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Several Protesters In Ingushetia Injured In Clashes With Police

Several protesters suffered injuries in a melee that ensued when police tried to break up the unsanctioned rally.

MAGAS, Russia -- Police on March 27 forcibly dispersed hundreds of demonstrators in Magas, the capital of Russia's North Caucasus region of Ingushetia, where they staged an unsanctioned protest against a controversial border deal with neighboring Chechnya. Several people were injured in the clashes.

The clashes came a day after thousands attended a protest approved by authorities against land swaps with Chechnya, where demonstrators called for Ingushetia's head, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, to step down.

Thousands Protest Chechen-Ingush Border Deal
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One of the protesters, Zarifa Sautiyeva, told RFE/RL that hundreds remained at the site on March 27 as police "charged" against the demonstrators three times since early morning, using rubber batons and shields.

The protesters used chairs brought to the site for elderly people and other items to repel the attacks, Sautiyeva said.

Several protesters suffered injuries in the ensuing melee. Demonstrators left the site after authorities promised to allow them to hold another rally in five days.

Local journalist Izabella Evloyeva posted a video taken during the clashes on Facebook.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters blocked a major highway near Ingushetia's largest city, Nazran, on March 27, also demanding Yevkurov's resignation and the cancelation of the land swap deal with Chechnya.

A spokeswoman for Ingushetia's Interior Ministry refused to comment on the situation to RFE/RL.

Deal Behind Closed Doors

Large protests were held in Ingushetia in September after Yevkurov and the leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, signed the deal behind closed doors.

The new rallies appear to put increased pressure on Yevkurov over the border deal.

In an apparent bid to appease Ingush who oppose the agreement, Yevkurov on March 20 withdrew proposed legislation that would cancel the need to hold referendums on any changes of the regional border.

Yevkurov and Kadyrov said the agreement was approved by the parliaments of both republics several days later, despite protests against what some see as the illegal handing out of territory to Chechnya, Ingushetia's larger neighbor to the east.

Protesters have called for a public referendum on the deal.

On October 30, Ingushetia's Constitutional Court ruled that the agreement was illegal because "it changes the territory of the Republic of Ingushetia," something it said requires approval by referendum.

But Yevkurov took the issue to the Federal Constitutional Court in Moscow with a request for support for the agreement, which the court did in December.

The issue has raised concerns about the possibility of a regional conflict in Russia, which is home to a large number of ethnic groups.

With reporting by Caucasian Knot