Thousands in Russia protest jailing of eco-activist

Moscow, Jan 17, (dpa/GNA) – Several thousand people, have demonstrated in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan on the Volga River, against the conviction of local eco-activist Fail Alsynov, according to media reports.

Alsynov was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday, for allegedly making racist statements.

More than 3,000 people gathered in front of the court building in the small town of Baymak, to support Alsynov, according to the independent website Vorstka.

Bashkortostan is some 1,440 kilometres east of Moscow.

Observers said it is one of the largest protests in Russia, since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine nearly two years ago.

The demonstrators chanted “Freedom for Alsynov”, and demanded the resignation of regional head Radiy Khabirov, at whose request the trial of the eco-activist was initiated.

A video shared by the media outlet Ostorozhno Novosti, reportedly shows security forces, using force to disperse the crowd. Several people were detained.

Alsynov was one of the leaders of the protests, against the mining of the Kushtau limestone mountain in Bashkortostan, for the chemical factory located there.

In the course of the demonstrations, Kushtau was declared a protected natural monument in 2020. At the same time, the 37-year-old campaigned for greater autonomy for the republic, and the protection of the Bashkir language.

The organization Bashkort, which he co-led, was classified as extremist and banned in 2020.

At the end of 2022, Alsynov was sentenced to a fine for a post on the Russian social network VKontakte. He had described the Ukrainian war as “genocide against the Bashkir people.”

He wrote: “This is not our war.”

According to media reports, the Bashkortostan region is one of the Russian regions with above-average casualties in the war in Ukraine.