Staunton, June 19 – The March 29, 2019, protest in Magas continues to cast a shadow over Ingushetia not only in Russian courtrooms where the Ingush Seven and others who protested the land deal with Chechnya but on the streets of Ingush cities and towns. The latter gets less attention but may prove more important.
When a group of Ingush militiamen did not use force against the demonstrators, officials at Moscow’s insistence concluded the Ingush police were “unreliable” and replaced them with militia officers from Kamchatka, at the other end of the Russian Federation. Those officers are still there on the streets of Ingushetia.
Using such a colonial method of administration may, regional expert Valery Dzutsati says, “help preserve the appearance of stability for a certain time but this period will hardly last for long.” The Ingush can see they are viewed as a colonial people every time they encounter the Kamchatka militia in their midst (kavkazr.com/a/31314592.html).
The 13 Ingush militia officers who were dismissed after the March 2019 protests ostensibly for failing to obey orders to disperse the crowd are in the process of appealing that decision and the subsequent decision to do away with the unit in which they served. They say that they never received the order that they are supposed to have violated.
And lacking an order to disperse the crowd by force, these former officers say, they did what they could to calm the situation, protecting other officers and urging the demonstrators not to engage in any actions that could force the officials to respond. Rights activists and police organizations in the region back them up (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/364938/).
Both Moscow and Magas were alarmed by this display of civic unity between the protesters and the police, and the Kremlin moved to ensure that it would not spread. The police were fired and their unit disbanded, and militiamen from outside the republic and even outside the region were sent in to replace them.
Had Moscow and Magas recruited other Ingush, the situation might have calmed down; but instead, they went outside, displaying their lack of confidence in and even contempt for the population, something that has angered other Ingush police and other Ingush more generally (fortanga.org/2021/06/oficzer-ingushskoj-policzii-pozhalovalsya-na-bespredel-v-vedomstve/).
In short, the authorities took a dangerous situation in which the police were clearly on the side of the people and made it worse, transforming the situation in Ingushetia into an openly colonial one in which few Ingush are going to remain on the side of the imperial occupiers for long. There is simply too much anger and social pressure for that to be possible.
Moscow may assume that it can move siloviki around and thus keep the lid on this bubbling pot, but in fact, every time it does that, it weakens its own hand over the long haul even if its agents in place can report that the outsiders have restored control for the time being.