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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Perilous Incompetence in Ingushetia

Sunday's vote in Ingushetia was marred by the latest in a long line of election scandals. Khamzat Gutseriyev -- brother of Slavneft president Mikhail Gutseriyev and member of the most power clan in the republic -- for whose benefit the elections were essentially organized, was cut from the race at the last minute thanks to the machinations of Viktor Kazantsev, Vladimir Putin's plenipotentiary representative in the Southern Federal District.

Despite Kazantsev's backing, his deputy, FSB General Murat Zyazikov, got only 19 percent of the vote, making him a longshot to win in the second round.

What happens next is anyone's guess. The defeat of Kremlin-backed candidates in Kursk and Primorye was just more proof of the incompetence of the so-called kompetentniye organy, or security organs. But in the Caucasus, Kazantsev's ham-handed actions could turn Ingushetia into another Chechnya.

I'm not saying that Ingushetia should be run by the Gutseriyev clan. Mikhail Gutseriyev is, in my view, a rather odious figure. He is the former head of the BIN free economic zone in Ingushetia, created in an attempt to buy off the Ingush and drive a wedge between them and the Chechens. In fact the tax haven became a major financial pipeline for the rebels. When you get right down to it, the free economic zone was the tribute paid by the crumbling Russian empire to the restive Ingush. As the manager of that tribute, Gutseriyev was known as the co-owner of Ingushetia even under former Ingush President Ruslan Aushev.

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The appointment of Gutseriyev to the top post in a state oil company is surely unprecedented in Russian history -- even leaving out all the unexplained, and probably bogus, rumors that his appointment was helped along by a $20 million bribe paid to Tatyana Dyachenko via Vladimir Rushailo. The closest parallels are probably to Baghdad in the Middle Ages, when powerless caliphs occasionally had no choice but to appoint leaders of the local Arab mafia to run the city's security.

Everyone knew a year ago that the Gutseriyev clan would take part in the elections; just about the only people for whom it came as a surprise were the president's men in the Southern Federal District. They finally caught on when they found out that bags of money marked with BIN bank's stamp were being unloaded from airplanes. Only then did they get in gear and, belatedly, request the removal of Gutseriyev as head of Slavneft.

But they were outgunned by the Gutseriyevs' wealth and influence. This explains the incredibly idiotic story of the rooftop shootout at Kazantsev's headquarters.

I'm ready to believe almost anything about Gutseriyev: that Slavneft's profits are split four ways between him, Roman Abramovich, the former Interior Ministry leadership and a friendly criminal organization; that his role as an intermediary in hostage situations in Chechnya was not always disinterested. But I can't believe the story about the shootout on the roof. People like Gutseriyev don't shoot up places they can buy before breakfast, and for a sum no larger than they spend on purchasing ties each year.

There's no question that the president's men are stuck in a mess not of their own making. Ingushetia used to be a small, pernicious pustule. Now, with the help of BIN bank and Slavneft, it has grown into a cancerous tumor.

The problem is that little gray office mice can't take on the tigers from Slavneft. Kazantsev's incompetence has forced Russia close to the brink of a second civil war, this time in Ingushetia. The system of ruling Russia by pitting clans against one another seems to have broken down. This time the battle of two clans -- "the family" and the chekists -- could lead to the collapse of Russia.

Yulia Latynina is a journalist for ORT.