A number of protesters in the Russian republic of Ingushetia have been dismissed from their jobs, allegedly at the request of the head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Ingushetia has been rocked by protests in recent months against a deeply unpopular land deal between Chechnya and Ingushetia.
Ingush bloggers and social activists first began reporting in mid-December that people protesting a deeply unpopular land deal with neighbouring Chechnya were facing dismissals from their jobs.
The land deal was signed on 26 September by Yevkurov and his Chechen counterpart, Ramzan Kadyrov. According to the agreement, Ingushetia will transfer 340 square kilometres (about 9% of its territory) to Chechnya.
The agreement, and a subsequent bill in the Ingush parliament approving it, sparked large protests in Ingushetia, with a number of local MPs and Ingushetia’s constitutional court among the opponents of the deal.
[Read on OC Media: Russian court rules Chechen–Ingush land swap legal]
Those dismissed included a senior manager at Ingushneft, a subsidiary of partly state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft, the deputy director of the Memorial of Memory and Glory, a museum about past political repression in Ingushetia, and an officer from the republic’s traffic police.
Anzhela Matiyeva, who was the head of the social welfare department at Ingushneft, told OC Media that company CEO Ruslan Bekov demanded she quit ‘of her own accord’ on 9 December.
Matiyeva said that on 13 December, despite being informed by the company’s legal department that firing her would be illegal, something her own lawyers also insisted, Bekov went ahead and did so.
She claimed that Bekov told her directly that he did this after receiving a phone call from Ingush head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who demanded she be dismissed as a ‘representative of the protest movement’.
Matiyeva said that she remained chair of the Ingushneft trade union and that the union would meet to discuss the actions of the company’s CEO.
She also claimed that Bekov intended to interfere with the trade union’s meeting.
In response to Matiyeva’s dismissal, several prominent Ingush bloggers and public organisations called for drivers to boycott Rosneft petrol stations.
According to civil activist Khanifa Ozdoyeva, who first proposed it, several thousand Ingush drivers vowed to support the boycott.
Ingushneft CEO Ruslan Bekov told OC Media that Matiyeva was fired because of systematic absences from work and unauthorised leave during the working day, citing a business trip on 26 October to Moscow region to participate in a corporate educational seminar, which Matiyeva did not attend.
On the boycott of the Rosneft petrol stations, Bekov said that the petrol stations belonged to another subsidiary of Rosneft, Ingushnefteprodukt, and had nothing to do with Ingushneft.
Matiyeva insisted her absences from work were due to illness and provided doctors notes for the dates in question.
The Memorial of Memory and Glory
Zarifa Sautiyeva is the deputy director of the Memorial of Memory and Glory in the Ingush biggest city Nazran. Sautiyeva told OC Media that while she is formally still an employee of the museum, she will be made redundant in a ‘staff reduction’ on 16 January.
Sautiyeva said that Ingushetia’s Deputy Culture Minister Alikhan Vadilov personally told her she was being dismissed because the ministry was under pressure from the republic’s leadership.
According to Sautiyeva, her dismissal was connected to her participation in the protest movement as a member of public organisation Support for Ingushetia. Sautiyeva is currently on sick leave from her job.
Angela Matiyeva told OC Media that access to sick leave had become a legal loophole for some members of the protest movement to avoid dismissal from work. According to her, the local government was demanding doctors not issue sick leave to opposition activists.
This was confirmed by OC Media and other Ingush social activists and bloggers. Blogger Yakub Gogiyev told OC Media that state institutions were given an unofficial list of opposition activists and community activists that were barred from being given jobs or given access to hospitals for treatment.
According to Matiyeva, despite the pressure from the authorities, local doctors had refused to risk the health of patients and were admitting them to hospital regardless of the list.
‘When I was about to go to the hospital for treatment, the chief physician of the hospital in Malgobek was told not to give me sick leave. I don’t know exactly who pressured the chief physician, I was told he was called from the Republic’s Ministry of Health and Ingushneft. But the doctors understood that I really needed medical assistance. Only thanks to the insistence of the head physician and other doctors did the authorities no longer object to my sick leave,’ said Matiyeva.
On 13 December, Magomed-Rashid Sultygov, an officer of Ingushetia’s traffic police, was also dismissed from his job allegedly for his role during protest rallies in Magas from 4–17 October.
Thousands took to the streets of Magas from 4 October until 17 October, when the official protest permit expired.
Sultygov told OC Media that during the rally, he and his colleagues from the traffic police and the special police unit of the Ingush Interior Ministry guarded the Magas Roundabout of the Kavkaz Federal Highway to prevent the Russian National Guard from entering Magas.
Local media reported at the time that Russian National Guard units from neighbouring republics attempted to enter Magas several times during the protests, but were prevented by Ingush riot police.
Sultygov said he intended to challenge his dismissal in court.
Discussions of the dismissals also reached beyond Ingushetia. Shamil Khadulayev, a member of the Public Chamber of Daghestan, criticised the dismissals of Sautiyeva and Matiyeva, claiming they did not commit any illegal actions. ‘Attacking women in the Caucasus has always been considered unworthy thing’, he added.
Meanwhile, Daghestani historian Zurab Gadzhiyev spoke out against the dismissal of Sautiyeva from the Memorial of Memory and Glory.
‘She herself became a victim of political repression. If I were in her place, my last action at the post would be to present a photo of myself as a gift to the museum, as an exhibit’ said Gadzhiyev.