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Border conflict shakes city between Chechnya and Dagestan
On the night of June 10, residents of Kizlyar, Dagestan, knocked down Chechen street signs near the Chechen-Dagestani border. A video circulated on social media that showed a group of young people breaking down street signs that read “Chechen Republic: Shelkovskoy District.” The person taping the video can be heard saying, “Here’s a surprise for you. […] Kizlyar has become the territory of the Chechen Republic.”
The area where the signs were located is Chechen territory. Dagestani government head Vladimir Vasilyev noted in his comments on the incident that the signs in question were located on a section of border territory within Chechnya that has not been disputed. At the same time, he called on the Chechen government to “have understanding for the fact that some of the population saw things differently — not as signs, but as an attack on our territorial interests.” The historian Zurab Gadzhiev, a member of Dagestan’s border negotiations commission, also wrote that the land under the sign belonged to the Chechen Republic but that Chechen road signs had not been present there before, making them “geographic news for the residents of Kizlyar.”
On June 11, Russian National Guard forces arrived at the site of the incident. The road signs were reinstalled under their watch. Magomed Daudov, the speaker of Chechnya’s parliament, also arrived in Kizlyar and publicly criticized Kizlyar District head Alexander Pogorelov. “Yesterday’s events would not have happened if this had been explained [to the district’s residents]. If you had held meetings, if your village deputies or district deputies had met with the youth, this panic wouldn’t have happened,” Daudov argued. Chechen government leader Ramzan Kadyrov said in a livestream on Instagram that “We want to live in friendship and brotherhood. That’s why I’m saying, dear Dagestanis, don’t give in to provocation.” Kadyrov also addressed other Instagram users who wrote negative comments. “Watch your tongue and your fingers or we’ll break your fingers and rip your tongue out,” he said.
There are disputed areas on the border between Chechnya and Dagestan. In the beginning of 2019, the governments of both regions began negotiations to clarify the Chechen-Dagestani border and emphasized that there were no major territorial disagreements between them. In April, however, those talks came to a stop for reasons neither party explained. In May, the government of Dagestan announced a contest for a land management project that would demarcate the borders between the republic and Chechnya, Stavropol Krai, and Kalmykia. The project is scheduled for completion by December 15.
Chechnya is also embroiled in a different territorial conflict with Ingushetia. In 2018, the two regions signed an agreement that granted Chechnya a significant net increase in territory. The Ingush executive branch announced that the region’s parliament approved the agreement, but parliamentary deputies themselves said the outcome of their vote was falsified. After several days of unusually influential protests in the old Ingush capital of Magas, the republic’s Constitutional Court ruled that the border agreement was illegal because it was made without a popular referendum. Regional government leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov then appealed the decision to Russia’s Constitutional Court, which decided otherwise. Protest leaders then faced persecution from local authorities.
Translation by Hilah Kohen
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