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Bashkir Youth Activists Protest Detentions

Activist Ayrat Dilmukhametov is still in jail.

Activist Ayrat Dilmukhametov is still in jail.

UFA, Russia -- Several youth activists in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan have gone on hunger strike to protest what they say is police pressure on some prominent Bashkir nationalists, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

The activists -- all members of the Bashkir Youth Union (BYI) -- are protesting action taken by federal security services against a small group of Bashkir nationalists, who tried last weekend to elect their own candidate to head the semi-official pan-Bashkir Congress.

The nationalists accuse current congress Chairman Ilgiz Sultanmuratov of betraying the Bashkir national agenda and collaborating with Bashkortostan's new pro-Moscow president, Rustam Khamitov.

The activists wanted to replace Sultanmuratov and a confidence vote in his leadership was held on February 26 in Ufa by the congress's executive committee. Sultanmuratov received a vote of confidence from 20 of the committee's 36 members to remain chairman.

Under previous President Murtaza Rakhimov, Bashkir nationalists enjoyed privileges that ended when Rakhimov prematurely stepped down from his post last year. Afterward, several prominent officials -- including some Bashkir Youth Union members -- were accused of misdemeanors and fraud, including Artur Idelbayev, a BYI founding member.

Idelbayev was to be nominated as the new Bashkir Congress president, but he was detained in connection with a criminal investigation on February 24 -- two days before the start of the congress.

A second prominent BYI activist, Ayrat Dilmukhametov, was detained in Ufa on March 1. Both Idelbayev and Dilmukhametov are still in detention.

The four hunger-strikers are demanding the two men's release, and said they are hoping to gain support from other young Bashkirs.

The four told RFE/RL that Bashkir nationalists are unhappy with the recent developments against them and other moves by officials that they claim have a negative impact on Bashkir culture.

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