Vladimir Putin is facing a serious political mutiny, after Bashkiri nationalists called for independence from Russia. The demand for independence poses a threat to Russia’s territorial integrity and could encourage other rebellious regions to follow suit. The Bashkirs are one of the 193 ethics minorities that populate Russia and are of Kipchak Turkic descent.
They have their own autonomous republic in Russia, called Bashkortostan, which is located between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains in the east of the country.
There are roughly four million Bashkirs living in Bashkortostan, making it the seventh most populous republic in Russia.
Nationalist activists from the republic sent shockwaves through the Kremlin after announcing the creation of their own army.
The nationalists said they intend to fight for a “free Bashkortostan”, as they seek independence from Moscow.
The move appears to have been prompted by Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, which has created tensions between the Kremlin and ethnic groups.
This is due to the fact that ethnic minorities in Russia have borne the brunt of the Kremlin’s military recruitment drives for the war and suffered significant losses in the process.
Ruslan Gabbasov, a nationalist leader, told the the media publication Verstka that Putin’s war in Ukraine had nothing to do with Bashkir.
The 43-year-old said: “It is not our war. Ukrainians have never done anything bad to us, but the empire has always suppressed us.
“They suppressed our native language, they imprisoned our leaders.
“Why should we now have to fight for them?”
When Putin announced his “partial mobilisation” on September 21, an anonymous channel called the “Committee of the Bashkir Resistance” was created on the social media platform Telegram.
Its cover depicts a clenched fist on a red background, with a caption under it saying: “Bashkortostan will be free!”
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Army recruitment centres have been set alight, as have offices belonging to official political parties.
At the same time leaflets have been distributed, urging people to dodge the draft, and to take up arms and prepare for battle.
It comes as Ukraine’s parliament adopted a resolution recognising the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as temporarily occupied by Russia and condemned the genocide of the Chechen people.
The explanatory note to the document states that Chechnya withdrew from the USSR in 1991 and declared its independence under the name of Ichkeria.
The text states that Russia prevented this, contrary to the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples enshrined in the UN Charter.