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Maksim Martsinkevich died in custody last month.

The parents of a prominent antigay ultranationalist whose death in custody last month was ruled a suicide have alleged that their son was killed or driven to suicide and vowed to file a police complaint in the case.

Thirty-six-year-old Maksim Martsinkevich -- a leader of the neo-Nazi group Format 18 who was known as Tesak (Machete) -- was found dead in a solitary-confinement cell in the west-central Russian city of Chelyabinsk on September 16 and his body transported to Moscow.

His parents were quoted by Kommersant Daily on October 2 as saying the morgue in Moscow refused to allow independent forensics experts to see the body before burial but that it might show traces of violence.

His lawyers rejected an Investigative Committee finding that it was suicide, saying their client had never been suicidal.

Martsinkevich's parents said an independent expert said postmortem photos and videos did not point to suicide.

Martsinkevich's father has said two of his son's toenails were missing and there was a possible indication he had been administered an injection.

Officials hinted he may have been driven to suicide by a confession in connection with an ethnically charged killing in the mid-2000s for which Martsinkevich faced a possible life sentence.

Martsinkevich had since said in prison that he had abandoned his neo-Nazi views.

In addition to his Format 18 activities, Martsinkevich founded a homophobic group called Occupy Pedophilia whose aim was to "cure" homosexuals.

Russian authorities opened an investigation against him after several videos showing Martsinkevich and his followers humiliating and beating gays circulated on the Internet in 2013.

Martsinkevich fled to Cuba but authorities there arrested him for a visa violation in January 2014 and repatriated him to Russia.

In late December 2018, a court in Moscow found Martsikevich guilty of robbery and hooliganism and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Before that, Martsinkevich had been convicted three times on extremism charges.

Kremlin critics have said the government used Martsinkevich's group to counter opposition protests.

With reporting by Kommersant
Irina Slavina was an editor at the Koza Press news website.

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia -- A Russian journalist, Irina Slavina, has died after setting herself on fire in the city of Nizhny Novgorod following a police raid on her apartment in an apparent search for evidence linking her to an opposition group.

Before staging the self-immolation act in front of the city police headquarters on October 2, Slavina posted a statement on Facebook, saying "Blame the Russian Federation for my death."

The local branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry confirmed to RFE/RL that a woman had died after setting herself on fire next to police headquarters in Nizhny Novgorod, but refused to identify the victim.

The independent Koza Press news website, where Slavina was an editor, identified Slavina as the woman involved in the incident.

A day earlier, Slavina said on Facebook that police had searched her apartment and confiscated a computer, notebooks, mobile phones, and memory sticks.

She wrote that they were looking for evidence linking her with the opposition Open Russia group.

Last month police detained Andrei Pivovarov, the executive director of Open Russia, on charges of organizing or holding a public event without giving notice.

Russian authorities consider Open Russia a so-called “undesirable” organization and have repeatedly targeted the group and its leadership.

Slavina also was fined several times for her articles and for participating in unsanctioned pickets.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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