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PETROPAVLOVSK, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh citizen has been sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison after being found guilty of inciting separatism via the Internet.

On December 5, a court in the northern city of Petropavlovsk found Igor Chuprin guilty of inciting ethnic discord and promoting separatism, saying that he posted calls on the Internet to make Kazakhstan part of Russia.

He was sentenced the same day.

The North Kazakhstan region and its capital, Petropavlovsk, are home to a heavy population of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Kazakh citizens. The region borders Russia.

At least four Kazakh nationals have been sentenced since 2015 for inciting separatism and ethnic hatred via the Internet.

The prosecutions have come amid heightened government concern over Moscow's intentions following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have seized control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

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