New demonstrations were held in the capital of Russia's republic of Bashkortostan on Jan. 19 to protest the jailing of a popular local rights activist.
The protests first erupted on Jan. 17 after the authorities sentenced activist Fail Alsynov to four years in prison on charges of "inciting ethnic hatred," which he denies.
Bashkortostan is a republic of Russia located near the Ural Mountains, close to the border with Kazakhstan. Ethnic Russians make up around 38% of the population, followed by the Bashkirs and Tatars, both of whom are Turkic people with their own language.
According to the independent Russian outlet SOTAvision, about 1,500 people gathered in Ufa earlier today, including whole families with children. The demonstrators were singing songs, dancing in freezing temperatures, and calling for Alsynov's release.
Law enforcement stepped in to disperse the protests, and videos appeared online showing people being dragged into police vans.
The Verstka independent outlet wrote that by the time the rally ended, around 10 people had been detained.
Russian authorities launched a criminal investigation into the rally as "mass riots" and "use of violence against government officials." In spite of this, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he does not consider the demonstrations as "mass protests."
As a response to the event, a pro-government rally is going to be organized on Jan. 20 in support of the republic's head, Radiy Khabirov.
Alsynov, who has campaigned for the protection of Bashkir language rights, also previously characterized Russia's mobilization campaign as a "genocide" against Bashkirs. There have been widespread claims that Russia disproportionately mobilizes ethnic minorities, including Bashkirs, to fight in Ukraine.
Former Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov appealed to Bashkirs in May 2023 not to fight in Ukraine, saying that Moscow is infringing on the rights of Bashkirs and exploiting their natural resources.