Staunton, April 16 – Many have assumed that the approaching end of the Ingush Seven trial would mark the end as well of the persecution of participants in the March 2019 Ingush protest against the border deal with Chechnya, but that is not to be, according to opposition lawyer Magomed Bekov.
According to him, the authorities in Moscow and Magas plan to arrest another 50 or 60 participants, making what has been the largest protest suppression outside of Moscow in decades even larger. As a result, he has urged all those who did participate in the meeting two years ago to be careful (fortanga.org/2021/04/advokat-predupredil-o-novyh-presledovaniyah-po-mitingovomu-delu/).
“People turn attention to the situation only when someone is detained,” Bekov continues, “but all these years, the law enforcement bodies have been conducted searches among those whom they might link to the meeting case, kept track of their locations and questioned their relatives.”
He says that he is confident that his information is reliable. As some forget, Ingushetia is a very small republic; and many of those who took part in the protest have relatives in the security agencies who share such information with them. Consequently, no move by the authorities comes without some advance warning.
There are at least three reasons why the authorities may be making such plans now. First, they may want to try to keep Ingush from coming into the streets when a verdict in the Ingush Seven case is announced. Second, they may hope to justify a guilty finding in that case by suggesting that the opposition is larger than many think.
And third, the powers that be may feel that the environment in Russia today is even more ready to accept such an expansion in repression than it was two years ago – and by arresting now those who took part in a protest two years ago, they are sending a message about this to the population.
But it remains unclear whether the calculations of the authorities are correct. This may be a case where as so often in the past, the powers are fighting a grease fire with water alone, something that will spread the fires of protest rather than put them out and lead to a new round of escalation of protest and repression.