Some of the facts of corruption in Ingushetia co-chairman of the World Congress of the Ingush People Akhmed Pogorov who was detained in the Magas rally have later become the subject of investigations by law enforcers. Pogorov did not stop his anti-corruption investigations until Yunus-Beck Evkurov, the head of Ingushetia, resigned.
The international wanted list did not stop Pogorov’s anti-corruption investigations
Akhmed Pogorov, the leader of the Ingush protest who was detained on February 26, is known for his anti-corruption investigations. In 2019, he, together with Barakh Chemurziev, a member of the Presidium of the World Congress of the Ingush People, prepared several videos in which he gave examples of corruption schemes in Ingushetia.
The most popular was his investigation into the construction of a housing estate for residents of the landslide zone in Malgobek and Malgobek district. Pogorov’s video of what the new neighbourhood, which the authorities reported handing over in 2017, represents, was posted on Fortang Org’s Youtube channel on May 16, 2019. As of 12 p.m. Moscow time on March 3, it had 10,866 views, with a thousand users ticking “like” under it.
According to Pogorov, the residential district was built in Malgobek under the federal program “Socio-economic development of Ingushetia in 2010-16. Yunus-Bek Yevkurov reported to Vladimir Putin that the housing estate is completely finished, but in fact, as the video shows, most of the houses are empty, the school next to it has not been completed and the territory of the settlement has not been landscaped. “We see that this is a dead zone. There is no resettlement,” Pogorov stated.
He pointed out that the money allocated for the construction of the settlement had been misappropriated through corrupt schemes. For example, about 280 million rubles from this facility, according to documents, was used to build a sports palace in Nazran, and about 160 million was used to build a perinatal centre in Nazran. Pogorov suggested that this was done to recover previously stolen funds.
In addition, Evkurov’s relative has built three shopping malls in this neighbourhood with the money appropriated for the construction of housing for the needy, and has also built a mortar mixing plant on five hectares of land not far from the construction site, the activist says. Pogorov said that the mortar for the construction of buildings in the microdistrict is supplied from this unit at a several times higher price.
Pogorov posted the video in social network, being already on the federal wanted list. Following this investigation, law enforcers arrived at Pogorov’s home on May 17, 2019, the activist’s relatives reported.
Later in November 2019, when Thepost of the head of Ingushetia was already held by Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, the press service of the head and the government of Ingushetia reported about the revealed violations in the construction of houses for residents of the landslide zone. The violations were committed by contractors, “due to whose negligence in 2017, some residents of the landslide area were unable to move into the apartment buildings on Section 110,” the press office said.
According to the press service of the head and government of the republic, in 2013 for about 800 families from the landslide zone in Malgobek 32 apartment houses with a total area of 90.4 thousand square meters were built, more than three billion from the federal budget were spent for this purpose. “600 families are still waiting in line for a kindergarten in the rural settlements of Kantyshevo, Novy Redant and Sagopshi. The construction […] has not yet completed the construction of three pre-school institutions for 220 children each. The facilities were supposed to be commissioned back in December 2018”, – the report says.
Pogorov’s investigation into the construction of wastewater treatment plants in the Malgobek district also became popular. The video, posted on March 8, 2019 on Fortanga Org Youtube channel, as of 12:00 Moscow time on March 3, gained 7,215 views and 365 “like” marks.
“According to the documents, this is a new facility built in 2014, more than 420 million rubles were invested here. But according to experts’ estimates, no more than 100 million rubles was spent to build the treatment facilities,” Pogorov said in the video.
According to him, sewage from new high-rise buildings, which should undergo multi-stage treatment and become safe for the environment, is not being cleaned. They go straight down a drain designed for emergency discharge, which is activated in case of malfunctions. As a result, the facility is in fact not fulfilling its purpose, one watchman is working instead of the supposed 28 employees, and most of the money, according to the papers, spent on the construction of the wastewater treatment plant has been stolen, the activist says.
Pogorov’s attention was also drawn to investment projects in the republic. One of his investigative videos concerns the construction of a glassware plant in the village of Sagopshi. The plant was planned to be built within the framework of the federal program “Social and Economic Development of Ingushetia for 2010-2016” back in 2012, the production could provide jobs for the residents of the republic – it was assumed that 250 to 300 people could work there, according to Pogorov’s investigation, published on Youtube channel Fortanga Org on March 11, 2019. The deadline for the project has long expired and the plant has never been built, the activist said. “We see a fenced-in area, a fence and a locked gate,” Pogorov says in the video. He claims that 13 billion rubles were allocated for the construction of the plant.
In March 2019, law enforcement officers of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (GUEB&PK) together with their colleagues from Ingushetia organized an inspection of the implementation of the state contract for the project “Construction of the infrastructure of the glass raw materials production cluster for the production of glass containers in Ingushetia”. “Almost 795 million rubles were allocated from the federal and regional budgets for the construction of the facilities. However, these facilities […] have not been commissioned and put into operation, although the deadline has expired,” said a law enforcement source.
In his investigation “Plant on billion rubles evaporated as alcohol”, Pogorov tells about construction of a distillery in Karabulak. According to the activist, the enterprise of the German company was opened in 1996, the total cost of its construction at the prices of that time was about $10 million. To the enterprise with the production capacity of about 1000 deciliters of alcohol per day, a railway branch line was built and the infrastructure was brought up. Citing the fact that the production of alcohol by Muslims is prohibited, the authorities soon decided to shut down the plant in Karabulak, and the expensive equipment was sold and transported to North Ossetia. “The plant has been ripped out with its roots. Today we see a bare site,” Pogorov says in a video posted March 24, 2019, on Fortang Org’s Youtube channel.
The authorities could have made an effort to preserve the plant, but did not do so, according to the activist. For example, in 2009 the then head of Ingushetia Yevkurov received a proposal to convert the enterprise into a food processing plant, using for this purpose money from sale of equipment. There was no understanding from the leadership of the republic, Pogorov pointed out. The authorities don’t need either the republic’s budget revenues or jobs, he says. Pogorov did not rule out that the authorities, with whose knowledge the plant was destroyed, were getting dividends from the operation of the plant in North Ossetia which was built using equipment from the Karabulak plant.
The activist also pointed out that the vacant territory of the plant was leased for a paltry sum in 2016 to a local construction company for five years. He did not rule out that when the lease expires, the land will be taken over by those in power.
Human rights activists assessed Pogorov’s influence on the trial of protest leaders
Magomed Mutsolgov, the head of the Ingush human rights organization Mashr, and Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the Civic Assistance Committee*, when commenting on Pogorov’s detention in connection with the Magas rally, doubted that this fact would influence in any way the trial of the protest leaders, which has been going on in the Yessentuki city court since November 2020.
Human rights activists believe that the trial of the protest leaders has already shown the invalidity of the charges against the activists, “Caucasian Knot” reported on October 26, 2020.
Mutsolgov believes that Pogorov “was detained not as a result of some cunning special operation, but on purpose, in order to save the face of his own department.
“Akhmed managed to remain free for almost two years, thus demonstrating his ability and capacity to evade prosecution despite all the operational activities within the framework of his search and numerous searches in the homes of his relatives and friends. Akhmed repeatedly demonstrated courage and dignity not only when he returned to the republic for the two-week rally held in Magas in October 2018, when he took part in other mass rallies, but also now when he was detained […] I believe that both Akhmed and I have long ago proved everything that was required of us. We demonstrated that the power and possibilities of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov are not unlimited”, – Mutsolgovwrote in his post “Akhmed Pogorov waited for arrest in his own house” in his blog on the “Caucasian Knot” on February 26.
Akhmed Pogorov was detained at his home in Nazran on the morning of February 26. The law enforcers came after him in military cars and Gazelles. His relatives were not informed about where he was taken, the activist’s nephew told Fortanga. Pogorov is charged with organizing violence against authority representatives (part 3 of Article 33 and part 2 of Article 318 of the RF Criminal Code), the Investigative Committee of Russia reported on its website the same day.
Pogorov was a participant in the March 26, 2019 rally in Magas and called activists to order. The activist was charged in absentia. He was placed on a federal wanted list in May 2019.
* – the organization has been added to the list of foreign agents by the decision of the Russian Ministry of Justice.