Russian media reports says the governor of Russia’s Bashkortostan republic Radiy Khabirov said yesterday that violence between protesters and police in the republic the day before was provoked by separatists living abroad.

Authorities reportedly launched criminal cases into what they described as mass riots and violence against law enforcement officials after clashes erupted on January 17 over the imprisonment of activist Fayil Alsynov.

Alsynov, 37, was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of inciting ethnic hatred against migrant workers during a speech he gave last year.  Alsynov denies the charges and maintains his words were mistranslated from his native language of Bashkir into Russian.

At least 40 people were said to have been injured amid reports of riot police beating protesters and using tear gas to disperse crowds.

Bashkortostan governor accused Alsynov and his allies of stoking separatist feelings, “disguising [themselves] as environmental activists and patriots.”

“A group of people, some of whom are abroad, who are in fact traitors, are calling for the separation of Bashkortostan from Russia.  They are calling for guerrilla warfare here,” Khabirov wrote on his Telegram channel.

Khabirov named two activists — one of whom lives in exile in Lithuania — who he said have a criminal past and are designated by Russian authorities as extremists, but he did not otherwise expand on the accusations.

“You can put on the mask of a good eco-activist and patriot, but in reality, the situation is not like that at all,” Khabirov claimed.

According to TASS, Khabirov recalled Ruslan Gabbasov (listed by the Ministry of Justice as a "foreign agent," and by the Federal Financial Monitoring Service among organizations and individuals engaged in extremist or terrorist activities), who had left Russia for Lithuania. He was recognized as one of the leaders of the Bashkort organization (declared extremist by the Supreme Court of Bashkortostan in May 2020).

"This is Gabbasov, who is being tried for murder; this is Fanzil Akhmetshin masquerading as a peaceful shepherd, who is being tried for drugs," Bashkortostan’s head added.

Meanwhile, a court in Bashkortostan's capital, Ufa, jailed six protesters for 10-13 days on misdemeanor charges of violating protest rules, the investigative news website Vyorstka reported late Wednesday, citing one of the six protesters.

The Bashkir Regional Department of the Russian Investigative Committee detained several people and instituted criminal proceedings.