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North Caucasus: Ingush Fear The Worst As Situation Deteriorates

By Chloe Arnold

MOSCOW, September 21, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- As the security situation in the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia continues to deteriorate, RFE/RL spoke to Khava Tarshkhoeva, an Ingush woman living in Moscow.

Fifty-year-old Tarshkhoeva was born in Ingushetia and most of her family live in Ingushetia's main city, Nazran, today. She herself lived in Chechnya for many years, before moving to Moscow in 2000. She now works for a human rights agency, giving legal advice to migrants from the North Caucasus now living in the Russian capital.

"[When I lived in Chechnya just before the war] there were the same provocations, the same explosions, the same shots fired. And then they brought in the army to restore order, supposedly. And what did that restoring of order result in? Well, we all know the answer to that. It's still not finished today," Tarshkhoeva says.

Tarshkhoeva, like many others in Ingushetia, fears that the situation in Ingushetia will resemble Chechnya's descent into violence in the 1990s.

Over the past three months, Ingushetia has been the scene of almost daily violence. Civilians have been killed in drive-by shootings. Local police and security forces have been targeted by militants:

"I think [the situation] is only going to get worse. They'll bring in troops for the restoration of order according to the constitution," she says. "And there will be the same sort of cleansing that we saw in Chechnya; the same provocations, the same disappearances of ordinary people. That's my opinion -- that the scenario will be the same as that in Chechnya in 1994, 1995."

Refugees From Chechnya

Chechen and Russian forces began fighting in December 1994. Moscow said it was sending troops to the troubled republic to restore constitutional order and to end lawlessness.

Thousands of Chechen refugees fled fighting to neighboring Ingushetia in the 1990s.

The Ingush are predominantly Muslim and ethnically and linguistically extremely close to the Chechens.

In recent days, hundreds of people have protested in Ingushetia's main city of Nazran to protest the growing violence.

"Yesterday I spoke to my mother on the telephone. My mother is 80 years old, she can't go out. She can't go to these protests. My brother is an invalid, he can't walk. He also can't leave the house. He was injured in Ingushetia when it was under fire in 1999. But they're not afraid. They've already grown accustomed to the situation," Tarshkhoeva says.

War With Ossetia

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, people in Ingushetia have become accustomed to violence. There was a brief war in 1991 between military units from Ingushetia and the neighboring republic of North Ossetia.

Many Ingush fled North Ossetia's Prigorodny Raion and have since launched a campaign to return to their former homes.

Tarshkhoeva says that many Ingushetians feel they have little choice but to stay.

"It's just they have nowhere to go, they have no choice but to stay there. If they could leave, they would already have left," Tarshkhoeva says. "Where can they go? Everything had only just settled down and now it's kicking off again. Of course they are against what is happening -- who needs that?"

And it is the memories of the two successive wars in Chechnya that has Ingushetians, like Tarshkhoeva, deeply worried.

"It all started the same way [in Chechnya.] I was old enough then [to know what was going on] and I saw it all with my own eyes. That's what I expect -- my prognosis is pessimistic, as I've told you. This can't end well."

Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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