Politicial activist killed in Russian Caucasus republic

An opposition leader was killed in the Russian internal republic of Ingushetia on Sunday. Colleagues of the victim blame the authorities for his death, though the deceased was not opposing the current Ingushetian leader.

Maksharip Aushev, a member of the expert council with the presidential plenipotentiary on Human Rights, was shot dead as he was returning to Ingushetia from the neighboring republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. The killing was definitely a premeditated hit – attackers fired over 60 Kalashnikov rounds into Aushev’s vehicle, firing from three directions. Aushev was killed on the spot and his cousin who was traveling in the same car was gravely wounded.

An investigation into the incident has been launched and Russia’s Prosecutor General has said that he is taking the case under personal control. On Monday, law enforcers briefed the press on details of the assassination and said that they were looking into a total of five possible causes behind the attack, including business activities and the personal relations of the victim.

Aushev’s supporters acted differently. Directly or indirectly they blamed the authorities in the killing and, at least partially, they had a right to do so, as was not the first attack on the victim.

Maksharip Aushev was a prominent opposition figure in Ingushetia. For many years he organized protest rallies, oversaw independent investigations into various crimes and supported opposition media. It started in September 2007, after Aushev’s son and a distant relative were kidnapped. Aushev organized a two-day mass rally and eventually pressed for his relatives’ release. After these events, Aushev gained public trust and organized many more rallies, becoming the leader of the non-violent protest movement in the region.

In September 2008, Aushev took over the main opposition media in the republic – the Ingushetia.org (or Ingushetia.ru) website. The previous owner, Magomed Yevloyev, was shot dead by a police officer in a police car right after his detention in the airport. Authorities blamed Yevloyev’s death on an accident, but many colleagues and friends of the victim refused to believe in this theory. Hundreds of protesters gathered in Ingushetia’s major city of Nazran, demanding the resignation of the president of the republic, Murat Zyazikov. Aushev was one of the people behind this rally. Eventually, Zyazikov had to resign and was replaced by army officer Yunusbek Yevkurov. After this, Maksharip Aushev stopped all his political activities and returned to business.

However, he did not give up his human rights work and, according to local press, many times had meetings with the new president. The website he was running became more loyal to the authorities. Aushev still received threats and experienced at least two kidnapping attempts – the last one this September. Both attempts were thwarted by the joint forces of Aushev’s supporters and local police. Despite getting help from police, human rights campaigners blamed law enforcers for the incidents. An aide to the killed activist, Magomed Khazbiyev, told several Russian news outlets that the previous kidnapping attempts were organized by republican security services and added that now the opposition would demand the resignation of the president and government.

Blaming the authorities for the death of a public activist who directly assisted the appointment of the new president might look like a contradiction, but it can be explained by the deep-rooted Caucasus tradition of vengeance and blood feud.

After rescuing his relatives in 2007, Aushev became famous. Many people whose relatives went missing turned to Aushev and received help. He even contributed his own capital to sponsor investigations into kidnappings. His main target was President Zyazikov, of course, but in the process, many names of corrupt law enforcers were uncovered, and it is very likely that more than once the relatives of the victims took justice into their own hands. The relatives of the kidnappers, in turn, had to take revenge and it was just a matter of time when they would start targeting Aushev.

Kirill Bessonov, RT