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Analysis & Opinion
06.10.09 Wanted: New Ministers For Ingushetia
By Roland Oliphant

In a surprise move yesterday afternoon, the Ingush President Yunnus-bek Yevkurov fired his entire cabinet. He blamed the ministers themselves for ineffectual work, the failure to meet deadlines and endemic corruption. But the Ingush president has been hinting at a reshuffle at least since he returned to work in late August.

“This is your fault,” Yunnus-bek Yevkurov bluntly told the ministers gathered before him. “Several times I drew attention to matters that the Ingush public is concerned about. I asked you to create a list of housing; a list of land. Neither was done.” And he went on. Speaking at a televised meeting, he told his audience to “look straight at the television camera and tell me, did someone give you money in exchange for work?”

Yevkurov’s ire – more weary than indignant – may have appeared to be indiscriminate, but speculation is rife that at least some of these ministers will retain their jobs in the new government. Those who were the real targets have already been removed from their posts. Prime Minister Rashid Gaisanov, who had acted in Yevkurov’s place while the latter was recovering from an attempt on his life in June, has been dismissed with immediate effect.

But the ministers should not have been surprised. Yevkurov signaled that a reshuffle was in the offering almost immediately after he returned to Ingushetia at the end of August. “Everyone is waiting for me to say ‘thank you.’ But there’s nothing to say thank you for,” he told reporters. “I had to correct the prime minister and his team. I think there will be a reshuffle.”

After that Gaisanov went on vacation, which many at the time thought would be followed by dismissal. Contrary to their expectations, he managed to hold on to his post until yesterday afternoon (although, as he complained to the Kommersant daily, “I was not even invited to the meeting.”). Others to lose their posts include Deputy Prime Minister Ruslan Tsechoev, the Head of Housing and Communal Services Ahmed Kasiev, and Aishat Pliev, an advisor on education and health. “After he ‘re-became’ president, he needed a more consolidated team,” said Alexei Malashenko, a Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “But there are too many names swirling around to pick out those who will join the team.”

Some guidance as to who will replace Gaisanov and the others may be gleaned from Yevkurov’s previous appointments. In April, well before the assassination attempt, he appointed a former FSB man Vladimir Borshchev as head of the presidential administration. And shortly after he retuned to work in August, he appointed Nikolai Glushenko, a veteran of the Chechen-Ingush KGB who later worked in law enforcement in the Stavropol region, as his advisor on the security services.

Glushenko’s immediate task was apparently to help bring the security services under Yevkurov’s control. But there may be another motive. Borschev and Glushenko are both said to represent a cadre of non-Ingush officials who, because they lack clan ties, Yevkurov hopes will curb corruption. Alexei Vorobyov, secretary of the Ingush Security Council and the man who took over as acting prime minister yesterday, would be the “third man” in this team of outsiders if he takes over the job permanently.

The Soviet-era practice of bringing in non-local officials is gaining ground as a tool for tackling corruption. But it is also fraught with difficulties. “There is a general idea, a broad idea to invite people from Russia, like it was in the Soviet Union,” said Malashenko. “But it is not easy. I think it would be impossible in Chechnya; more or less something could be done in this field in Dagestan; and in Ingushetia… well, we’ll see.”

The introduction of outsiders also runs counter to one of Yevkurov’s other priorities – building an inclusive government. “He needs a team that will represent all groups of Ingushetia – that’s very important because his predecessor Murat Zyazikov based his team on his own clan,” noted Malashenko. “Then again, he also needs professionals.”

In this case popular opinion pretty firmly backs the “professionals” represented by Vorobyov. Even Gaisanov, according to the Kommersant daily, is “convinced” that Vorobyov will be the new prime minister.

The cause of the reshuffle was, in Yevkurov’s own words, due to “failure to meet the tasks set.” And he has reason to fear his government’s failure. “When he first became president he was very popular. He was respected, and his first steps were very popular. But of course it is not so easy to work on the ground, and some expectations have been disappointed,” said Malashenko.

Yevkurov is still unquestionably more popular than his predecessor, however, and not only among the local population. He has been lauded by human rights groups, who see his more humane approach to counter insurgency as a counterweight to the more brutal tactics pursued by Ramzan Kadyrov in neighboring Chechnya. And despite frustration from the federal government at the Ingush authority’s failure to curb a rising tide of violence over the summer, he still seems to have the Kremlin’s backing. But then the worst attacks, such as the August 17 truck bombing of a police station in Nazran that killed at least 25 people, occurred while Gaisanov was in charge. Now that Yevkurov is back, he will have to prove that he is more effective than the men he fired yesterday.
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