The authorities of Dagestan promise not to repeat the mistakes of their neighbors while surveying their borders with Chechnya, though things are heading in the same direction" />

Chechen land grab: Dagestan wary of losing territory to Kadyrov’s territorial ambitions

The authorities of Dagestan promise not to repeat the mistakes of their neighbors while surveying their borders with Chechnya, though things are heading in the same direction

REUTERS/Sergei Rasulov

Based on an article from Novaya Gazeta.

After the demarcation of borders with Ingushetia, the authorities of Chechnya have set their eyes on yet another republic of the North Caucasus – Dagestan.

Land surveys were conducted last year, but the process was not made public. Taking into consideration the experience of their Ingush neighbors, Dagestani locals are asking the authorities to intervene and to not allow for the ‘Ingush scenario’ to repeat itself in Dagestan.

In an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of Dagestan, Vladimir Vasilyev, activists have asked that they “ensure full transparency at all stages of the process of regulating the borders and include representatives of rural communities and independent experts on commissions”, stressing that “the situation could otherwise lead to a social explosion”.

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The border between Dagestan and Chechnya is about 400 kilometres long.

On the Chechen side, a special commission headed by the chairman of the Chechen parliament, Magomed Daudov, is surveying the land. It is unknown who is responsible for the process in Dagestan.

Confusing negotiations

It all began in November last year.

A map appeared on the website of the Parliament of the Republic of Chechnya, on which significant differences between the borders of Dagestan and Chechnya were visible in comparison with the official map.

For example, the Kazenoy-Am Lake, an attractive tourist site, had been completely assigned to the territory of Chechnya. Social media users were indignant – the map disappeared without any comments.

In December, during a visit to Grozny, Vasilyev said: “A meeting is scheduled with Ramzan Kadyrov on border issues … Everything will be transparent.”

Nobody reported on the outcome of the meeting.

Then, Chechen Parliamentary Chair Magomed Daudov went to talk about the borders in Dagestan, and Khizr Shikhzaidov, the speaker of the Dagestan parliament, went to Chechnya.

Nothing was reported about the results of the negotiations or even about the meetings themselves. From the public results of the trips, we have only a photo of Shikhsaidov’s warm embraces with Ramzan Kadyrov.

In early February in Chechnya, a key official of the land survey, Khizri Khizriev, was detained. Allegedly, Chechen security forces found marijuana in his car. The administration of the head of Dagestan intervened and Khizriev was released. He called his detention “a minor incident”, but refused to speak about its underlying reasons.

“We won’t have another Ingushetia”

Against the background of these events, Dagestanis have begun to perceive what is happening as a quiet “surrender of Dagestan territories” by their officials, and worry that events might develop along the line of what happened in Ingushetia.

In Ingushetia, the results of borderland surveys were published after the fact, and led to a two-week protest with conflicts between the two peoples. The dispute was brought to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation,which ruled in favour of the Republic of Chechnya.

Dagestanis do not want a repetition of the Ingush experience and are trying to bring their point of view to the federal centre in the early stages.

Last week, activists announced the formation of a public commission and have publicly demanded a report from the authorities, which have begun to respond.

The head of Dagestan has finally publicly acknowledged that negotiations with Chechnya were taking place, and assured the public that a repetition of the Ingush scenario is impossible: “We remember what happened in Ingushetia in the autumn of 2018. This will not come to pass here due to the fact that we have very active people.”

Vasilyev said there were eight points of contention, which are not “big problems along the border … considering its length”. He refused to name specific instances, however, and called them “purely technical issues”.

These “purely technical issues” are what disturb the public of Dagestan the most.


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