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Rafis Kashapov (left) leads the Tatar Public Center, an NGO in Tatarstan's second-largest city, Chally, that campaigns to preserve Tatars' national identity, language, and culture.

KAZAN, Russia -- A prominent Tatar activist who faces trial on hate-crimes charges supporters say are politically motivated has begun a hunger strike.

Rafis Kashapov began the hunger strike in pretrial detention in Tatarstan's capital, Kazan, on January 19.

Fellow activist Renat Nurali told RFE/RL that Kashapov had started the strike "to protest political repression in Russia, the lawlessness of Russian prosecutors and courts, the violation of the rights of Russia's indigenous peoples, and Russia's involvement in the military conflict in Ukraine."

Kashapov leads the Tatar Public Center (TIU), an NGO in Tatarstan's second-largest city, Chally, that campaigns to preserve Tatars' national identity, language, and culture.

He has harshly criticized Russia's annexation of Tatar-populated Crimea from Ukraine and Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

He was arrested on December 28 upon return from Turkey and charged with inciting ethnic, racial, and religious hatred via the Internet.

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The editor of a Kazakh magazine that was shut down by the authorities has started a hunger strike in the nation's largest city, Almaty.

Gulzhan Erghalieva, a prominent journalist who has faced pressure from law enforcement agencies for years, started the hunger strike on January 19 in the offices of her magazine Adam Bol (Be a Human) to protest its closure.

In December, an Almaty court ordered the magazine shut down for "propagating war."

That ruling came weeks after the magazine published an interview with opposition activist Aidos Sadyqov, who is currently living in exile in Ukraine. In the interview, Sadyqov lambasted Russia for its involvement in the military conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Last year, publishing houses in Almaty refused to print the periodical, which was then called Adam Reader's, after it reported on the deadly clashes between police and protesting oil workers in the western town of Zhanaozen.

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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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