Staunton, June 26 – A year ago today, the Kremlin named Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov head of Ingushetia, replacing the discredited and disgraced Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Many Ingush hoped for improvements in all sectors, but they have been disappointed. Kalimatov hasn’t addresses the republic’s main political issues at all and he has signally failed to improve the economy there.
Moscow may be satisfied with his approach, commentators say, because at least he hasn’t faced the mass protests Yevkurov did. But ever more Ingush are angry, although as one Ingush has observed, as bad as Kalimatov has turned out to be, “it’s difficult to hate anyone more than Yevkurov” (dailystorm.ru/vlast/god-v-teni-evkurova).
Three commentaries, one by the Ingush Fortanga portal, a second by a regional analyst, and a third by a Moscow analyst, all make the same point: Kalimatov’s first year has seen many changes in the ranks of the powers that be but no real changes either in the political situation or even more in the economy, the new republic head’s promises notwithstanding.
Because Kalimatov is an ethnic Ingush and had worked for a few years there earlier in his career, the Fortanga portal says, many expected that he would take seriously the need to address both the issue of the republic’s political prisoners and the issues that led to their incarceration (fortanga.org/2020/06/godovoj-rubezh-kalimatova-hronologiya-i-otsenki/).
But that hasn’t happened, and it is now clear that his long years in Russia’s Samara Oblast have done more to shape his approach and especially his servility to Moscow. As a result, hopes for liberalization have been for naught; and anger against him has been growing, especially since he hasn’t brought improvement in the economy as he regularly promised to do.
Kalimatov has rarely addressed political issues at all – he’s had only one press conference the entire year – but behind the scenes, he is known to have said that “he cannot influence the situation with the political prisoners” because what happens to them is beyond his control. He can only hope that somehow their problems will be resolved.
Anton Chablin, a regional analyst, says in an evaluation of Kalimatov’s first year that it has been “an empty one,” full of promises but with little or nothing to show for it, a pattern that ever more Ingush recognize and despise (6portal.ru/posts/калиматов-пустой-год-во-главе-ингушет/).
From the start, Kalimatov “distanced himself” from all political questions be they the sensitive issue of the republic’s borders or the state of the political prisoners his predecessor locked up. And he has been totally unwilling to respond to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s remarks and actions against Ingushetia.
That may please Moscow but it has won him no friends in Ingushetia, Chablin says. And ever more of them view his constant changing of officials as being a means of ensuring his continuity in power than in addressing their very real problems.
Kalimatov insists that he is focused on the economy, but if so, he has achieved little. According to Chablin, Ingushetia ranks 81st among Russia’s regions in terms of average pay, 84th in terms of access to mortgages, 84th in bank deposits, 85th in terms of spending on food as a share of income, and 85th as far as local participation in small businesses is concerned.
The pandemic has made everything worse. Not only has it shown the inadequacy of healthcare in the republic, but Kalimatov instead of addressing the issue by firing people has done nothing but sought to bring in Moscow doctors, perhaps because he doesn’t want to attract negative attention in the Russian capital.
And Moscow commentator Aleksey Polorotov says that Kalimatov has spent the entire year “in the shadow of Yevkurov” but has not done much to escape it, something Moscow is currently pleased about but won’t be if the Ingush people resume their protests this year (dailystorm.ru/vlast/god-v-teni-evkurova).
He hasn’t built the bridges to the leaders of civil society or the traditional groups there on which he will have to try to rely if the situation deteriorates; and that will mean that Moscow and Magas will have to use force if they want to keep things under control, a move that almost certainly would be counterproductive at least in the longer term.