Another native of Tajikistan's restive Gorno-Badakhshan Region (GBAO) has reportedly gone missing in Moscow and may have forcibly been taken to Tajikistan where he could face illegal incarceration and an arbitrary trial.
Relatives of Ruslan Pulodbekov told RFE/RL on August 3 that he went incommunicado after he was briefly detained by immigration police in the Russian capital on July 29, the same day two other GBAO natives -- who are now Russian citizens -- went missing from a Moscow airport before emerging later in a video on a YouTube channel saying that they had "decided to return to Tajikistan" by their "own will."
Pulodbekov's relatives told RFE/RL that he was most likely taken into Tajik custody over his close ties with Amriddin Alovatshoev, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in Dushanbe in April, four months after he was arrested in Russia and later showed up in custody in Tajikistan.
Alovatshoev, known as an informal leader of GBAO youth in Russia, was found guilty of hostage-taking, illegally depriving others of their freedom, and "other crimes," charges his relatives call trumped-up.
Deep tensions between the Tajik government and residents of the volatile GBAO have simmered since a five-year civil war broke out shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Protests are rare in the tightly controlled nation of 9.5 million where President Emomali Rahmon has ruled with an iron fist for nearly three decades.
The latest crackdown on activists in GBAO followed protests initially sparked in mid-May by anger over the lack of an investigation into the 2021 death of an activist while in police custody and the refusal by regional authorities to consider the resignation of regional Governor Alisher Mirzonabot and Khorugh Mayor Rizo Nazarzoda.
The rallies intensified after one of the protesters, 29-year-old Zamir Nazrishoev, was killed by police on May 16, prompting the authorities to launch what they called a "counterterrorist operation."
The escalating violence in the region has sparked a call for restraint from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Western diplomatic missions in Tajikistan, and human rights groups.
Gordo-Badakhshan, a linguistically and ethnically distinct region, has been home to rebels who opposed government forces during the conflict in the 1990s.
While it occupies almost half of the country's territory, its population is a mere 250,000. The region's mountainous terrain makes travel difficult, while its economy suffers from unemployment, difficult living conditions, and high food prices.