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Body Of Missing Russian Rights Activist Found

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- The body of a missing Russian human rights activist has been found, his organization and local officials said on July 22.

Russia is already investigating last week's killing of Chechen human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, which triggered worldwide outrage.

Andrei Kulagin, who disappeared two months ago, headed the local branch of Spravedlivost (Justice) a human rights organization in the Russian region of Karelia, around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) north of Moscow.

"The body of Andrei Kulagin, a resident of Petrozavodsk, was discovered on July 10 in a quarry near the Klyuchevaya neighbourhood of Petrozavodsk," a source in Karelian law enforcement told Interfax news agency.

The reports made no reference to how Kulagin may have died.

Interfax news agency quoted law enforcement officials as saying Kalugin had a criminal record and was being investigated for misconduct.

Kulagin's body was found in a sand pit near Petrozavodsk. He had been missing since May 14, Spravedlivost's leader, Andrei Stolbunov said in a message on its website on July 22.

"Human rights activists are the exposed nerves of civil society. They are sharply responsive to injustices and are very often at the front of the fight for other people's rights," Stolbunov wrote, linking the death to that of Estemirova and murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Stolbunov said Kulagin was last seen after he left his home late at night after receiving a phone call. The last person to see him was the taxi driver who took him to a local cafe.

Stolbunov said he was engaged with the local justice ministry in trying to improve prison conditions.

Stolbunov said Kulagin had headed up the organization's local branch since its creation in 2007 and called for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death.

An image of Kulagin on the website show a man in his late 30s or early 40s. He was married with one daughter.