Leaders Of Ingushetia Protest Handed Lengthy Prison Sentences

YESSENTUKI, Russia -- A Russian court has handed lengthy prison terms to seven people who led protests in Ingushetia against a change to the administrative boundaries between the Russian North Caucasus regions of Chechnya and Ingushetia.

On December 15, the court in the city of Yessentuki, in the Stavropol Krai region, sentenced Malsag Uzhakhov, Akhmed Barakhoyev, and Musa Malsagov to nine years each; Barakh Chemurziyev, Bagaudin Khautiyev, and Ismail Nalgiyev to eight years each; and Zarifa Sautiyeva to 7 1/2 years in prison.

The defendants were found guilty of creating an extremist group and assaulting law enforcement officers.

They are leaders or leading members of a group called the Ingush National Unity Committee that the Russian authorities labeled as an extremist organization and banned in July 2020.

The charges against them stemmed from an authorized demonstration in March 2019 held in Ingushetia's capital, Magas, to protest the closed-door deal reached in September 2018 to settle an Ingush-Chechen boundary dispute.

The protest continued the following day without the authorities’ permission and was violently dispersed by police. More than 50 people were detained, and charges were filed against at least 10 people.

Ingush opponents of the deal say the region’s land was unjustly handed over to Chechnya, whose strongman leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been accused of interfering in the affairs of neighboring Ingushetia and Daghestan.