Four people have been charged over rare demonstrations in the isolated Russian region of Bashkortostan, a monitoring group said Monday, after police and protesters clashed over a local activist's jailing.

Thousands took to the streets of the small town of Baymak in freezing temperatures last week week, and were met by riot police in a rare display of public outrage in Russia.

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

Citing local media, the OVD-Info rights monitoring group said that authorities in Bashkortostan had charged four suspects over the "mass riots" or with using violence against law enforcement.

Charges of organising or joining illegal demonstrations deemed by authorities to be riots carry a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.


OVD-Info added that authorities have already opened dozens of lesser administrative cases, accusing demonstrators of joining unsanctioned rallies.

A court in Baymak, 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) east of Moscow, last week sentenced several people to between eight to 15 days in prison for disobeying police orders during the large protests.

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

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

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The 70-year-old, a key figure of the Nobel Prize-winning Memorial group, is the latest target of Kremlin repression, which has intensified since the offensive in Ukraine.

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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