Police in the central Russian republic of Bashkortostan on Friday arrested more protestors incensed over the jailing of a popular activist as a court sentenced nine demonstrators to short jail terms.

Thousands have taken to the streets of the small town of Baymak in freezing temperatures this week, clashing with riot police in a rare display of public outrage.

They are supporting Fail Alsynov, a local activist who campaigns for the protection of the Bashkir language and was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday for "inciting hatred."

Alsynov had publicly criticised Moscow's mobilisation drive for the offensive in Ukraine launched nearly two years ago and also opposes mining in the region on environmental grounds.

Videos on social media showed police arresting protestors at a small rally in the regional capital of Ufa on Friday.


Unsanctioned protests are illegal in Russia and authorities have promised a tough response against those who have taken part.

A court in Baymak, 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) east of Moscow, sentenced nine people to between eight to 15 days in prison for disobeying police orders during large protests earlier this week, the press service for local courts said Friday.

Police had used tear gas to disperse thousands of protestors who had gathered outside the Baymak courthouse on Wednesday when Alsynov was sentenced.

Authorities said the activist made racist remarks in a speech, but he says his comments have been misinterpreted from the Bashkir language.

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The decision was made by Russian-installed local deputies, supposedly following an appeal from dissatisfied Luhansk residents.

Regional governor Radiy Khabirov said "separatists" and "traitors" from abroad were trying to start a "partisan war" in the republic, home to a large Bashkir minority population.

Investigators have also opened criminal cases for "mass rioting" -- a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison -- though have not said whether any protestors have been indicted yet.

Bashkirs, a Turkic majority-Muslim people, account for around one-third of the region's four million residents.


Since sending troops into Ukraine, Moscow has escalated a decade-long crackdown on dissent, handing out lengthy prison sentences to critics.

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