A leading Ingush opposition activist was shot dead in his car Sunday in the North Caucasus region of Kabardino-Balkaria, investigators said.
Unknown gunmen fired about 60 shots at his Lada Priora at about 10 a.m. on the Kavkaz highway, killing Maksharip Aushev and badly injuring a woman passenger, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
Aushev died on the spot, while the woman, whose name wasn’t released, was rushed to the hospital. A preliminary inquiry revealed that the attackers had used two types of guns and fled in a silver-colored VAZ, the statement said.
Opposition web site Ingushetia.org reported that the woman was Aushev’s cousin.
Tatyana Lokshina, who was acquainted with Aushev as deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said he became involved in rights activities after his son and nephew were abducted in 2007. Aushev later got them released.
“He started working in human rights in Ingushetia and tried to combat abductions. He was a very brave man,” Lokshina said.
“Civil activities, human rights and opposition activities have virtually become a form of suicide” in the North Caucasus, she added.
Aushev had worked with opposition journalist and lawyer Magomed Yevloyev, who owned the opposition web site now known as Ingushetia.org. Yevloyev was detained and killed in Ingush police custody in August 2008. Police said he was shot when he tried to grab a weapon from one of the arresting officers. A court later ruled that his arrest was illegal.
Aushev took over Ingushetia.org after Yevloyev’s death, but resigned after the Kremlin dismissed Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, the main object of the opposition’s wrath, and became a businessman.
Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who replaced Zyazikov and survived an assassination attempt in June, promised Sunday to do everything possible to track down Aushev’s killers.
“Maksharip was a famous and well-respected person in the republic,” Yevkurov said in a statement, adding that the killing was aimed at destabilizing the situation in the region.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika has taken the investigation under his personal control, the Prosecutor General’s Office said.
In September, a group of unknown people tried to kidnap Aushev, Interfax said.
Ingushetia.org appealed for relatives and friends to gather near Aushev’s house. “Anyone who dared to speak against the authorities or tell the truth faces the same fate as Magomed and Maksharip,” it said.