to the deadly virus as long as the Chechens are protected.
At present, two flights a day that had been going to Grozny are now going to Magas. The airport gets landing fees, but no one is protecting the airport workers against possible exposure beyond the distribution of some hand sanitizer. Moreover and more worrisome, no one is decontaminating the gates through which the Grozny passengers pass or the facilities they use.
And no one, not Chechen passengers or Ingush workers, is maintaining the recommended social distance to avoid becoming infected.
According to the Fortanga portal, “the Ingush segment of the Internet has literally exploded with expressions of dissatisfaction about what is taking place.” One Ingush said that his nation had always tried to help the Chechens, even in the 1990s, out of a sense of fraternity. But the land deal in September 2018 has changed all that.
Another said that “no oblast or republic has ‘self-isolated’ itself the way Chechnya has. Perhaps, Kadyrov wants to isolate himself from Russia? His predecessors in the 1990s made such an effort. But now is a critical moment – oil prices are falling, there is an economic crisis and the pandemic, plus Putin’s attempt to rewrite the constitution.”
The temptation for Kadyrov to do so much be “great,” the author of the post says. After all, he’s already limited entrance by special passes.
In reporting this, the Fortanga portal says that “the silence of the authorities of Ingushetia in this situation is surprising. We ask them to consider this material an official request” for a response and for Magas to tell the Ingush people what it is doing to reduce the threat from others coming in from the outside.