By Paul Goble
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, a professional soldier with a reputation for incorruptibility, who many viewed as the savior of the North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia, is now trusted less by the population there than his discredited predecessor as Ingushetia head, Murat Zyazikov, according to an independent poll.
That survey, conducted by the independent “Dosh” journal, is the latest blow to the hopes of many in Moscow and the region that someone like Yevkurov could establish order there and puts additional pressure on the center to allow these republics to choose their own leaders rather than have them imposed from above (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/182925/).
Some 1500 residents of Nazran and other Ingushetia cities and villages were asked: “Whom do you trust more: Ruslan Aushev, Murat Zyazivok, or Yunus-Bek Yevkurov?” 81.8 percent of those responding named Aushev, 9.5 percent identified Zyazikov but “only 8.7 percent” said they trusted Yevkurov the most.
Israpil Shovkhalov, the editor of “Dosh,” said that what surprised him and his colleagues was “not the high level of trust for the first president Aushev. It has long been known that he is the most popular Ingush politicial. What was surprising was the sharp and almost crushing decline of trust to the present head of Ingushetia,” especially relative to the hated Zyazikov.
When Yevkurov replaced Zyazikov, Shovkhalov said, “his willingness to meet with the people, his accessibility and openness, his opposition to corruption in a literal sense delighted people,” especially in contrast to Zyazikov who was widely suspected of organizing the killing of some of his opponents.
“But how then could it happen,” the “Dosh” editor, asked, “that after less than half-way through the presidential term of the third leader of the youngest Russian republic, [the incumbent] has lost the trust of the majority of his [former] backers?”
Olga Allenova, a special correspondent for “Kommersant,” told Kavkaz-uzel.ru that the Ingushetians may have had too great expectations for Yevkurov and are now not surprisingly disappointed. He arrived as “the new, ‘Medvedev’ candidate and everyone thought well now he will put everything in order, deal with corruption” and everything else.
But many of those problems have been beyond his powers to correct. In addition, many in Ingushetia are furious at Yevkurov for “surrendering” the Prigorodny district to the Osetians, Allenova said, forgetting that he took that step under pressure from Moscow and in order to remove one of the neuralgic situations in the area.
According to the “Kommersant” journalist, however, Yevkurov’s chief failure and hence the explanation for his low rating lies elsewhere, in his inability to deal with corruption endemic to the republic. “But,” she writes, “corruption turned out to be stronger [than he] because the roots of Caucasian corruption are in Moscow and not in the Caucasus.”
According to Olga Bobrova of “Novaya gazeta,” Yevkurov initially benefitted from comparisons with his despised predecessor, but soon it because obvious that he could not end many of the same problems, including violence and kidnappings, that had brought opprobrium on Zyazikov’s head. And then the people turned against him.
Moreover, she added, Yevkurov turned out to be “not free from the vertical” of Vladimir Putin and therefore found out rather quickly that he could not fulfill the promises he made to the people if those promises ran against the interests of those above him in Moscow. That too sapped his authority.
In recent days, Yevkurov appears to be reducing his standing with the population still further. Four days ago, “Kommersant” reported that he had openly justified the use of force against a peaceful demonstration by the Ingush opposition, a statement that has cost him additional support (www.kommersant.ru/Doc-y/1607389).