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Ethnic Russian Pleads Not Guilty To Hate Charge In Kazakhstan

An ethnic Russian Kazakh citizen charged with inciting ethnic hatred over derogatory references to Kazakhs and calls for the country to become part of Russia has pleaded not guilty.

Tatyana Shevtsova-Valova entered her plea on January 12 in a court in Almaty.

The judge then adjourned the trial until January 23 because Shevtsova's lawyer was not present.

Investigators say that in posts in social networks, Shevtsova-Valova called Kazakhs "churki" -- an offensive word sometimes used by Russians to describe non-Slavic peoples in Central Asia and the Caucasus -- and wrote that Kazakhstan must become part of Russia, like Crimea.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last March in a move denounced as illegal by Kyiv and the West.

Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine have raised concerns about the Kremlin's intentions in Kazakhstan, whose northern regions have large ethnic Russian minorities.

Shevtsova-Valova told journalists after the hearing that somebody else wrote the statements attributed to her on the Internet.

If found guilty, she could be sentenced to seven years in prison.

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