So someone tried to blow up Yunus-Bek Yevkorov last week. Almost got him, too: they seem to have killed several members of his entourage, including his cousin, and Yevkorov himself is currently in a Moscow hospital with burns and a ruptured liver. He’s expected to live, though.
We wrote about Mr. Yevkorov a few months ago:
Yevkurov was appointed by Moscow late last year to replace the notoriously corrupt, unpopular, and none-too-competent incumbent. The timing was interesting: just a couple of months after the Georgia conflict. Ingushetia is next door to South Ossetia and just a short drive from Georgia. In retrospect it looks like Moscow decided it could no longer afford to have a loyal-but-hated tool running things in this strategic region, and decided to appoint the most plausible possible Ingush instead.
Itâ€™s damnably difficult to get straight news out of Ingushetia â€” the Russian authorities donâ€™t encourage foreign journalists, while the local government is oppressive and pretty paranoid â€” but it looks like Yevkurov is trying to make a go of it. Heâ€™s much more popular than his predecessor (not hard), and he seems to be peripatetically competent.
Other than the President getting blown up? Not a lot has changed since then. Until last week, Yevkurov was still trying to set things right. And he was still severely handicapped by a moribund local economy — Ingushetia is the poorest republic in Russia; it produces, basically, nothing — and Moscow’s insistence on using federal security forces, who are universally feared and loathed, to “help” the situation there.
Oh, there have been a couple of interesting developments. In May Yevkurov announced that Ingushetia would cooperate with the neighboring republic of Chechnya in the fight against Islamic militants. This was interesting because Yevkurov was known to have a low opinion of Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. A sweep through the borderlands a bit later resulted in a shootout with resistance forces, with state media claiming a number killed or captured.
Then, the day after the shootout, Ingushetia’s modest opposition (peaceful opposition, not the guys in the forest) demanded a “national assembly” to select an interim President. A day after that, Chechen President Kadyrov popped up on a surprise visit to Ingushetia, loudly claiming that Yevkurov would be avenged… probably not a constructive development, since Ingush generally don’t have much love for Chechens.
There are some question marks. The attack had all the hallmarks of a resistance strike, but the resistance hasn’t yet claimed credit. (Such claims are often posted at kavkazcenter, the disturbingly professional site of the “Caliphate of the North Caucasus”.) This has led some to speculate that it might have been the work of someone else: the FSB, resentful of Yevkurov’s efforts to nudge them out of Ingushetia; local biznismen, annoyed at his attempts to break their stranglehold on the economy; whoever. It’s also unclear whether Yevkurov will recover enough to step back into the Presidency, and if so, when.
Anyway: the attack, while dramatic, doesn’t seem to be the opening of a general offensive by either the government or the rebels. What it does suggest is that the situation in the North Caucasus is not getting any better. As to whether it’s getting worse, or just staying at the same miserable level of constant background violence… well, that’s really hard to say just now.
[update, a day later: apparently an insurgent group has belatedly claimed credit for the attack.]