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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ingush Leader Insists All Under Control at Home

Ingush President Murat Zyazikov insisted that he was still in control Thursday, despite the near-daily violence that has been gripping his North Caucasus republic, and he accused the media of painting a distorted picture of events there.

"We have no terrorist underground," he told reporters in Moscow.

Two hours after the news conference ended, gunmen shot dead two soldiers in Nazran, the republic's largest city.

Ingushetia, which neighbors Chechnya, has experienced a spate of shootings and bombings this year, prompting the Interior Ministry to send 2,500 federal troops to the republic in July.

Zyazikov downplayed the significance of the deployment Thursday, calling it an "ordinary, preventive, planned operation."

The Ingush leader is trying to maintain a semblance of normality by using such terms to describe the deployment, said Andrei Soldatov, editor of Agentura.ru, a web site devoted to national security issues. "Evidently he is trying to present the situation in a way demonstrating that he is in control," he said.

A former general in the Federal Security Service, Zyazikov was elected president in 2002 amid accusations that the Kremlin had intervened on his behalf to install a friendly leader. He is the only head of a North Caucasus republic to have been reappointed to his post since 2004, when the Kremlin replaced direct elections with a system under which it appoints regional leaders.

Now the republic is embroiled in unrest. There have been shootings of police in Ingushetia every day this week.

Zyazikov's news conference came a day after police clashed with demonstrators in Nazran. A crowd of 500 gathered on Wednesday to protest a series of abductions, which they blame on security forces, and called for Zyazikov's resignation. Some threw rocks at police.

The Ingush president denied that the authorities had used violence against the demonstrators. "There were no beatings by OMON riot police," he said.

Peppered with questions about shootings and kidnappings, Zyazikov acknowledged that the incidents had occurred but said they were being emphasized unfairly in the media, which was ignoring positive developments like the openings of a new maternity ward and a wedding palace. He criticized unidentified political enemies for using the media to smear the reputation of Ingushetia and himself. "I know I'm inconvenient for certain media outlets," he said.

Asked about recent attacks on ethnic Russian schoolteachers, he said, "Not one Ingush could have lifted his hand against a teacher."

Zyazikov told reporters that he had no plans to resign from his post. "I will still be around for another 10 years," he said.