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Chechnya and Daghestan have suspended the border demarcation process between the two Russian republics a month after Chechnya ‘unilaterally’ registered parts of Daghestan as within their own territory.
On 16 April, the chairs of the Chechen and Daghestani parliaments, Magomed Daudov and Khizri Shikhsaidov, officially announced they were suspending work to enter information on the border into the official state register. The authorities of both republics did not comment on the reasons behind the decision.
A spokesman of the Daghestani Parliament, the People’s Assembly, told OC Media that they were unaware of Shikhsaidov’s statement, and were therefore unable to comment. A news post regarding the announcement had already been posted on the People’s Assembly’s website on 16 April.
Asked about the decision to suspend the demarcation, a spokesperson for the Secretariat of the Chechen Parliament told OC Media that ‘Daghestan is not ready yet’.
The Russian State Registration Service in Daghestan told OC Media that the suspension was not related to the activities of the Registration Service, and that they had received no statements or documents from the parliaments of the two republics regarding the suspension of work.
They added that the procedure of registering ownership of land plots had already been suspended, after several Chechen entries into the state registry were listed as including parts land in Daghestan.
Several members of the Daghestani public commission on border alignment told OC Media that in March 2019, the Chechen side illegally added nine disputed areas previously belonging to the territory of Daghestan to the cadastral register.
The public commission was formed independently by activists, historians, and journalists to scrutinise the demarcation process, and has been actively cooperating with the Daghestani government border commission.
On 2 April, the Daghestani parliament sent a letter of protest to the Chechen Parliament, the Russian Federal Registration Service, and the Russian President’s Representative in the North Caucasus, asking them to cancel the ‘unilateral’ determination of borders.
The letter came in response to Chechnya having registered an area of around 80 hectares of land near the village of Novomonastirskoye, in Daghestan’s Kizlyar District, as belonging to Chechnya.
Daghestan’s commission ‘hid information’
Magomed Magomedov, a representative of the Daghestani Public Commission, told OC Media that the Chechen side had registered all nine controversial land plots in March 2019.
According to him, in addition to the Kizlyar District, part of the Novolaksky, Gumbetovsky, Botlikh, and Tsumadinsky districts were added by Chechnya.
‘In early 2019, The authorities of Chechnya and Daghestan announced the start of work on the definition of administrative boundaries. Then they agreed that 75% of the borders with no controversial issues will be established this year, and the remaining 25% of work will continue in 2020. But the Chechen side is in a hurry for some reason, and the Daghestani side is silent’, Magomedov said.
According to him, the Daghestani government commission on border alignment hid information about how the work was being conducted, which maps were being used, and what decisions the parties agreed upon were.
Daghestani historian Zurab Gadzhiyev, another member of the public commission, told OC Media that the Chechen side had been working to determine the borders prior to the official February cooperation agreement to align the borders between the republics.
‘Chechnya borders 10 districts of Daghestan. By the autumn of 2018, the [Chechen side’s] work was completed. Now we find out that last year, the Chechen side offered the regions a chance to clarify the borders, but not in favour of Daghestan; the heads of the regions refused to make such an unequal exchange,’ Gadzhiyev said.
According to him, when agreeing on borders, the Chechen authorities appealed using maps from different years, either 1938 or 1958, depending on the district.
Chechnya ‘deliberately violated the law’
Abas Gaydarov, a lawyer and member of the Daghestani public commission, told OC Media that the cooperation agreement made in February 2019 between the heads of the two republics was not an agreement to change the administrative boundaries from a legal point of view.
According to him, the Chechen authorities violated the rules of the Russian State Register on Cadastral Division by unilaterally registering areas of Daghestan, and also disregarded any conciliatory measures.
Gaydarov said that before the border could be changed, the opinion of the population must first be taken into account, whether through a public referendum or another legal form, after which an agreement could be drawn up between the heads of the republics.
This document should then be approved by the parliaments of both republics and sent to the Russian senate, the Federation Council. Only after this, can the agreement be sent to the regional register, he said.
In addition, according to Gaydarov, the regional register must coordinate their actions with their main office in Moscow.
Gaydarov criticised the inaction of the Daghestani registry, which after the Chechen registry submitted their changes to the border, had 10 days to submit corrections — but failed to do so.
Gaydarov said that the territorial integrity of Daghestan had been affected and that the authorities of Daghestan could now only change the situation by going through the courts.
According to him, the Daghestani authorities have one and a half months left to defend their borders in court. They would also need to contact the General Prosecutor’s Office to request a case be opened.
‘It is clear that [Chechen Parliamentary Speaker] Magomed Daudov unofficially instructed the Chechen commission to assign the cadastral numbers of Chechnya to the disputed areas; he could not do this officially. This is technically impossible without the approval of Moscow’, Magomedov told OC Media.
He speculated that the Chechen authorities deliberately violated the law, possibly in the belief that the Supreme Court of Russia would side with them. According to him, following such a decision, Daghestan would permanently lose these sections, and no statements by Shikhsaidov or Vasilyev would help.
Magomedov said that Chechnya had chosen a different method of demarcation with Daghestan as it did with its western neighbour, Ingushetia, in order to prevent the mass protests and clashes with Russian security forces that occurred there.
Chechnya’s controversial land deal with Ingushetia
Border talks between the two republics come several months after a land deal was signed between the leaders of Chechnya and its western neighbour, Ingushetia.
Details of the controversial deal, signed on 26 September by Ingush head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and his Chechen counterpart, Ramzan Kadyrov, were initially kept secret from the public. It later emerged Ingushetia would transfer 340 square kilometres, about 9% of its territory, to Chechnya.
The deal led to weeks of street protests and widespread calls for Yevkurov’s resignation.
Several MPs in the Ingush parliament claimed the vote in parliament approving the deal was falsified while the Ingush Constitutional Court declared it unconstitutional.
[Read on OC Media: Court in Ingushetia considers ‘falsified’ vote on Chechnya land deal]