NAZRAN, Russia (Reuters) - An opposition Internet news site owner in Russia’s troubled Ingushetia region was fatally shot on Sunday soon after being detained by police, and his colleagues called for a rally to protest his death.
Magomed Yevloyev is one of the most high-profile journalists to be killed in Russia since investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead near her Moscow apartment in 2006, provoking condemnation of Russia’s record on media freedom.
Yevloyev, owner of the www.Ingushetiya.ru website, was a vocal critic of the region’s Kremlin-backed administration, accused by opponents of crushing dissent and free speech.
A lawyer for the website — which survived repeated official attempts to close it down — said police met Yevloyev at the steps of the aircraft after he flew in to Ingushetia’s airport, put him in a Volga saloon car and drove him away.
“As they drove he was shot in the temple... They threw him out of the car near the hospital,” lawyer Kaloi Akhilgov told Reuters by telephone.
“He was discovered there and they quickly put him on the operating table, which is where he died.”
Akhilgov said Yevloyev, who was in his thirties, flew from Moscow to Nazran on the same flight as the Kremlin-backed local leader Murat Zyazikov. A spokesman for Zyazikov could not be reached for comment.
A posting on Yevloyev’s website called on “all those who are not indifferent” to his killing to gather for a demonstration in Nazran, Ingushetia’s biggest town where Zyazikov’s opponents have clashed with riot police in recent years.
“A preliminary investigation is being carried out into the incident as a result of which M.Yevloyev was killed,” said Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the investigations unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Moscow.
Markin said police had tried to bring Yevloyev in for questioning but that an incident occurred in which he received a gunshot wound that led to his death.
Interfax news agency cited an unnamed law enforcement source as saying Yevloyev was shot by accident and said prosecutors had opened a criminal case for causing the death by carelessness.
Akhilgov said he doubted the shooting was an accident. “It was in no way a mistake,” he told Reuters.
Media freedom groups say Russia is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists.
Ingushetia is a poor, mainly Muslim, region in Russia’s North Caucasus region and borders Chechnya, scene of a separatist rebellion that has now been largely quelled.
Ingushetia’s leader, Zyazikov, has been struggling to contain a low-level insurgency by Islamist militants. Opponents accuse Zyazikov of persecuting opposition activists.
Zyazikov, a former security service officer in the local KGB, has criticised the reporting by Ingushetiya.ru and brought a court case earlier this year trying to close down the site.