Tensions in Russia’s turbulent North Caucasus mounted after Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen president, said he had been authorized by the Kremlin to begin a campaign of “torture” against rebels in neighbouring Ingushetia.
Russian troops appeared to be preparing to launch a major counterterrorism operation a day after Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, the Ingush president, was seriously wounded in a suicide bombing.
Mr Yevkurov, a close ally of Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, was on life-support in a Moscow hospital yesterday after sustaining serious injuries to his skull, ribs and vital organs, doctors said.
Speaking from the hospital, Mr Medvedev ordered a “direct and ruthless” response to the attack, which the Kremlin said was carried out by Islamist rebels who have gradually shifted their focus from Chechnya to Ingushetia.
In an unprecedented move, Mr Kadyrov said he had been instructed by the Russian president to extend his remit beyond Chechnya’s borders by taking control of operations against the insurgents in Ingushetia.
Mr Kadyrov claimed that Ingushetia had failed to crush a related rebellion because its leaders had been insufficiently robust in tackling the insurgents — a mistake he said he had no intention of repeating.
“If they had used torture and detentions, there wouldn’t be any Wahabbism or terrorism,” he said.
A senior interior ministry official confirmed that Russia’s military presence across the North Caucasus was being increased.
“A top-level decision has been taken to sharply boost anti-terrorist and anti-sabotage activity in the territory,” the official was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.