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AFP
October 31, 2018
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Caucasus court rules against Moscow-backed land swap

World

AFP
October 31, 2018

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A court in Russia’s volatile republic of Ingushetia on Tuesday ruled that a Moscow-backed deal handing over land to neighbouring Chechnya was unconstitutional, setting it on a collision course with the Kremlin.

Thousands of people in the Caucasus republic have taken to the streets over the last month to protest the agreement. Ingushetia’s constitutional court said the plan violates the republic’s constitution and can only be enforced through a referendum, according to a statement on its website.

"This law in effect changes the territory of the Republic of Ingushetia, this means its adoption can only be possible through the results of a referendum," the statement said. Demonstrations broke out in the republic’s main city Madras after the leaders of the majority-Muslim regions of Ingushetia and Chechnya agreed on new contours of the land boundary between them.

The agreement was overseen by President Vladimir Putin’s emissary to the Caucasus. Protesters said the pact is detrimental to tightly-populated Ingushetia as it surrenders territory to much larger Chechnya run by Ramzan Kadyrov, a hugely controversial former rebel backed by the Kremlin.

The roots of the territorial conflict stem from the early days of the Soviet Union when borders between various Northern Caucasus territories were redrawn. The people of Ingushetia and Chechnya are ethnically close. During World War II, Stalin accused the Chechens and Ingush of collaborating with the Nazi and deported them to Central Asia. The exiles were later allowed to return.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian troops fought two separatist wars in Chechnya, while Ingushetia chose to become a Russian republic. Russia’s Northern Caucasus struggles with a litany of problems including a simmering Islamist insurgency, deep poverty and entrenched corruption and presents one of the biggest challenges for the Kremlin.

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