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Land-Swap Protests In Russia's Ingushetia Stretch Into Fourth Day


Magas residents rally in Alania Square against the recent change of borders between the republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya on October 5.

Thousands of protesters have jammed the capital of Russia's Ingushetia region for a fourth day, demanding the resignation of a longtime leader for a controversial land deal with neighboring Chechnya.

With demonstrators setting up tents and campfires in the center of the Ingushetian capital, Magas, the region's first post-Soviet leader, Ruslan Aushev, met with protesters on October 7.

He criticized the current leadership under Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, saying Yevkurov erred by not consulting with Ingushetia's people before committing to the deal with Chechnya.

The agreement , which would exchange what officials described as unpopulated plots of agricultural land, was approved by the parliaments of both regions last week, and immediately triggered massive protests in Ingushetia.

"The leadership of Ingushetia has made a grave mistake," Aushev said on October 7.

Protesters say the deal is detrimental to tightly populated Ingushetia, which is closely linked linguistically and ethnically to neighboring Chechnya.

Khamid Azhigov, 78, told Agence-France Presse that Yevkurov, who has run Ingushetia for the past decade, betrayed the Ingush people.

"He should be in prison. We will demand that today and in the future," Azhigov was quoted as saying.

Yevkurov tried to meet with the protesters on October 4 -- when the protests first erupted -- but he had to flee after the crowd booed and threw empty water bottles at him.

Like many regions of Russia's North Caucasus, Ingushetia is plagued by poverty, high unemployment, corruption, and the threat of Islamic extremism.

The two regions used to be parts of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. They split in 1992, a year after the Soviet collapse.

There has been little to no outcry to the land swap in Chechnya, whose leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, rules the region unchallenged. Kadyrov recently threatened the Ingush protesters, saying they "will be held accountable."

With reporting by Current Time TV
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