Saturday, September 16, 2023

Ingush Seven Case Opened Way for Russia’s Return to Totalitarianism,’ Orlov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 7 – The case of the Ingush Seven whose long prison sentences have just been confirmed by a Russian appellate court represents an important turning point in Russia’s political history, Memorial’s Oleg Orlov says. In the way it was conducted in flagrant disregard for law and the constitution, the case has opened the way for a return to totalitarianism.

            The case, which began in 2019 and now appears to be drawing to an end attracted less attention outside Ingushetia than it deserved, the human rights activist suggests, particularly because the consequences of the way in which the authorities orchestrated the appearance of the case and carried out the trials (

            Speaking at a Moscow press conference on the case, Orlov was joined by two other regional activists, Ruslan Mutsolgov, head of Yabloko in Ingushetia, and Valery Khatazhukov from KBR, and three lawyers involved with the case, Magomed Bekov, Andrey Sabinin, and Bashir Tochiyev. The comments of the first three are especially significant.

            According to Orlov, “in an historical context, the Ingush case is very important. Both the process and the sentence must be considered as component parts of the major preparation of Russia for a transition from authoritarianism to totalitarianism which now as we see has practically taken place.”

            All those charged were among the most respectable people in Ingushetia and did not engage in any actions that violated the law, he continues. Nonetheless, the powers that be singled them out for attack and organized political trials to ensure that they would be convicted without any evidence, an obvious threat to far more people than just the seven.

            Khatazhukov agrees but sees what Moscow did as being even more far-reaching. Had the central government stayed out of the way, Ingush and Chechen traditional organizations would have found a way to reach an agreement even on the border. But Moscow wanted a conflict it could exploit and thus torpedoed such possibilities.

            Moreover, it used what happened in Ingushetia as an excuse to close down constitutional courts in the republics across the country and thus to convert “all of Russia into a large North Caucasus,” a move that threatens the country’s “security and integrity and is provoking separatist movements and the like.”

            Mutsolgov agrees with his two colleagues, but he argues that there is one bright spot in these events: “The protest of 2018 and the subsequent events give the hoe that the Ingush people are on the correct path and that among them are people who are prepared to defend their rights and interests and who enjoy the support of the people.”

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