Putin Urges Ethnic Peace, Awards Slain Mufti

President Vladimir Putin urged peace and interethnic harmony during a working visit to the Muslim republic of Tatarstan on Tuesday, where he presented state awards to two high-ranking local muftis targeted in an apparent terrorist operation last month.

“You cannot defeat a unified, multi-ethnic, strong Russian nation because on the side of truth and justice are millions of people who fear nothing, who cannot be intimidated, and who know the price of peace,” he said.

Putin awarded the Order of Courage to Mufti Ildus Faizov and the relatives of the slain Valiullah Yakupov, two official religious leaders who were targeted by local Islamic extremists in coordinated attacks on July 19. Faizov was injured while narrowly escaping a car bomb, while Yakupov was gunned down near his home only hours earlier.

The attacks were seen as a response by fundamental Islamists to the more moderate strain of Islam advocated by the Tatarstan authorities.

Tatarstan has traditionally been hoisted as an example of interethnic and multi-confessional harmony in an ethnically diverse Russia. The attack was among the few instances of religious violence in the region during recent years.

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