The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, the highest court in Russia, on Thursday upheld a decision to draw a border between the Republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya.
In September the two Republics signed an agreement to define the border between them. This was the first time that the border has been defined since the split of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. The agreement became law in each Republic in October.
A group of Ingush deputies challenged the law in the Republic of Ingushetia. The case was heard in the Ingush Constitutional Court. The court held that the law and agreement cannot be legally binding without passing a referendum.
Yunus-Bek Yevkurov appealed this decision to the highest court in Russia. He claimed that the Ingush Constitutional Court did not have the authority to decide on this question. Rather, it is a question for the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, as this is a compliance treaty between governments of territories within the Russian Federation.
The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation held that an agreement establishing a border with a neighboring Republic is not required to go through a referendum in order to be ratified. The final decision by the court states:
[T]he Agreement on Border Delimitation between the Republic of Ingushetia and the Chechen Republic, and the Law of the Republic of Ingushetia which has enshrined the latter, does not contradict the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
The court reasoned that the Republics were not attempting to redraw pre-existing borders, but rather to resolve their “mutual need to establish a border.” Therefore, the Republics did not need to request approval of the borders from the Council of the Federation. Further, the law of the Republic of Ingushetia only requires a referendum or consideration of the population’s opinion when the borders are changed, not when the borders are being defined for the first time.
Under this decision, the Republic of Ingushetia and the Chechen Republic were within their authority when they made the agreement to define the borders between their respective republics.