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Jailed Tatar Activist Starts Hunger Strike


Rafis Kashapov (left) leads the Tatar Public Center, an NGO in Tatarstan's second-largest city, Chally, that campaigns to preserve Tatars' national identity, language, and culture.

Rafis Kashapov (left) leads the Tatar Public Center, an NGO in Tatarstan's second-largest city, Chally, that campaigns to preserve Tatars' national identity, language, and culture.

KAZAN, Russia -- A prominent Tatar activist who faces trial on hate-crimes charges supporters say are politically motivated has begun a hunger strike.

Rafis Kashapov began the hunger strike in pretrial detention in Tatarstan's capital, Kazan, on January 19.

Fellow activist Renat Nurali told RFE/RL that Kashapov had started the strike "to protest political repression in Russia, the lawlessness of Russian prosecutors and courts, the violation of the rights of Russia's indigenous peoples, and Russia's involvement in the military conflict in Ukraine."

Kashapov leads the Tatar Public Center (TIU), an NGO in Tatarstan's second-largest city, Chally, that campaigns to preserve Tatars' national identity, language, and culture.

He has harshly criticized Russia's annexation of Tatar-populated Crimea from Ukraine and Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

He was arrested on December 28 upon return from Turkey and charged with inciting ethnic, racial, and religious hatred via the Internet.

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