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Chechen Prime Minister Muslim Khuchiyev

Russia has criticized the United States for imposing a travel ban on Chechnya's prime minister, promising an unspecified response to the move.

The Foreign Ministry issued its statement on April 26, a day after the State Department said that it was sanctioning Muslim Khuchiyev, saying "the department has credible information that [Khuchiyev] was involved in torture."

"The decision announced in Washington to ban…Khuchiyev and his wife from entering the U.S. reflects the course toward further deteriorating Russian-U.S. relations," the ministry said in a statement published on its website.

"Of course, such hostile actions will not be left unanswered. However, we would like to recommend that Washington should think about the fact that the constant imposition of sanctions shows Washington in an increasingly unseemly light," it said.

The U.S. announcement said Khuchiyev was being sanctioned under a provision in U.S. law that stipulates sanctions when there is "credible information that foreign officials have been involved in significant corruption or a gross violation of human rights."

The U.S. announcement gave no details on the allegations of torture.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is himself under U.S. sanctions under a separate U.S. law, said in a post on his Telegram account that the decision to sanction Khuchiyev was "humorous" and will not affect his prime minister.

"He lived without any visits to the United States and will keep on living without them," Kadyrov said.

Kazakh activist Asiya Tulesova (file photo)

Kazakh activist Asiya Tulesova, who was jailed for 15 days last week after unfurling a banner calling for a fair presidential election, is on a hunger strike behind bars, her mother says.

Zhanar Zhandosova wrote on Facebook on April 26 that her daughter has been on a hunger strike since April 23 and will continue to fast until she is released.

Tulesova and another activist, Beibarys Tolymbekov, were arrested on April 21 and later sentenced to 15 days in jail after they held political banners during a marathon race in Almaty, the country’s largest city.

The activists held a large banner that said, "You Cannot Run Away From The Truth" and featured hashtags calling for fair elections.

Tulesova and Tolymbekov were found guilty of holding an unsanctioned rally and sentenced on the same day.

Kazakh Activists Jailed For Protest Banner At Marathon
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Their arrest was filmed by three friends, Suinbike Suleimenova, Aidos Nurbolatov, and Aigul Nurbolatova, who were also arrested and later fined.

The incident came weeks after President Nursultan Nazarbaev's resignation in March after 30 years in power.

Nazarbaev still heads the ruling Nur Otan party, which on April 23 nominated interim President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev as its candidate in a snap election scheduled for June 9.

He is almost certain to win the election in the tightly controlled country.

The only registered political party that casts itself as an opponent of the government said on April 26 that it will boycott the vote, suggesting that participating would make it a puppet of the state.

Opponents, critics, and rights groups say Nazarbaev, an authoritarian leader who has tolerated little dissent, denied many citizens basic rights, and prolonged his power in the energy-rich nation of 18.7 million by manipulating the democratic process.

Amnesty International and Freedom House have condemned the activists' jailing and called for their immediate release.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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