The stepbrother of Ruslan Gabbasov, an exiled Bashkir independence activist, has been detained by Russian security services and is being effectively held hostage, Gabbasov said on social media on November 23.
"It just became known that a search was carried out in the house of my brother (the father of three young children), and he was taken away," Gabbasov said.
A few hours later, Gabbasov posted an update, that a criminal case had been opened against his relative under the crime of "extremism."
Gabbasov heard "that the security officers had set the following condition: if I return to Russia, they will release him; if not, they will imprison him."
"My brother has never participated in political life, has never been in the opposition, he is an ordinary decent family man," Gabbasov said.
Gabbasov fled Russia in 2021 after being persecuted for advocating for the independence of the Republic of Bashkortostan, a mineral-rich territory located near the Ural mountains.
He was granted political asylum in Lithuania in April 2022.
The Russian authorities placed Gabbasov on the state list of "foreign agents" in 2022, and in 2023 on a state list of terrorists and extremists.
Russia’s "foreign agents" registry has been widely used to target and silence groups and individuals who are critical of the government, including independent journalists, activists, and NGOs.
Gabbasov now leads the Committee of the Bashkir National Movement Abroad.
The organization announced in September the creation of a "liberation army" for the Republic of Bashkortostan that will operate subordinate to the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces until the end of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Addressing the security services who detained his brother, Gabbasov said that they are mistaken to "think that this will always last."
"This regime will fall sooner or later and you will have to answer for everything."