Southern Russia's Road Warriors

North Ossetia's road warriors? Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

North Ossetia's road warriors? Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Last week, on April 10 and 11, 2014, a group of men from the village of Maisky in North Ossetia blocked traffic on a federal highway, protesting the detention of two local young men. Aliskhan Gurazheva and Mustafa Barkinhoev stand accused of participating in what the authorities are calling “illegal armed formations” in the bordering republic, Ingushetia.

Around 100 friends and family members gathered to protest the arrests on April 10, claiming that the boys had been detained without cause. First, North Ossetia's Interior Minister came out to talk to the protestors, and succeeded in convincing them to return home. When no results were forthcoming, however, the protesters nearly doubled in number the next day, gathering to block traffic for a second time. Ultimately, police detained 16 people, in order to disperse the protest and free up the roads, the website Caucasian Knot reports.

Situations like this are not uncommon in the North Caucasus, but it is unusual to see such public disturbances in the relatively quiet republic of North Ossetia.  Blogger sunja_edu commented:

Да все как обычно. Ингушей сделали виновными априори. Это раскручено специально и продолжается достаточно давно.

Yep, it's business as usual. The Ingush are found guilty a priori. This is all unwinding for a reason, and it's been going on for a long time.

And then referring to the 1992 East Prigorodny conflict, he added:

В 92 также было.

It was the same in [19]92.

Blogger Slonus2012 posted links to reports about the demonstration, as well as a video of the men protesting. He called it second “Maidan” (referring to the protests in Kiev that ended in the ouster of President Yanukovych). One reader disagreed with the usage of the word “Maidan,” writing:

Да, с Майданом тут мало общего… Сейчас прочитала, что их уже разогнали, и 15 чел. задержали. Ну этого и следовало ожидать… и это никак не поможет ребятам.

Yeah … this has little in common with “Maidan”… I’ve just read that they already dispersed them and detained 15 people. But this was to be expected… and in no way does this does help the [two detained] guys.

Slonus2012 answered:

это уже ребятам помогло, их нашли, допустили адвоката, а если бы не собрались то, получилось бы как с Ахмедом Бузуртановым.

It has already helped the guys, they’ve been found, they got a lawyer, and if [the crowd] had not gathered, the guys would have ended up like Akhmed Buzurtanov [a wrestling coach from the same village, who was kidnapped in December 2012, and whose case later reached the European Court of Human Rights].

Footage from the site of the highway protest. Caucasian Knot.

Some saw a connection to the events last summer in Pugachev [Global Voices report].

Возвращение в средние века, не иначе. Теперь вот и в Ингушетии началось.

We have returned to the Middle Ages—there are no two ways about it. Now here in Ingushetia it has begun.

Another reader wondered:

А что поможет? что нужна сделат чтобы такого не происходило? А что остается делать Людям когда закон,который должен действовать Закона, действует по Бандитски.

And what does help? What should people do in order to keep this from happening? And what is left to do when law enforcement, which should act within the law, acts like a gangster?

The fate of the two men whose arrests sparked the traffic incident remains undecided. Yesterday, April 17, they acquired the services of a celebrated local attorney, who accepted the case pro bono. The trial is already bigger than its two defendants, however, as their friends and family have displayed a readiness for civil disobedience that undoubtedly has many asking what these protests say about the larger population's willingness to take to the streets (or highways, as it were), when faced with perceived injustices.

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