President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a battle-hardened Russian general “to put in order” troubled Ingushetia. It comes a day after a suicide bomb attack defied Moscow’s control of its restive southern flank.
Twenty people died and 136 were wounded in the most powerful blast in years when explosives packed in a truck detonated near Ingushetia’s main police station, dealing a blow to Moscow’s authority in the North Caucasus plagued by Islamist insurgency.
“We must clarify what happened and answer the question: ‘What is it? Sloppiness or treachery, or maybe a coincidence of several crimes which could not be averted,'” a stern Medvedev told top security officials in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Medvedev said “the talk is about links in the same chain – this terrorist activity currently unfolding in the Caucasus.”
“To put work in Chechnya in proper order, I have decided to send there Deputy Interior Minister Colonel General [Arkady] Yedelev, so that he should coordinate the activities of all services and Interior Ministry units working in Ingushetia.”
Medvedev sacked Ingushetia’s interior minister after the bombing, saying in harsh remarks broadcast by central channels that local police could not even defend themselves.
Ingushetia’s new police chief Yedelev made a career in the Soviet-era KGB security service and then in its successor FSB. In 2004 he was put in charge of the operations headquarters in Chechnya as Moscow fought its second war against rebels there.
Yedelev is coming to a republic where central control is tenuous and local authorities are largely demoralized by routine killings of policemen and senior officials. Meanwhile, support for insurgents is high among the impoverished population.
Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, a paratroop general nominated for the job by Medvedev last October, was seriously wounded in a suicide bomb attack in June.
Locals say the insurgency has been fuelled by a mix of desperate poverty, Islamic radicalism, and heavy-handed actions by the local security services.
Growing lawlessness and Islamist violence in neighboring Daghestan and Chechnya is also undermining Moscow’s control of the region.