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Bashkir Nationalists 'To Resume Hunger Strike'

Florid Bagayev

Florid Bagayev

Activists in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan say they will resume a hunger strike next month in protest at what they say is police pressure on Bashkir nationalists, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Florid Bagayev, a member of the Bashkir Youth Union (BYI), told RFE/RL that when the weather is expected to warm up in early April, the activists will resume their hunger strike in tents on Salavat Square in Ufa.

Four BYI activists went on a hunger strike on March 3 to protest "police pressure" on Bashkir nationalists and to demand the release of detained BYI leaders Artur Idelbayev and Ayrat Dilmukhametov, who were taken into custody for alleged fraud and other criminal offenses. BYI activists say the arrests are politically motivated.

By March 11, the number of hunger strikers had reached 150. But after a telephone conversation with Bashkir President Rustam Khamitov on March 13 they suspended the protest, warning that they would resume it if their demands were not met.

Bagayev told RFE/RL on March 22 that their demands had not been met, and therefore the hunger strike will resume in April. He added that in addition to the hunger strike, the activists would hold public gatherings, pickets, and mass protests, the first of which is scheduled for March 25 in Ufa.

Under Bashkortostan's previous president, Murtaza Rakhimov, Bashkir nationalists enjoyed some privileges. But those ended when he stepped down last year before the end of his term.

Since then, several prominent officials and some BYI activists -- including founding member Idelbayev -- have been accused of crimes.

Idelbayev was to have been nominated as the new head of the semi-official pan-Bashkir Congress (Kurultai), but was detained in connection with a criminal investigation on February 24, two days before the start of the congress.

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