Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Monday, 22 June 2009 14:48 UK

Ingush attack deals Russia major blow

By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Moscow

Car destroyed in bomb attack on Ingush President Yevkurov
Could details of the motorcade have been leaked?

Confirmation from security officials in Ingushetia that the attack on President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov was a targeted suicide car bombing will intensify the Russian government's deep concerns over the incident.

Suicide car bombings - a hallmark of Islamist rebels - are extremely rare in the North Caucasus.

But it is clear the person who carried out this attack had detailed information about where and when the president's motorcade would be on the move.

That makes some analysts wary of assuming that Islamic militants, fighting for independence from Russia, are the only possible suspects.

"A number of high-profile officials in the region were unhappy with Yevkurov's policies," says Grigory Shvedov, a leading regional expert.

"Impending dismissals in the government were probably the reason for this attempted assassination.

"Yevkurov was planning to introduce order, to fight corruption and to sack politicians suspected of graft."

So could officials from within the Ingush government have deliberately leaked the information about the president's motorcade to a militant organisation?

Greater trust

When Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, a career soldier, was appointed president of Ingushetia last October, there were high expectations that he would restore stability to the tiny republic, where the violence had been getting so bad that some were already warning it had plunged into a state of civil war.

For the new president, that would not just mean fighting the militants.

Russian security forces after a bombing in Ingushetia
Russia is desperate for its forces to impose control in the North Caucasus

It would also mean bringing the security forces back under control and tackling endemic corruption, both of which had been fuelling the insurgency.

During my visit to Ingushetia last November, just after Mr Yevkurov had been appointed, a top opposition politician told me he had been impressed by the new president's willingness to sit down and talk with opposition groups, and by his stated plans to stop human rights abuses being committed by the security forces and to tackle corruption.

But the opposition politician also warned Mr Yevkurov would only have a few months to turn words into action.

While the president did succeed in gaining a greater level of trust from the population, that did not translate into any significant improvement in the security situation.

Experts say the end of winter and the start of the traditional fighting season has brought a resumption of the violence at the same level as last year.

This June has been particularly bad.

Before Monday's attack, two senior figures, including a top judge, had already been assassinated.

Chechen overflow

Mr Yevkurov was aware of the huge challenge he faced, saying running a Russian republic like Ingushetia was far harder than the foreign military operations he had been responsible for when he was an army general.

He faced a particularly difficult task given the suppression of the rebellion in Chechnya in recent years, which meant the focus of Islamic militancy had shifted across the border into Ingushetia.

And now Mr Yevkurov lies in hospital after what some insiders say was very complicated surgery to repair damage to vital organs and his skull.

He may be in a stable condition and may live, but it is not yet known whether he will ever be able to return to his job.

For the Kremlin which is desperate to restore stability in the North Caucasus, it is a major blow.

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