January 23, 2024

Bashkiris Protest


Bashkiris Protest
A monument to Bashkir national hero Salawat Yulayev in Ufa, the capital of the Republic of Bashakrtostan. Lesnoy Volk, Wikimedia Commons

On January 17, in the city of Baymak, in the Republic of Bashkortostan, a protest rally was held in support of ethnic and environmental activist Fail Alsynov.

Alsynov is best known for his participation in the movement to protect Mount Kushtau from industrial development. He was found guilty of inciting ethnic hatred and sentenced to four years in prison in a penal colony.

Alsynov's supporters began gathering outside the court before the verdict was announced. The protests lasted for several hours. According to various estimates, from several hundred to several thousand people participated. Police used tear gas and stun grenades against the protesters. The protesters responded by throwing snowballs at security forces.

In the end, police detained about 20 persons. The Telegram channel RusNews, which covered the protest action in Baymak in detail, was temporarily unavailable. Before Alsynov's verdict, the Kushtau Bayram Telegram channel, which was used to coordinate the protest in support of Alsynov, also became unavailable. 

Famous Bashkir performer Altynai Valitov called for a follow-up protest on January 19: "I would remain silent now, but my soul burns for this arbitrariness. Why do Russians in Ufa walk around with the words 'Russia for Russians,' yet they are not imprisoned? And a Bashkir who speaks out in defense of his people is imprisoned on his land. Why? Because we are a national minority. They can shout 'We are Russian' to the whole country, but we can’t shout on our land. Where's the justice? And we should swallow this outrage? If we swallow it, in 100 years the Bashkir people with a thousand-year history will disappear. I'm not ready to put up with this. We, Bashkirs, are not ready."

The January 19 rally was held in the central square of Ufa, the capital of Bashkortostan, near a monument to Bashkir national hero Salawat Yulayev. About two thousand people, despite the frosty weather, sang songs and danced in circles to support Alsynov; several people were detained by the police.

The head of the Republic of Bashkortostan called the protests "an attempt to undermine the situation" by "a group of people, some of whom are abroad." The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation opened a criminal case under articles against organizing and participating in mass riots and the use of violence against a government official. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation said in a statement that calls were posted on social networks and instant messengers "for the purpose of organizing mass unrest" to take part in protests at the Baymaksky District Court. According to investigators, the protests aimed to free Alsynov from criminal liability. According to media outlet DOXA, so far, four people have been charged in the riot case.

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