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Intraregional border change torpedoed in court after weeks of protest

Intraregional border change torpedoed in court after weeks of protest
A deal to change the border between the republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya in Russia was overturned by a court. The proposed border deal sparked thousands-strong protests in a region rife with old rivalries and hot tempers.

On Tuesday, the constitutional court of Ingushetia announced its ruling on an appeal, which was filed by people disagreeing with the decision to change the border with the Chechen republic. The court sided with the plaintiffs, who argued that the Ingush Parliament overstepped its authority in ratifying the border change agreement and that such a profound change should be approved by a republic-wide referendum.

The proposed land swap, which was finalized in late September by the governments of the two neighbor Russian regions located in North Caucasus, sought to end a dispute over the administrative border. The border did not exist during the Soviet times, when the two regions were a united autonomy within USSR, but in the 1990s it split along ethnic lines. The deal was viewed as unfair by a large number of Ingush people, who started mass protests against it.

Opponents of the border deal celebrated the success of their cause on Wednesday during a rally in Ingush city of Magas. Several thousand people gathered for the event, which was remarkably less tense than some of the previous gatherings in Ingushetia. Organizers of the protest movement earlier announced that their goal was reached and told supporters not to show up to rallies scheduled for early November.

The victory however may not be as final as believed. Ingush leader Yunus-Bek Yevkurov said he may seek a legal opinion from Russia’s Constitutional Court on the decision taken by his region’s judiciary. The deal itself may be challenged in federal courts as well, some experts argue, as administrative borders of regions of Russia are arguably a matter for the entire nation to have a say in.

The Kremlin, however, doesn’t seem eager to get involved. The spokesman for the Russian President, Dmitry Peskov, said the Ingush court’s ruling is “a judicial issue” that should be tackled by legal experts at this point.

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