Ingushetia, boom

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.

It’s damnably difficult to get straight news out of Ingushetia — the Russian authorities don’t encourage foreign journalists, while the local government is oppressive and pretty paranoid — but it looks like Yevkurov is trying to make a go of it. He’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. Continue reading

“One can lead a column to Prishtina every day”

Interesting when two hobbies cross-connect. One: that odd, isolated episode at the end of the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, when a Russian unit based in Bosnia suddenly rushed through Serbia and occupied Prishtina airport just ahead of the advancing NATO troops. — It ended up being an empty gesture, but only just; the Russians were ready to funnel thousands of soldiers into the airport, and would have if Hungary and Romania hadn’t stood firm and kept their airspace closed. And it wasn’t entirely without consequence: it re-established Russia as the Great Power Protector of choice for Serb nationalists, a position it still occupies today.

Two: Russia’s problems in Ingushetia. Ingushetia is a province in the northern Caucasus next to Chechnya, and it’s just a hell of a mess. It’s full of refugees, the economy has collapsed, bombings and shootings are a constant background drumbeat. Nobody pays much attention to the North Caucasus — it’s formally part of Russia; the Chechens are quiescent at the moment; Shamil Basayev is dead, and the Beslan atrocity didn’t seem to lead to anything — but Ingushetia is a bubbling low-intensity conflict with the potential to erupt into something nastier. Continue reading