QARAGHANDY, Kazakhstan -- Two Kazakh citizens who are members of a Russia-based group called the Union of Co-creators of the Holy Russia have each been sentenced by a court in Kazakhstan to five years in prison on charges of inciting ethnic and religious hatred.
Uali Aliasqarov, 66, and Mikhail Tkachyov, 28, said they will appeal the January 15 ruling against them by the court in the central Kazakh city of Qaraghandy.
In a trial that started on November 29, the court ruled that Aliasqarov and Tkachyov used the Internet and in-person gatherings to promote ideas that insulted and diminished representatives of an unnamed ethnic group.
Aliasqarov and Tkachyov denied any wrongdoing.
Since 2014, amid heightened government concerns sparked by Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, several Kazakh citizens have been convicted of using Internet posts to incite ethnic hatred or separatism.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to justify Moscow's seizure of Crimea, in part, by citing what he said were concerns about the life, security, and rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine.
Those developments, as well as calls for the creation of a "Russian World" linking areas with large Russian-speaking populations, have raised concerns that the Kremlin may also set its sights on a swath of northern Kazakhstan along the border with Russia.