Resignation of Yevkurov: from anti-terror to anti-popular
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov resigned amid the ongoing border demarcation between Ingushetia and Chechnya. Yevkurov was one of the few heads of the Caucasian republics able to oppose Ramzan Kadyrov. Major general Yevkurov managed to establish a peaceful life in the republic – but many people rejoiced at his resignation. The Head of Ingushetia explained his decision to step down from the office by lack of unity – but hasn't disclosed the true reasons.
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov took charge of Ingushetia in 2008. A real war was ongoing in the republic in that period – terrorist attacks, abductions, corruption, etc. His predecessor Murat Zyazikov, general of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, failed all tasks assigned to him and lost control over the region. In June 2009, an assassination attempt was committed against Yevkurov – a suicide attacker rammed his car rigged with explosives into the cortege of the republican head. At that time, many Ingush people had butchered cattle and dished out meat and money to the poor asking them to pray for him – it is customary to do so in the Caucasus when a family member is ill. Ten years later, Yevkurov has completely exhausted his potential. The public has been calling for his resignation for almost a year – people could not forgive Yevkurov the transfer of Ingush lands to Chechnya. After the announcement of his resignation on the republican TV, Magas residents went on the streets, fireworks were launched, cars honked, and automatic gunfire could be heard. The local police were put on alert to ensure security.
“The police force was put on alert in Nazran’ and Magas. The reason is excessive rejoicing of Ingush people after the resignation of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Fireworks are launched in yards, submachine guns fire in squares, residents dance lezghinka,” – baza (@bazabazon) Telegram channel has reported on June 24, 2019.
В Назрани и Магасе по тревоге поднят весь личный состав полиции. Всему виной слишком уж бурное ликование жителей Ингушетии по случаю прошения об отставке главы региона Юнус-Бека Евкурова. Во дворах запускают фейерверки, на площадях стреляют из автоматов, танцуют лезгинку. pic.twitter.com/Srm1aiIjbC— baza (@bazabazon) 24 июня 2019 г.
Major general Yevkurov has graduated from the Ryazan Guards Higher Airborne Command School, Frunze Combined Arms Academy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia. He served the compulsory military service in the Marine Corps of the Navy Pacific Fleet. Later, Yevkurov served in the Airborne Forces and military intelligence, participated in military conflicts in the Caucasus and former Yugoslavia. In 1999, he was in charge of the airborne unit that had made a forced march from Bosnia to Kosovo to capture Pristina International Airport. The major general was awarded the Title of Hero of Russia for that operation. In addition, Yevkurov has two Medals for Valor.
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was the Chief of Staff of 217th Airborne Regiment of the 98th Svir’ Guards Airborne Division. During the Second Chechen War (1999–2009), he rescued 12 Russian servicemen from captivity.
In 2004–2008, Yevkurov was a Deputy Chief of Staff of the Volga–Ural Military District in Yekaterinburg. In October 2008, he was appointed the Interim Acting Head of the Republic of Ingushetia by a Presidential Decree. In September 2014, the Republican Parliament elected Yunus-Bek Yevkurov the regional head upon recommendation of Vladimir Putin. In September 2018, Yevkurov was re-appointed for the third term.
For many years, there was no boundary between Ingushetia and Chechnya. The Chechen and Ingush people always had friendly relations. The legacy of the Soviet territorial system resulted in border issues and numerous disputed areas. The demarcation of the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia became actual in the early 1990s – after the separation of the two republics constituting the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and accession of Dzhokhar Dudaev to power. In 1993, Dzhokhar Dudaev and Ruslan Aushev, then-Heads of Chechnya and Ingushetia, have signed an agreement. Under that agreement, the Sunzha district became, except for Sernovodsky and Assinvsky settlements, a part of Ingushetia. Since then, both republics had considered the district their territory – although, officially, it belonged to Ingushetia.
The actual border between the two regions was created during the First and Second Chechen Wars – the federal forces have established roadblocks in the Sunzha district.
Kadyrov and Yevkurov sign the border agreement
On September 26, 2018, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Ramzan Kadyrov, the current heads of the two republics, have signed an agreement fixing the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. According to this agreement, a portion of the Sunzha district considered by the Ingush people a part of their land has been transferred to Chechnya.
“The signed agreement does not affect settlements of the two republics; it fixes the borders in the mountainous and forested areas. We agreed not to install posts between us; all the roads will be opened, repaired, and paved, – Yunus-Bek Yevkurov said in fall 2018. – To straighten the border, Chechnya has surrendered 1.89 thousand ha. We have surrendered exactly 1.89 ha”. He also asked neither to speculate on the border issue nor succumb to provocative actions of those willing to “escalate the territorial agenda”. According to Ramzan Kadyrov, the document “does not infringe upon any of the republics” and “nobody has claims”. “The border was established between two subjects of the federation, not between fraternal nations. Any Ingush resident may feel himself at home in Chechnya, run business, build, and select a place for residence. However, we see some attempts to escalate this agenda and drive a wedge between our people. This is totally unacceptable and useless,” – Kadyrov said.
On October 16, the document has come into effect, and public protests began in Ingushetia. Ordinary people, Deputies, religious and civilian leaders, and elders demanded to hold a referendum. The majority of the Ingush people believe that the document satisfies territorial claims of Chechnya “on ancestral Ingush lands”. The Constitutional Court of the Republic ruled that such an agreement can be approved only on the basis of a referendum – but the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation confirmed the legitimacy of the document, thus, upholding the stance of Ramzan Kadyrov. Isa Khashagul’gov, Head of the Sunzha District, has resigned; according to him, this decision was unrelated to the border issue. A new map of Chechnya – showing the Sunzha district as a part of it – was published on the web site of the Chechen Parliament.
New map of Chechnya
The situation was under control during the winter – but in March 2019, the protests resumed. Calls for the resignation of Yevkurov became increasingly frequent. In that period, the new border between Chechnya and Ingushetia was entered in the Consolidated State Register of Immovable Property.
“The boundaries of all sections of the administrative border have been adjusted and inconsistencies rectified; now it fully complies with the land legislation,” – Parviz Tukhtasunov, Director of the Federal Cadastral Chamber of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre, and Cartography (Rosreestr), said.
Protest rally in Magas
On March 26, 2019, an authorized rally was held in front of the Republican Government on Idrisa Zyazikova avenue in Magas, the capital of Ingushetia. On the morning of March 27, 2019, several hundred Ingush people led by the local opposition have blocked a section of Caucasus Federal Highway near Nazran, thus, paralyzing the transportation near Ekazhevsky Circle.
After clashes with the police and National Guard of Russia, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has instituted criminal cases under part 3 of Article 212 (calls for mass riots) and part 2 of Article 318 (use of violence endangering the lives or health of representatives of the power) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Some participants of the protest rallies were detained; a crackdown on leaders of the Ingush opposition was launched. A few days later, Dmitry Kava, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Ingushetia, has resigned.
The scope of the public protests escalated from the border issue to radical political demands. Being a military man, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov managed to stop the wave of terror in the republic several years ago – but he failed to improve the socio-economic situation in Ingushetia. By settling the border dispute in favor of Chechnya, Yevkurov put himself against the Ingush people.
On June 24, 2019, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Head of the Republic of Ingushetia, announced his voluntary resignation – although his current term expires only in 2023. “All our achievements to date are nothing if there is no unity in our people. I clearly see that our endurance is tested today. I am not blind; the power hasn't blurred my vision. Let us be brave enough to admit that all of us – the power represented by me, as well as public and religious organizations – are responsible for our current disunity,” – Yevkurov said in his address.
The former republican head is going to take a job in the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. His upcoming appointment was initially reported by Telegram channels; then Kommersant and Izvestia newspapers confirmed it. According to Izvestia, Yevkurov will become the 12th deputy of Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation. His duties will include combat training and flight safety. The major general is going to take charge of the Chief Directorate of Military Training and Flight Safety Service. He is not taking a vacant position – currently, Sergei Shoigu has only 11 deputies. Therefore, the legislation has to be amended, which takes time. As a result, Yevkurov is going to wait a few months for his official appointment.
On June 26, Vladimir Putin accepted the early resignation of Yevkurov and appointed Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, Head of the Administration for the Samara Region of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resource Usage ((Rosprirodnadzor), the Interim Acting Head of the Republic of Ingushetia. Back in 2004, Kalimatov was the Prosecutor of the Republic of Ingushetia – but, according to local people, something went wrong, and in 2007, he returned to Samara to take charge of the Control Department of the Regional Government. On September 8, 2019, the Ingush Parliament will elect the new republican head from candidates nominated by the President.
The new Head of the Republic of Ingushetia inherited the unsolved border issue, public unrest, and unfortunate economic situation in the subsidized region. In addition, political experts believe that he has to deal with ambitious plans and territorial claims of Ramzan Kadyrov. Yevkurov was one of the few heads of the Caucasian republics able to oppose Kadyrov – but, apparently, he failed to hold the ground.
Grozny has border issues with other neighbors as well. For instance, the new map of the republic published on the web site of the Chechen Parliament shows a part of the Botlikh district of Dagestan as Chechen lands. In addition, the Chechen Republic challenges the jurisdiction of the Aukh district of Dagestan.
Furthermore, Chechnya has territorial disputes with North Ossetia (in relation to the Prigorodny district of Alania) and Kabardino-Balkaria. Taking that Ramzan Kadyrov had repeatedly expressed the desire to amalgamate with Ingushetia, this may result in another attempt to redraw the map of the Caucasus.
The Head of the Chechen Republic enjoys the full support of the Kremlin and may create a large new territorial entity under his rule. So far, nobody can oppose such plans at the local level.