NAZRAN, Russia (Reuters) – The owner of an opposition Internet news site in Russia’s troubled Ingushetia region was shot dead on Sunday after police detained him, his colleagues said.
Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the Ingushetiya.ru Internet site, was a vocal critic of the region’s Kremlin-backed administration which is accused by critics of crushing dissent and free speech.
Interfax quoted the Russian prosecutor’s office as saying an investigation into the death had been launched.
A posting on Yevloyev’s site — which has been the subject of repeated official attempts to close it down — said he was shot after police detained him when he landed in Ingushetia’s airport.
It said he was taken to hospital but died from his injuries. The site also called on “all those who are not indifferent” to his killing to gather for a demonstration in Nazran, Ingushetia’s biggest town.
“A preliminary investigation has been launched into the death of M. Yevloyev,” Interfax news agency quoted Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the investigations unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Moscow as saying.
Media freedom groups say Russia is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative reporter who was critical of the Kremlin, was shot dead in 2006 outside her Moscow apartment.
Ingushetia’s Kremlin-backed leader Murat Zyazikov has been struggling to contain a low-level insurgency led by Islamist militants. His critics accuse him of persecuting opposition activists and reporters, an allegation he denies.
Ingushetia is in Russia’s North Caucasus region and neighbors Chechnya, scene of a separatist rebellion that has now been largely quelled.
Zyazikov has criticized the reporting by Ingushetiya.ru and brought a court case earlier this year seeking to close down the site.
Interfax quoted an unnamed law enforcement source as saying Yevloyev was shot by accident.
“While police officers were attempting to transfer M. Yevloyev to an interior ministry office, an incident occurred in which M. Yevloyev received a gunshot wound to the temple area,” the agency quoted the source as saying.
Aslanbek Apayev, representative of rights group the Moscow Helsinki Group, told Reuters that opposition figures in Ingushetia had told him Yevloyev was dead.
“Yes, it is true. People close to the opposition confirmed that to me. I do not know any details,” he said.