Protesters rally in support of activist Phil Alsinoff after he was convicted of inciting racial hatred, January 17, 2024.
Riot police fired tear gas, grenades and used batons to disperse the demonstrators Russia Bashkortostan region after a local activist was sentenced on Wednesday to four years in prison.
Videos showed Phil Alsenov's supporters clashing with police near the court where he was convicted of inciting racial hatred, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.
The Interior Ministry of Bashkortostan described the demonstrations as an “unauthorized gathering” and said that police had begun investigating “mass disturbances,” in a post on the Telegram app.
Police arrested about 20 people, according to OVD-Info, an independent Russian protest monitoring group. CNN cannot independently verify this number, but Russia has routinely carried out mass arrests during protests.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside a public building in the remote town of Baymak, with some waving the blue, white and green flag of the Bashkortostan region, which neighbors Kazakhstan.
Protesters were heard crying “shame” at police officers as they tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas.
Protesters can be heard chanting “freedom” in a video posted on public Telegram channels and shared by OVD-Info. In another clip, demonstrators were seen throwing snowballs at police carrying riot shields. Chants of “shame” were heard after police fired tear gas.
Some social media accounts reported that internet access was restricted in the assembly area.
Alsenov spoke at a rally in the spring of 2023 against the mining of a mountain considered sacred to the Bashkir people, a Turkic ethnic group centered in Bashkortostan and closely related to the Tatars.
The protests in Bashkortostan have become some of the most important in Russia since then Large-scale invasion of Ukraine Nearly two years ago.
OVD-Info said Alsenov “faces a four-year prison sentence for speaking out against the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine.”
“Internet practitioner. Social media maven. Certified zombieaholic. Lifelong communicator.”