Crowd protests jailing of activist in Russian region of Bashkortostan

A rights activist in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan was sentenced to four years in a penal colony on Wednesday after a court found him guilty of inciting ethnic hatred, prompting clashes between his supporters and police.
Independent Russian-language news outlets said police fired tear gas and made arrests after scuffles broke out with a large crowd of people who had gathered in support of activist Fail Alsynov.It was not clear how many people had been detained.
Alsynov was accused of insulting migrant workers in a speech he made in April 2023 at a protest over plans to mine for gold in Bashkortostan, which is located in Russia‘s southern Ural mountains near the border between Europe and Asia.
His supporters said the case against him was delayed revenge for his role in protests several years earlier in which activists successfully blocked plans to mine for soda on a hill that local people consider a sacred place.
“Huge thanks to everyone who came to support me. I will never forget this. I don’t admit my guilt. I always fought for justice, for my people, for my republic,” Alsynov told a reporter from online media outlet RusNews after the verdict.
Videos published on social media showed hundreds of people gathered near the court in the small town of Baymak, 1,380 km (860 miles) east of Moscow. Some reports said there were several thousand.
Large protests in Russia are extremely rare because of the risk of arrest over any gatherings which the authorities deem unauthorised. Thousands of people have been detained in the past two years for opposing the war in Ukraine.
Bashkortostan, an oil-producing region of 4.1 million people, is one of more than 80 entities that make up the Russian Federation.
Alsynov was a leader of Bashkort, a grassroots movement to preserve the culture, language and ethnic identity of the region’s people, which was banned as an extremist organisation in 2020.

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