Staunton, November 26 – From the beginning, Moscow’s approach to Ingush protests over the deal that gave away 10 percent of the small republic’s territory to Chechnya has been part and parcel of the Kremlin’s “colonial and anti-republic” policies, Vadim Sidorov says. But these policies have backfired, raising the stakes far beyond what Moscow expected.
The Ingush people went into the streets in the fall of 2018 to protest then-republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov’s handing over of republic land to Chechnya. They were supported by the republic’s Constitutional Court. But Moscow decided to crush both that court and the protests as well.
As a result, the regionalist commentator argues in an essay on the Region.Expert portal, the protests in Ingushetia have changed from being about a specific action to a movement against the Russian government’s entire approach to the republic, its people, and their rights (region.expert/ingush-case/).
Facing massive popular opposition to its approach, the Kremlin behaved as colonial powers typically do: it changed its man on the scene but did not change its policies. And the new man continued “the former colonial anti-Russian policy” and helped organize the mass repressions against the leaders of the protest movement.
Had Moscow been willing to compromise, had it backed down only a little, the situation in Ingushetia would have quickly calmed down, Sidorov suggests. But instead, “the Kremlin raised the stakes.” After first accusing the activists of participating in unsanctioned meetings, it accused them of creating an extremist organization, a far more serious “crime” under Putin.
Over the last two years, more than 500 Ingush have been subjected to charges of various kinds. More than 40 have been charged with crimes that have serious consequences. And now seven collectively face the worst charges of all, including two elderly men and a young woman, Zarifa Sautiyeva.
There was no need to keep these people behind bars for years, but Moscow did so in order to challenge the customs of the Caucasus and show to all that it will do what it wants regardless of the law, constitution or good sense. That unfortunately is what colonial powers do, especially when challenged.
Another characteristic of the Putin era’s approach to those who oppose it is to hold them behind bars and then try them in courts far from their real homelands to try to deprive them of a sense of support and to break their will. In this too, Sidorov says, “the Kremlin has decided to act in the ‘best’ traditions of colonialism.”
“But” – and this is the most important thing – “whatever sentence such courts hand down,” the result will be the conviction not of the seven who face charges but of the Russian imperial colonial system “which has transformed the Russian Federation into a farce” by its unconscionable actions.
Not surprisingly, almost all the attention of the outside world to what is taking place in Ingushetia is now focused on the trial of the seven slated to begin on December 1. But even as the wheels in that process grind on, Moscow and its Magas representatives continue to move against others as well, against one individual and one organization today alone.
Siloviki arrested Magomed-Bashir Ozdoyev in Nazran for his role in the protests, immediately moved him to an isolator in Kabardino-Balkaria and had a court in Nalchik order his detention for two months (fortanga.org/2020/11/magomed-bashir-ozdoev-zaderzhan-po-delu-o-mitinge-v-magase/, fortanga.org/2020/11/sud-vynes-reshenie-ob-areste-magomed-bashira-ozdoeva-vopreki-dovodam-zashhity/, fortanga.org/2020/11/magomed-bashir-ozdoev-zapodozren-v-primenenii-nasiliya-na-mitinge-v-magase/ and kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/356927/).
Meanwhile, a Magas district court summoned Murad Bekov, head of the Council of Teips of the Republic of Ingushetia, an organization that was set up after the authorities banned the Council of Teips of the Ingush People in April 2019. The powers say this is the same group; its members say it is a new one and not subject to the earlier ban (fortanga.org/2020/11/murad-bekov-poluchil-povestku-v-sud/).