Home HUMAN RIGHTS Bashkortostan official denounces commemoration of Rifat Dautov, who died in police custody amid mass protests

Bashkortostan official denounces commemoration of Rifat Dautov, who died in police custody amid mass protests

In the midst of heightened tensions following mass protests in Bashkortostan, the proposal to honour Rifat Dautov, who died in police custody, has ignited a firestorm of controversy.

by EUToday Correspondents
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As reported by The Moscow Times, the Kremlin-appointed head of the Bashkortostan republic, Radiy Khabirov, slammed the suggestion made by prominent Bashkir dancer Rif Gabitov, calling it “disgusting and unconscionable.”

The incident has brought to the forefront the deep divide between authorities and activists in the region.

Dautov’s death occurred against the backdrop of widespread demonstrations in support of jailed activist Fayil Alsynov, raising serious questions about the treatment of protesters and the handling of dissent by local authorities.

The circumstances surrounding Dautov’s demise remain shrouded in controversy, with conflicting accounts from authorities and Dautov’s family.

According to official reports, Dautov died from a heart attack induced by heavy intoxication.

However, his sister vehemently denies these claims, asserting that Dautov was a devout Muslim who abstained from alcohol. She also refutes allegations that he participated in the protests.

The lack of clarity surrounding Dautov’s death underscores the pressing need for an impartial investigation to uncover the truth and hold those responsible accountable.

The government’s crackdown on dissent has only intensified following the protests, with a significant number of administrative and criminal cases being opened.

This heavy-handed approach has drawn condemnation from human rights organisations, who have called for transparency and accountability in addressing allegations of abuse and misconduct by law enforcement.

In the Shadow of Injustice: The Fight for Rights and Justice in Bashkortostan

The sentencing of environmental activist Fayil Alsynov to four years in a penal colony served as the catalyst for the wave of protests that swept through Bashkortostan.

Accused by Russian authorities of “inciting ethnic hatred,” Alsynov’s case epitomises the abuse of power and manipulation of the justice system to silence dissenting voices.

Radiy Khabirov.

At the heart of the accusations against Alsynov lies the testimony of a single individual: Kremlin-appointed governor Radiy Khabirov.

Khabirov stands accused of fabricating charges against Alsynov in an attempt to undermine his advocacy for regional sovereignty and environmental protection. Alsynov’s vocal opposition to projects that would benefit the elite at the expense of local communities made him a target for retribution by those in power.

Alsynov’s activism spans over fifteen years, during which he has tirelessly fought against invasive mining projects that threaten the ecological integrity of Bashkortostan.

His leadership in the Kushtau protests and subsequent campaigns against gold mining in the Indyk mountains earned him widespread support among the local populace.

Many residents view him as a champion for their rights in the face of exploitation and neglect by authorities.

The trial of Alsynov in December 2023 galvanised hundreds of supporters to gather outside the courthouse, demanding his release and the resignation of Governor Khabirov.

Their grievances extended beyond Alsynov’s case, highlighting systemic issues such as demographic decline, corruption, inadequate infrastructure development, and declining living standards.

The protesters accused Khabirov of ignoring the needs and concerns of the citizenry while persecuting activists and public figures who dared to challenge the status quo.

Singer Altynai Valitov:

It’s been boiling for a while. And what’s been boiling? Why it’s been boiling ? Russian nationalism – that’s exactly the reason. Every Bashkir felt this oppression. We live in our native land Bashkortostan, but we Bashkirs are oppressed at every step precisely on the basis of nationality. “Bashkir kid, black, newcomer”…  – It hurts our hearts when they tell us in our native land: speak Russian. And some are forced to speak Russian at work or are dismissed based on nationality.

In Bashkir schools, Bashkir directors are dismissed, replaced by Russians.

The video appeal to President Vladimir Putin underscored the desperation of Bashkortostan’s residents in their struggle for justice and accountability.

They implored Putin to intervene, citing Khabirov’s authoritarian tactics and disregard for democratic principles. The plight of Alsynov and the broader discontent with Khabirov’s governance reflect deeper fissures within Bashkortostan’s socio-political landscape.

As the protests continue to reverberate across Bashkortostan, the resolve of the demonstrators remains unshaken. They demand nothing less than the recognition of their rights, the restoration of justice, and the removal of those who abuse their power for personal gain.

The fate of Alsynov serves as a symbol of resistance against oppression and a rallying cry for a more equitable and inclusive future in Bashkortostan.

The response from the Russian government to the protests in Bashkortostan has taken a familiar and troubling turn, with authorities resorting to baseless accusations and fear-mongering to discredit legitimate grievances and suppress dissent.

In a blatant attempt to delegitimise the demands for better governance and accountability, members of the Russian Parliament, including Dinar Gilmutdinov, have peddled conspiracy theories linking the demonstrations to foreign interference, without providing any evidence to support their claims.

Governor Khabirov’s defence of his decision to denounce Alsynov further underscores the authorities’ disregard for truth and justice.

By portraying activists as traitors and separatists, Khabirov seeks to justify his repressive actions and silence dissenting voices under the guise of national security concerns.

This tactic of labelling opposition movements as extremist serves the dual purpose of demonising dissent and legitimising draconian measures to suppress it.

The playbook of false accusations and crackdowns on dissent has been utilised by the Kremlin before, most notably in the case of Alexey Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation.

The designation of Navalny’s organisation as an “extremist organisation” and the subsequent criminalisation of its members illustrate the lengths to which the Russian government will go to quash dissent and maintain its grip on power.

The repercussions of these tactics extend beyond the immediate suppression of protests. By casting opposition movements as extremist threats, the authorities seek to isolate them from potential allies within the broader political opposition and the public at large.

This divisive strategy not only weakens the opposition but also serves to undermine solidarity and resistance to authoritarian rule.

The crackdown in Bashkortostan, including the imposition of an information blackout and the blocking of communication channels, is a stark reminder of the lengths to which the authorities will go to stifle dissent.

However, the resilience of the protesters and their unwavering commitment to justice and freedom demonstrate that the spirit of resistance even in today’s Russia cannot be extinguished so easily.

As the regime tightens its grip on power through repression and propaganda, it is imperative for the international community to stand in solidarity with those fighting for their rights and freedoms in Russia.

The struggle for democracy and human rights in Bashkortostan is not just a local issue but a testament to the universal values of justice, freedom, and dignity.

Read also: Russian authorities quell protests following activist Fail Alsynov’s sentencing in Bashkortostan


Fail Alsynov
Read alsoUniting Voices: The Resilience of Local Protests in Russia

In recent years, Russia has witnessed a surge in grassroots movements rallying around local issues and advocating for the rights of civic and political leaders.

From the Far East city of Khabarovsk to the ethnic minority regions like Dagestan and now Bashkortostan, citizens have taken to the streets in a display of solidarity and resilience against government oppression and neglect.


The arrest of regional official Sergey Furgal on murder charges in 2020 sparked months-long protests in Khabarovsk, highlighting the deep-rooted frustration and dissatisfaction among citizens.

Similarly, the nationwide outcry following the arrest of journalist Ivan Golunov on fabricated drug charges shed light on the pervasive corruption and abuse of power within the Russian government.

Ethnic minority regions, in particular, have been hotbeds of dissent, fuelled by longstanding grievances over issues such as resource extraction, ecological damage, and disproportionate enlistment in conflicts like the invasion of Ukraine. The recent protests in Bashkortostan, triggered by the disproportionate sentence of activist Fayil Alsynov and fuelled by accusations of separatism, underscore the enduring struggle for representation and justice in these marginalised regions of Russia.

At the heart of these protests lies a fundamental lack of voice and agency for Russian citizens in the decision-making processes of their government.

Decisions made by the central authorities often have detrimental effects on local communities, exacerbating feelings of resentment and alienation. The periphery’s grievances against the centre reflect a broader discontent with systemic injustices and neglect.

The Kremlin’s response to these protests has been marked by repression and propaganda, with false accusations of separatism aimed at undermining unity and solidarity among dissenting voices. By sowing seeds of division and discord, the government seeks to maintain its grip on power and suppress any challenge to its authority.



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