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The Murder of Magomed Yevloyev

yevloyev090108.jpgWhat commentary can one really add to this reprehensible slaying of Kremlin-critic blogger Magomed Yevloyev? The return to the headlines of the crisis in Ingushetia, which the opposition claims involves an open policy of genocide by the Russian state, highlights exactly the types of ethnic internal separatist tensions of the Russian Federation made very problematic by the intervention in Georgia (the primary reason why the term “pandora’s box” has been used so often in describing the invasion). Yesterday a report was published on the writer’s website, Ingushetia.ru (which has a long history of publishing reports critical of government policy in the Caucasus) stating that Yevloyev died Sunday after a police car picked him up from an airport in the Ingushetia province and then dumped him on the road with a gunshot wound in the head. Today, more than 1,200 people came out to rally at his funeral, demanding a transparent inquiry into his death. The police are now claiming that the blogger was “accidentally” shot (which seems odd in light of what was done with the body), and lawyers are fighting the official story claiming premeditated murder. The dramatic portrayal of his forceful arrest by Kommersant cast doubt on the “accidental” explanation:

“In a few minutes after the departure of president’s motorcade, another cavalcade of armored cars drove up to the plane – two UAZ cars and four Volgas. Armed to-the-teeth policemen poured out of the cars. Interior Minister Musa Medov was among them. Having seen Magomed Evloev, the policemen went for him to drag into the UAZ,” Khazbiev said. It was the action-thriller then.

Relatives and friends of Evloev rushed to rescue him, breaking glass doors and pushing away airport guards, to no avail though. The police fired down a few bursts and escaped with Evloev by emergency route.After leaving the airport, the police divided into two groups, the first heading for Troitskoe village, and the second moving to the Caucasus road, towards Nazran. The opposition followed the Nazran lead, supposing Evloev would be put into detention facilities there.They caught up with the police near the turn to Nazran, cutting two Volgas from the motorcade by ramming. But Evloev wasn’t there. The opposition fighters pulled policemen out of the cars, beat them and took away their guns and identity papers. “No blood on us; this is none of our doing,” the frightened policemen were crying.

Reporters without Borders also has a statement on the death of Yevloyev:

“We are outraged by the death of Yevloyev, who repeatedly demonstrated his courage and determination by reporting independent news in Ingushetia, although he and his family were harassed and threatened,” said Reporters Without Borders. “His death must not go unpunished. It is vital that the international community, especially the European Union, should demand to know what really happened and who was responsible. The explanations given by the Ingush authorities make no sense.”

The BBC reports on the angry public reactions:

But opposition leaders say the killing is part of Russia’s policy of “open genocide” towards the Ingush people.”The policy of double standards, which is pursued by the Russian leadership, and the open genocide of the Ingush people make us take cardinal decisions,” they said comments published on Mr Yevloyev’s website, Ingushetiya.ru. (…)A posting on the site urged “all those who are not indifferent” to his killing to gather for a demonstration in the regional capital, Nazran.

Paul Goble writes that the death of this journalist is inspiring the opposition to push harder for wider independence from the central government:

Even though it has become one of the hottest of the Russian Federation’s “hot spots” in recent months, with disappearances and killings an increasing feature of public life, that North Caucasus republic had been notable for its lack of a serious opposition group interested in pursuing independence.But now over the last few days, one has begun to crystallize. On Saturday, Ingushetiya.ru reported that the unrecognized People’s Parliament of Ingushetiya Mekhk-Kkhel would meet to discuss beginning to collect signatures calling for independence, after which the site was attacked and has been inaccessible.And on Sunday, after Magomed Yevloyev, the owner of that Internet news portal which Zyazikov has sought to close, died from wounds he received at the hands of the local militia, even the more moderate Ingush opposition leaders have decided to pursue independence, and both the Kremlin and Zyazikov, the Kremlin’s man there, have no one to blame but themselves.Magomed Khazbiyev, the head of the committee that collected more than 80,000 signatures demanding that Moscow replace Zyazikov, said on Ekho Moskvy yesterday that the killing of Yevloyev had radicalized public opinion and was leading ever more Ingush to demand an investigation and think about independence.

And Liz Fuller at RFE/RL is arguing that this death could represent a tipping point, but also an opportunity to repair damage to Russia’s public image from the war:

Public response to Yevloyev’s death has been muted: only a few hundred people are reported to have attended his funeral and a subsequent protest meeting in Nazran to demand Zyazikov’s resignation.The hardcore opposition, however, remains defiant. Magomed Khazbiyev, who heads an informal committee that has planned repeated anti-Zyazikov protests, was quoted by the Chechen resistance website chechenpress.info on August 31 as saying the opposition will now consider requesting that the international community “detach” Ingushetia from the Russian Federation.Doing so would, however, demolish any remaining hope of Ingushetia regaining jurisdiction over Prigorodny Raion. And it would be further complicated by the fact that when the Chechen-Ingush ASSR split into two in 1992, the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia was never formally demarcated.Paradoxically, Yevloyev’s killing presents Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with a golden opportunity to reverse the damage to his image resulting from Russia’s military incursion into South Ossetia last month: he could fire Medov and Zyazikov, and appoint Aushev to prevent the instability in Ingushetia spiraling out of control. Aushev has not commented publicly on Yevloyev’s death.