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Ingushetia Activist Says Protest Against Chechnya Border Deal Will Continue

Ingush activists pray during an ongoing protest rally against the new land-swap deal with Chechnya in Magas last week.
Ingush activists pray during an ongoing protest rally against the new land-swap deal with Chechnya in Magas last week.

A leading activist in Russia's North Caucasus region of Ingushetia says a demonstration against a border deal with Chechnya will continue despite the authorities' refusal to extend permission for the rally past October 17.

Sirazhdin Sultygov told the newspaper Kommersant on October 16 that the protest in the Ingushetian capital, Magas, will continue until the controversial border deal is annulled.

The demonstration, which has drawn thousands of people on some days and a core of protesters spending the night, is one of the biggest and most persistent in the volatile North Caucasus in recent years.

It raises the specter of regional conflict in Russia, a huge country that is home to a large number of ethnic groups, and amplified concerns about the power of Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

The protesters say the agreement signed behind closed doors by Kadyrov and Ingushetian leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov on September 26 unfairly hands parts of Ingushetia to Chechnya.

They have called for Yevkurov's resignation and a referendum on the border deal, which officials announced was approved by the parliaments of both regions several days later.

After the protest began on October 4, Ingush lawmakers said they had not approved the deal, but Chechen authorities said that it entered into force earlier this week.

Activists said that an October 16 meeting between protest representatives and President Vladimir Putin's envoy in the North Caucasus, Aleksandr Matovnikov, produced no result.

The head of the Council of the Ingush Teips or tribal unions, Malsag Uzhakhov, told RFE/RL that Matovnikov said protesters could take part in the commission or take their complaints to the courts.

Uzhakhov said the delegation was dissatisfied with Matovnikov's position and left the talks without shaking hands or saying goodbye.

Meanwhile, Kadyrov said on the social network VKontakte on October 17 that "attempts by third parties to drive a wedge between our peoples...are absolutely unacceptable and useless."

Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya with Putin's backing for more than a decade, earlier warned the Ingush protesters that they "will be held accountable."

Ingushetia and Chechnya, its larger eastern neighbor, were parts of a single administrative region in the Soviet era and split after the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Concerns about losing territory are strong in Ingushetia, which lost control of the disputed Prigorodny district to another neighbor, North Ossetia, following a conflict in 1992 that left some 600 people dead, predominantly Ingush.

Chechnya was the site of two devastating separatist wars from 1994-2001 and the epicenter of a subsequent Islamist insurgency that spilled violence into Ingushetia and other republics in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus.

Both Ingushetia and Chechnya are plagued by poverty, high unemployment, and corruption.

With reporting by Kommersant and Caucasus Knot
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