The founder of a website and vocal critic of the Kremlin’s policies in the Caucasus died Sunday from a bullet wound to the head while in police custody, Interfax reported, quoting prosecutors.
Magomed Yevloyev ran the website ingushetiya.ru, a major source of information in the region, and was a prominent opponent of the pro-Kremlin president of Ingushetia, Murat Zyazikov.
Prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation after Yevloyev was shot in a police car in Narzan, the capital of volatile Ingushetia, a mostly Muslim region that borders Chechnya.
The prosecutor’s office spokesman Vladimir Markin said “an incident” took place after Yevloyev was taken into a police car “resulting in a shooting injury to the head and he later died in hospital”, Interfax reported.
The website meanwhile reported that Yevloyev was killed after police arrested him in Narzan.
“Magomed Yevloyev was arrested today in Ingushetia and was killed”, said a report posted on http://www.ingushetia.ru.
The website is among the most visited for news on Ingushetia and had openly criticised the Ingush president who had often threatened to shut it down.
Ekho Moskvy radio separately quoted local Ingush opposition activist Magomad Khazbiyev as saying that the website founder was arrested at gunpoint after his arrival in Narzan.
Yevloyev arrived on a flight that was also carrying the Ingush president.
“Yevloyev was arrested as he stepped off the plane,” Khazbiyev said.
Russian justice authorities had ordered in June that the site be shut down, saying it was disseminating “extremist” views.
Moscow had also blocked access to the site late last year after it called for protests against the local administration which the opposition accuses of corruption and mismanagement.
Ingusetia.ru’s chief editor Rosa Malsagova earlier this month had announced plans to seek asylum in France.
“This was a murder that must be solved,” said Alexander Cherkassov, from the Russian rights group Memorial.
Russian opposition activist Ilia Yashin accused Zyazikov of “being behind the murder” of the website founder, in an interview to Ekho Moskvy radio.
Ingushetia has been grappling with mounting security problems.
While major combat operations against separatist rebels in neighbouring Chechnya have ceased, Ingushetia and other nearby provinces remain plagued by shoot-outs between Russian security services and local guerrillas.