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People pray at an event for the Commemoration of Tatars in Kazan. (file photo)

KAZAN, Russia -- A court in the capital of Russia's Republic of Tatarstan, Kazan, has ruled that it was illegal for the city administration not to allow the annual commemoration of Tatars who died during the 1552 siege of Kazan by Russian troops, an annual event that municipal officials have banned for the first time since 1989.

The chairman of the All-Tatar Public Center, Farit Zakiyev, told RFE/RL that the Vakhitov district court ruling on October 16 will allow his organization to hold the annual event, known as Commemoration Day, in Kazan's Tinchurin park on October 18 as initially planned.

A day earlier, police detained Zakiyev and the leader of the Azatlyk (Liberty) Tatar Youth Association, Nail Nabiullin, and brought them to a police station, where the activists were officially warned of possible repercussions if they held unsanctioned events to commemorate the 468th anniversary of the fall of Kazan -- once the capital of the Kazan Khanate, which is now the capital of modern Tatarstan within the Russian Federation.

Last weekend, the Kazan city administration canceled its initial permission to hold a public event to mark the day, saying the decision came at the request of the local prosecutor who said that "the goal of the event was unclear."

Since the permit was annulled, Tatar activists have held several small gatherings and collective prayers commemorating the Kazan defenders in Tatarstan's capital.

The activists have said they are looking to organize more events to commemorate Kazan defenders during the week.

The decision not to allow public events to mark the day came amid a move by Russian federal authorities to limit the study of indigenous languages in the country's so-called ethnic republics and regions, which started in 2017.

Some participants in last year's commemoration of Kazan defenders were sentenced to community work or fined for praying and reading the Koran at the event and using words about "Tatarstan's statehood."

In October 1552, Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible conquered the Khanate of Kazan after two weeks of resistance. Many of the Khanate's Muslim population were killed after the siege or forcibly Christianized.

Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya (file photo)

Russia says it put Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya on its wanted list in line with regional agreements after Belarus first made the move claiming she had called for overthrowing the constitutional order in the country.

Russian media on October 16 quoted Russia's Interior Ministry as confirming the move, made within the framework of the Russia-Belarus Union State.

The report comes three days after Tsikhanouskaya openly demanded that Alyaksandr Lukashenka should step down from the post of Belarusian president by October 25 or face a nationwide strike.

In an interview with RFE/RL that was published on October 16, Tsikhanouskaya said that the decision to announce the so-called "People’s Ultimatum" to Lukashenka was not made solely by her, but by opposition groups, including her team, the opposition Coordination Council, opposition political parties, protest groups, representatives of striking workers, and Belarusian citizens who were beaten and tortured by law enforcement in recent months.

Beaten By Police In Belarus For Handing Out Flowers
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"The ultimatum was pushed forward by people, I just announced it to make it public," Tsikhanouskaya, who could face up to 5 years in jail in Belarus if detained and found guilty, said.

Tsikhanouskaya added that even “many” officers in law enforcement are seeking help from opposition groups to take their families out of Belarus in order to be able to openly refuse to take part in beatings and violently dispersing protest across the country.

Belarus has been rocked by protests since an August 9 presidential election handed Lukashenka a sixth term amid allegations of widespread fraud.

Tsikhanouskaya, who supporters say won the vote, left Belarus for Lithuania shortly after the election amid threats to her and her family.

The United States and EU have refused to recognize the 66-year-old Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus. The EU on October 12 agreed to add Lukashenka to its sanctions list.

With reporting by RIA Novosti and Interfax

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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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