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Rising violence in Russia's Ingushetia

Faced with insurgency, federal forces are cracking down in the northern Caucasus republic.

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Violence is spiking in Russia's southern republic of Ingushetia, as almost daily attacks against police, officials, and ethnically non-Ingush residents have some experts fearful that the tiny region could quickly destabilize.

Through two post-Soviet wars between Russian forces and separatists in neighboring Chechnya, Ingushetia has remained loyal to Moscow. But now, assaults against federal forces in the republic are on the rise.

A month ago Moscow tripled its security forces in Ingushetia in response to a wave of attacks by insurgents that hit the motorcade of President Murat Zyazikov, a local headquarters of Russia's FSB security service, and a column of Russian troops. Mr. Zyazikov, a former FSB general, escaped unharmed, but a top aide and several soldiers were killed. In response, federal forces have launched a security crackdown that some experts warn could precipitate mass rebellion.

"What makes this situation so dangerous is that the federal forces ... are killing randomly and calling the victims terrorists," says Yulia Latynina, one of the few investigative journalists still reporting on the northern Caucasus. "An uprising is drawing near."

The Moscow-based international human rights group Memorial, nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, says at least 400 people disappeared without a trace in Ingushetia between 2002 and 2006, and the pace of repression has since accelerated. "How can we talk about human rights if security forces can burst into private houses at night and seize peaceful people, and can stop a person at night on a street to beat or even to kill without ever presenting any identification document or without presenting any charges?" says Memorial activist Usam Baisayev, reached by phone in Nazran, Ingushetia.

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