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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ingush Leader Ends Tumultuous Reign

ReutersMurat Zyazikov, who said he resigned as Ingush president on Thursday, meeting with foreign reporters in his office in in the regional capital, Magas, last week.
Murat Zyazikov, the unpopular president of Ingushetia, said late Thursday that he had resigned from his post to accept a job in Moscow.

President Dmitry Medvedev named Lieutenant Colonel Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, deputy chief of staff in the Volga-Urals Military District, as acting president, the Kremlin said. The appointment was based on a recommendation by Zyazikov, it said.

"This is an absolutely voluntary decision that I made in connection with changing jobs," Zyazikov said in brief comments carried by Interfax. "I will work in Moscow."

Zyazikov had been under pressure to resign for months as violence spiraled out of control in Ingushetia, and the Ingush opposition and analysts said Thursday that it was clear Medvedev had dismissed him.

"President Medvedev has showed some common sense firing Zyazikov," Rosa Malsagova, editor of opposition web site Ingushetia.org, said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Malsagova, who fled Russia amid a legal assault on the web site earlier this year, said she was sure the bloodshed would finally end in Ingushetia. She said she personally knew Yevkurov, and called him "a man of a noble character."

Yevkurov, 45, commanded Russian troops in Kosovo in 1999, Channel One reported Thursday. He has received the Hero of Russia award for his participation in military operations in the North Caucasus, according to the Warheroes.ru web site.

"He is an outsider, not part of the clan system, but they also thought that about Zyazikov when they made him president," said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst. "It is not clear if he will be better."

Oreshkin said Yevkurov was not just a temporary replacement. "If they wanted somebody temporarily, they would have put in one of Zyazikov's deputies. But they brought in somebody from an entirely different job," he said.

Zyazikov, a former general in the Federal Security Service, 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 elections with a system in which it appoints regional leaders.

The Ingush opposition has repeatedly called for Zyazikov's ouster, accusing him of murder, corruption and mismanagement.

Magomed Yevloyev, the owner of Ingushetia.org, whose predecessor site was shut down this summer by authorities on extremism charges, was killed on Aug. 31 after being detained by police in Ingushetia's main city, Nazran, as he stepped off a plane from Moscow. He had flown to Nazran in the business class cabin with Zyazikov.

The opposition accused Zyazikov of ordering the killing, a charge Zyazikov denies. Last week, investigators charged a police officer with accidentally shooting Yevloyev.

Attacks have become a near-daily occurrence in Ingushetia, prompting the federal Interior Ministry to send 2,500 troops into the republic in July 2007. But their presence has done little to restore calm.

Late last week, armed men drove into Ingushetia from neighboring Chechnya and kidnapped about 15 people, including policemen from a checkpoint and a slot machine hall.

On Sunday, Ingush Deputy Economic Minister Arsamak Zyazikov, a relative of the former president, was injured when a car he was driving exploded in Nazran. That same day, a bomb exploded in a car being driven by a police officer in the village of Ordzhonikidzevsky, outside Nazran, seriously injuring him.

Zyazikov's cousin, Bekhan Zyazikov, was killed by unidentified assailants on Sept. 10.