Bashkortostan protests against jail term reach regional capital Ufa

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator protesting the court verdict against a leading rights activist in the city of Ufa in the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia in this still image from video
Image caption,Crowds gathered in Ufa early on Friday, two days after a popular rights activist was jailed for four years

By Alys Davies

BBC News

At least 10 people have been detained after hundreds of protesters gathered in the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan republic in support of jailed rights activist Fail Alsynov.

Video released by an independent news outlet Sota Vision showed police moving demonstrators away in the city of Ufa.

It was the third protest this week in support of Alsynov, but the first in the region’s capital.

He was sentenced to four years in a penal colony on Wednesday.

He had denied accusations of inciting ethnic hatred towards migrant workers, arguing his words were poorly translated into Russian.

A crowd of some 1,500 people had gathered in Ufa early on Friday, according to local reports, despite warnings from authorities that tough action would be taken against those protesting.

The regional head of Bashkortostan, Radiy Khabirov, had promised on Thursday to reveal the “true colours” of the protesters alleging they were inciting extremism and were being inspired from abroad.

Videos showed police lining Salavat Yulaev square in the city centre and herding protesters away.

Another scene showed the crowd tussling with police after a protest sign was snatched from a woman as she was led away by police.

The protests had begun two days earlier in Baymak, after Fail Alsynov was given a four-year jail term.

Thousands of demonstrators turned out to voice their anger in the small town about 400km (250 miles) to the south-east of the regional capital, in one of the biggest demonstrations since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago.

Tear gas was reportedly fired and a charity said batons were used on protesters, while footage showed people throwing snowballs back at police.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the protests as “individual incidents” and said they were a matter for local authorities. caption,

Watch: Crowds pelt riot police with snowballs during clashes outside the courtroom

Authorities have opened an investigation against some of those demonstrating in Baymak under “mass rioting” charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Bashkir singer Altynai Valitov was visited by local authorities in Ufa after he put out a call on Instagram for protests to take place both in Bashkortostan and elsewhere in Russia.

Fail Alsynov was convicted of insulting migrants at a demonstration against plans to mine for gold, but supporters said it was delayed revenge for his activism in preventing soda mining in what locals consider a sacred place.

He is said to have called Central Asians and Caucasians, who make up most of Russia’s migrant population, “black people”, considered a derogatory term in Russian.

But he insists the words he used in the Bashkir language mean “poor people” and were mistranslated into Russian. He intends to appeal against the verdict.

Alsynov has also in the past criticised military mobilisation in the region as “genocide” of the Bashkir people, a Turkic race closely related to the Tatars which inhabits the southern Ural mountains.

There have been long-running claims that a disproportionately high number of ethnic minorities in Russia are being sent to fight in Ukraine.

Alsynov was a leader of Bashkort, a grassroots movement set up to preserve the ethnic identity of the Bashkirs which was banned as extremist in 2020.

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