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A man in Tatarstan who complained that regional tax authorities and a bank did not provide services in the Tatar language has been charged with inciting ethnic hatred.

Andrei Sheptitsky of the Investigative Committee's Tatarstan branch told RFE/RL on April 23 that the charge against Almaz Imamov stemmed from his social-media posts.

Imamov said that in his posts, written in 2017-18, he criticized the federal authorities for "discrimination of the Tatar language and culture in Tatarstan," but never intended "to incite hatred."

In late March, prosecutors in the city of Nizhnekamsk rejected a complaint by Imamov, who claimed that his rights were being violated because he was unable to receive services in his native language, Tatar, which is an official language in Tatarstan.

The prosecutor's office said at the time that although both Russian and Tatar are official languages in the region, state bodies are not obliged to have their websites in Tatar.

"If citizens do not [understand] Russian, they have a right to [communicate with] official bodies in Tatar," it said.

But Imamov says his complaint was about general services provided by Sberbank and the tax authorities, and was not related any special case.

In recent months, the language issue has been a subject of controversy in Russia's so-called "ethnic" regions, where indigenous, non-Russian ethnic groups are well represented.

President Vladimir Putin said in July that children in these regions must not be forced to learn languages that are not their mother tongues, and ordered prosecutors to determine whether that was taking place.

That led to abolishing mandatory indigenous-language classes in the regions.

The move caused an outcry in Tatarstan and other regions where local languages have official status alongside Russian.

Telegram chief executive Pavel Durov (file photo)

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has called on supporters across Russia to stage a new protest against the government's efforts to block the popular messaging app.

Durov, who left the country under pressure in 2014 and lives abroad, thanked Russians who threw paper airplanes from their windows on April 22 in support of Telegram.

Telegram’s logo is a paper plane.

"Next action? On Sunday, April 29," Durov wrote on the social network VKontakte on Arpil 23.

On April 16, about a dozen activists threw colored paper planes at the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB) on Moscow's Lubyanka Square, after state media regulator Roskomnadzor started enforcing a court ban on Telegram over its refusal to hand over encryption keys to the FSB.

Telegram has refused to share data, citing privacy concerns, and promised to keep the app running despite the ban.

The move to block Telegram -- which has met with mixed success -- has deepened concerns that the government is seeking to close avenues for dissent as President Vladimir Putin heads into a new six-year term.

With reporting by Novaya Gazeta

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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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