MAGAS, Russia -- Protests over a border deal with Chechnya show little sign of abating in Ingushetia, where demonstrators have rallied for a fifth straight day in the small southern region's capital and called for the resignation of its longtime leader.
On October 8, protesters moved their tents and benches from the central square in Magas to a site in front of the state radio and television company, where the city authorities have allowed them to hold their sit-in through October 15.
Many are vowing to persist after that, determined to undo an agreement they say unfairly hands parts of Ingushetia to Chechnya, a larger region to the east that is headed by strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.
The number of protesters change as some go home to rest and then return to the site. At night there have been hundreds of people, but the crowd has swollen to thousands, including elderly men and women, in the daylight hours.
The protesters have organized hot food delivery at their camp, and have been giving speeches nearby close to the central Idris Zyazikov Avenue.
Police and security troops, who are monitoring the protest, have joined the demonstrators' Islamic prayers since the first day.
Many cars parked near the protest camp are adorned with portraits of Ingushetia's first post-Soviet leader, Ruslan Aushev, who met with protesters on October 7 and publicly expressed his support for them.
Aushev criticized Ingushetia's current leadership, saying regional head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov erred by not consulting with the Ingush people before committing to the deal with Chechnya.
The agreement, which would exchange what officials described as unpopulated plots of agricultural land, was signed by Yevkurov and Kadyrov on September 26 and approved by the parliaments of both regions last week.
Ingush protesters say the deal is detrimental to densely populated Ingushetia, which is closely linked linguistically and ethnically to neighboring Chechnya. 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.
Chechnya was the site of two devastating separatist wars from 1994-2001 and the epicenter of a subsequent Islamist insurgency that spilled violence across regional borders in the North Caucasus.
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, where Kadyrov rules unchallenged. He recently threatened the Ingush protesters, saying they "will be held accountable."