Staunton, February 21 – Despite Makhachkala’s promises to be open and even to include activists in discussions about demarcating the border between Daghestan and Chechnya, many Daghestanis say that a nearly complete “information vacuum” around the talks is sparking fears that Daghestan may be about to make unconscionable concessions to Chechnya.
If that happens, they say, it could lead to a repetition of what happened in Ingushetia when tens of thousands of people went into the streets to protest after Yunus-Bek Yevkurov agreed to hand over to more than 26,000 hectares of land to Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov in a September 26 agreement they concluded behind closed doors ( ).
Daghestani officials say that the two republic governments have reached an agreement which does not involve any territorial concessions by either side, but leaks from the talks suggests that Chechnya has demanded that Makhachkala hand over several districts and that Daghestan has agreed.
If that is true, Daghestanis even though they appear less inclined to protest such things because of ethnic divisions within the republic would likely unite to demonstrate their anger at the obvious duplicity of the leaders of their republic. To prevent that from happening, Makhachkala has formed “a public commission” on the border but its powers are uncertain.
A week ago, officials promised to include them in the government and parliamentary commissions; but so far there is no clear indication that this has happened. And some in this “public commission” are beginning to think that the entire business may have been designed only to stifle public anger.
The Kavkaz-Uzel news agency reports that ever fewer Daghestanis are indifferent to what happens in the border talks even though they and their ethnic communities may not be directly affected. The agency says that people are no longer prepared to assume that “’everything is in order’” just because the republic government says so.
And people living in border areas, whether they in fact will be affected by any change, are increasingly alarmed. Their anger may be the spark that touches off broader protests unless the authorities can play one ethnic group off against another as it has done in the past, a strategy that is increasingly fraught with risks for stability there.