Staunton, February 26 – As the trial of the Ingush Seven wends toward its end with near certain convictions of many leaders of the March 2019 protest against Yunus-Bek Yevkurov’s giving away of 10 percent of the republic’s territory to Chechnya, the powers that be in Ingushetia have arrested another opposition leader who has eluded them for almost two years.
In the weeks following that protest, the authorities both Ingush and Russian arrested dozens of opposition figures; and by June 2019, the most prominent one still at large, Akhmed Pogorov, a former Ingush interior minister and current vice president of the World Congress of the Ingush People, continued to give the Ingush and Russian authorities fits (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/only-two-ingush-protest-leaders-now.html).
He posted online video appeals and calls for the Ingush diaspora to come to the aid of the republic against rule by Moscow and Magas despite being on the Russian most-wanted list and official claims of his arrest (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/05/pogorov-calls-on-ingush-in-ingushetia.html, fortanga.org/2019/05/ahmed-pogorov-obratilsya-k-zhitelyam-ingushetii/, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/ingush-leader-pogorov-still-at-large.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/despite-pressuring-his-relatives-ingush.html).
What was especially infuriating to the authorities and likely encouraging to the Ingush opposition is that it appears Pogorov never left the republic and even continued to live in his own house for most of the period. That the powers that be did not or could not arrest him gave some hope that there were limits to the broad crackdown against civil society there.
But now, the authorities have arrested Pogorov. He was seized in his own house; and his relatives in reporting the arrest pointed out that while his sons had moved to Moscow, Pogorov himself has been within the republic the entire time and thus could have been arrested if the powers had really wanted to (fortanga.org/2021/02/rodstvennik-rasskazal-o-podrobnostyah-zaderzhaniya-ahmeda-pogorova/).
Pogorov’s arrest suggests that Moscow and Magas have decided to complete their crackdown in Ingushetia by silencing anyone who speaks out against the rising tide of repression there. His detention will certainly be read as an indication of that by many Ingush and may make it less likely that there will be mass protests against the looming conviction of the Ingush Seven.
But at the same time, it creates a problem for the authorities. Pogorov at least in principle will have to be tried, and that will create yet another show trial like the one the Ingush Seven have faced that won’t convince anyone of the opposition’s guilt but instead will highlight the fundamental criminality of the regime.
The powers that be may be able as a result of Pogorov’s arrest to avoid facing mass demonstrations in Ingushetia when the Ingush Seven verdicts are announced, but they will have achieved that at an enormous cost – the further radicalization of Ingush society that Pogorov’s detention is certain to provoke.