It was announced on 10 March that Alexei Vorobyov, Ingushetia’s Prime Minister, resigned. The official reason for this is his transfer to a new position. It is also possible, however, that the prime minister had been asked to step down: rumours of his resignation had been circulating in the republic for a few months, while its taking effect come Thursday was announced the night before on an Ingush news website. In laymen’s terms, this was a top-down decision.
It is possible that Yunus-bek Yevkurov, the republic’s president, deliberately malingered before announcing Vorobyov’s resignation to give the latter some time to look for another job. A political figure of such magnitude obviously can’t leave their post and disappear into nowhere. Otherwise, it might lead to rumours and speculation about the nature of political power in Ingushetia.
Who is Alexei Vorobyov? He is 46 and has a wealth of experience in different places, including the Russian Interior Ministry and Customs Committee, in the latter of which he made a successful career for himself, reaching the rank of Major General and the head of the Central Operations Customs House. He resigned from his post there soon after the Three Whales corruption scandal, which involved several furniture companies and federal government bodies, was broken in 2000. For some time he vanished from public scene until December 2008, when he suddenly reappeared as counselor to the then newly appointed president of Ingushetia, Yunus-bek Yevkurov. Several months later, Vorobyov was appointed secretary of the republic’s security council and in October 2009 – prime minster of Ingushetia.
All operations involving the republic’s special forces were carried out with Vorobyov’s in the mix. At the time, his face was all over the republic’s television channels. Youthful, tanned and fit, with a dashing Hollywood smile, he stood out among the other Ingush officials. Even the national channels showed interest in him.
In May 2009, Vorobyov reported to the entire nation on a significant victory by the republic’s security task force: a large militant group had been defeated. “The militants were armed with Kalashnikovs automatic rifles, Makarov pistols, Tokarev TT pistols, as well as foreign-made guns, night-vision equipment, sleeping bags, camouflage, a myriad of cell phones, and SIM-cards,” Vorobyov reported. Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry promptly confirmed that “the militants were involved in attacks on civilians in the republic”.
Everything, however, started and ended with these triumphant statements. Soon it turned out that the defeated militant group was in fact the security service for Alikhan Palankoyev, a prominent Ingush businessman and owner of several petrol stations in the republic. The security service – even given the most favourable disposition towards it – was not entirely in compliance with criminal code regulations, and yet every one of the apprehended “militants” was later released.
In a totally corrupt Ingushetia, that gave rise to less than pleasant rumours about Vorobyov.
I interviewed Mr Vorobyov after he had been appointed prime minister of the republic. He did not seem very willing to talk to me, and in the end the interview was never published.
During that interview, Mr Vorobyov did not answer any one of my questions substantially, whether they addressed construction, the federal programme or security matters. Whatever question I asked him, he would say: “That is not within my authority… That is a question for the finance minister… That is a question for the president”. At that time, however, not a day passed without people being blown up in the republic. What’s more, what happened to the 29 billion dollars-worth of state financing generously granted in honour of the president’s appointment was a question of particular concern.
I was tempted to think that Mr Borobyov was not a competent enough man, but instead I chose to think that he was simply a man of an especially military mold.
In Ingushetia, it is very easy to follow all the executive-level mischief and back-room wheeling and dealing: just pay attention to who is being shown on television and who isn’t. For about a year, Vorobyov had been less and less visible on the republic’s television programmes. Word was going around that Yevkurov and Vorobyov weren’t getting along.
In late summer came the rumours of Vorobyov’s upcoming resignation. And now he – youthful, tan and fit – has been appointed head of the Moscow Department for Physical Education and Sports.
Ingushetia’s president politely emphasized that he was very happy to see Vorobyov promoted to a higher-level position.