NAZRAN, Russia (Reuters) – Masked police in the southern Russian region of Ingushetia used batons to break up an anti-government protest on Tuesday, two days after an opposition leader died in police custody.
Ingushetia lies next to Chechnya and North Ossetia at the heart of Russia’s north Caucasus. Bombings, murders and police crackdowns have wracked Ingushetia over the last 12 months and analysts say the instability could spread.
Magomed Mutsolgov from the Ingushetia-based human rights group Mashr said police arrived at around 5.30 a.m. (9:30 p.m. EDT) to disperse a crowd of around 50 men who slept in the main square in Nazran, Ingushetia’s biggest city.
Police and military vehicles were then deployed to block access to the main square, Mutsolgov said.
Police declined to comment.
The protest started on Monday during the funeral of Magomed Yevloyev, owner of opposition website www.ingushetiya.ru .
The authorities have tried this year to close the site — one of the few unofficial sources of information.
Yevloyev died in police custody on Sunday from a gunshot wound. Police said he was shot after lunging for an officer’s gun, but his supporters and human rights groups said they do not believe that explanation.
Yevloyev is the most high-profile Russian journalist to be killed since assassins shot investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya at her Moscow apartment in October 2006.
In July, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described Ingushetia as “a lawless zone where enemies of the press can attack journalists with impunity.”