News · Общество

Bashkortostan protests in support of convicted activist spread to capital Ufa

Around 1,500 protesters gathered in the centre of Ufa, the capital of the republic of Bashkortostan, on Friday in support of jailed Bashkir activist Fail Alsynov, SotaVision reported, as popular anger about the jailing of a Bashkir activist earlier this week continued to spread. 

Riot police detained “about 10 people” at the scene, according to Telegram group Govorit NeMoskva, and reportedly detained others heading towards the site of the rally. 

Protesters, many of whom brought their children, sang and danced to traditional Bashkir folk songs despite the freezing weather, but were ultimately forced out of the square by the police, with more detentions being reported as the crowd dispersed.

Bashkir activist Fail Alsynov, who was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday, was found guilty of inciting racial hatred for comments he made that prosecutors argued “contained negative assessments about Caucasian, Central Asian and Armenian ethnic groups”. 

Alsynov denied the charges and said that his remarks had been mistranslated from Bashkir into Russian. One protester taken away by police was wearing a sign with the phrase for which Alsynov was convicted — kara khalyk — on it. 

While prosecutors maintain that the phrase is a slur that means “black people” in the Bashkir language, many Bashkirs have said it just means “hard workers” or “ordinary people.” Bashkirs are themselves an ethnic minority in Russia and have a long history of suffering from racial discrimination.

On Wednesday, thousands of residents of the city Baymak, where Alsynov’s trial was held, protested Alsynov’s conviction in a show of defiance unprecedented since the war in Ukraine began. The police used tear gas and stun grenades on the crowd and two Telegram channels covering the events were blocked. A total of 17 people were charged by the court following the Baymak protests for participating in an unsanctioned rally.