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Opposition Vows New Protests In Russia's Ingushetia


Magomed Yevloyev

Magomed Yevloyev

NAZRAN, Russia -- Police blocked streets in the capital of Russia's volatile Ingushetia region today to prevent new protests over the death of an opposition leader, which the United States has called on Moscow to investigate.

Despite the authorities' promise to disperse protests, the new head of Ingushetia's opposition website told Reuters he would push for fresh demonstrations against Ingush President Murat Zyazikov.

"I can't tell you where we will meet, but we absolutely will do it," Maksharip Aushev said.

Aushev took over as editor of ingushetiya.ru after police on August 31 shot Magomed Yevloyev, one of the republic's leading opposition figures and owner of the website.

The police said Yevloyev lunged for a gun whilst in their custody but human rights groups rejected this account and said police murdered him.

'Assassination'

The 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe described the shooting as an "assassination" intended to halt dissent. The United States called Yevloyev's death "very disturbing."

"Russian officials need to get to the bottom of it. And there needs to be people held to account for what happened," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Ingushetia, a poor, mainly Muslim republic of about 400,000 people, neighbors Chechnya and North Ossetia at the heart of Russia's volatile North Caucasus.

Bomb attacks and murders have racked the territory this year as federal forces and rebels fight for control -- instability which analysts say could spread.

On the dusty streets of the capital, Nazran, Ruslan, a local businessman who declined to give his surname, watched police block roads leading to the main square. On September 2, eyewitnesses said police with batons broke up an opposition protest there.

He said he believed the police had murdered Yevloyev.

'Where All Evil Comes From'

"The opposition is right, but there is something lacking," Ruslan said. "The opposition is too weak to fight such a monster as the FSB, where all evil comes from."

The FSB is Russia's domestic security agency, which New York-based Human Rights Watch blamed earlier this year for a series of abductions and murders in Ingushetia.

Ingush President Zyazikov and Russian courts have tried to ban ingushetiya.ru throughout the year but the website has survived and Aushev promised to build on Yevloyev's work.

"We'll continue to tell our audience about the arbitrariness and widespread violations of Russian law in Ingushetia," he said.

Yevloyev was the highest-profile journalist to die in Russia since the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya, best known for her critical reporting of the Kremlin's wars in Chechnya.

Another journalist also died in the North Caucasus today. In Dagestan, police blamed Islamic radicals for the murder of a television station editor who promoted an officially sanctioned form of Islam.
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