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Ermek Taichibekov (file photo)

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, has returned the case against well-known pro-Russian blogger, Ermek Taichibekov, to prosecutors, citing mistakes in the official filing of charges against the 42-year-old defendant.

Taichibekov's lawyer, Ghalym Nurpeisov, told RFE/RL that the Auezov district court pronounced the decision on January 5 at the preliminary hearing into the high-profile case.

Judge Daniyar Sembaev also extended Taichibekov's pretrial detention to one month, Nurpeisov said.

Taichibekov was arrested in September 2020 and charged with using media to incite ethnic hatred.

Taichibekov told his brother at the time that he was detained for an interview with Ukraina.ru, a website tied to the state Rossiya Segodnya media group, which mainly focuses on Russian news and official propaganda abroad.

In a video published on the YouTube channel of Ukraina.ru in May 2020, Taichibekov talked to the presenter against the background of the black-yellow-white flag of the Russian Empire and claimed that the Kazakh authorities were pursuing “a Russophobic policy.”

Taichibekov was previously sentenced to four years in prison in 2015 on charges of inciting ethnic hatred by placing "inflammatory" materials on Facebook and supporting the idea of Kazakhstan uniting with Russia. He served less than two years of that sentence and was released in October 2017.

Several Kazakh citizens have been sentenced to prison since 2014 for inciting separatism and/or ethnic hatred through the Internet amid heightened Kazakh government concern sparked by Russia’s support for separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine and Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Yevgeny Chupov

SOFIA --Russian opposition activist Yevgeny Chupov, who fled Russia in 2019 fearing possible prosecution for his political activities, has received refugee status in Bulgaria.

Chupov told RFE/RL on January 5 that Bulgaria’s State Agency on Refugees had ruled he, his wife, and four children could remain in Bulgaria.

According to Chupov, his initial application filed in August 2019 was rejected but the agency changed the ruling before his appeal was considered by the Sofia city administrative court.

Chupov and his family came to Bulgaria in 2019, saying that they feared persecution in Russia for Chupov's political activities.

The 41-year-old English teacher and blogger created a civil movement in Moscow in 2015 promoting local self-governance.

During the municipal elections campaign in 2019, Chupov and his movement supported a candidate for the Moscow city council, Ivan Zhdanov, the director and lawyer of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation.

He fled Russia at the time after police detained and questioned him at least twice.

Several sanctioned and unsanctioned rallies were held in Moscow over the summer of 2019 in protest of a decision by authorities to ban independent and opposition candidates from running in the municipal elections that were held in September that year.

Dozens of protesters have been fined or given jail sentences for organizing and participating in the unsanctioned rallies.

The Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center has declared several activists arrested in the case political prisoners.

Russian security forces have been criticized for their heavy-handed tactics during the rallies.

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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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