NAZRAN, Russia – A prominent opposition activist in the Russian southern province of Ingushetia was shot and killed Sunday by unidentified gunmen, officials said.
Regional Police spokeswoman Madina Khadziyeva says Maksharip Aushev died when several assailants sprayed his vehicle with automatic gunfire from a passing car. Khadziyeva said the attack occurred on a road in the neighboring province of Kabardino-Balkariya.
Aushev had worked with Magomed Yevloyev, a journalist, lawyer and opposition activist who was detained and killed by police in August 2008. Police said at the time that Yevloyev was shot and killed after he tried to grab a weapon from one of the officers.
Following Yevloyev's killing, Aushev took over his Web site which was critical of regional authorities and reported on abuses, abductions and killings plaguing the southern province.
Shortly after Yevloyev's death, the Kremlin dismissed the deeply unpopular regional president, Murat Zyazikov, replacing him with Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Yevkurov, a former military intelligence officer, has vowed to end abuses against civilians and quickly became popular in the region.
Yevkurov pushed for investigation into Yeloyev's killing, and a court ruled last November that his detention by police was illegal.
The opposition has mostly refrained from criticizing the new president in sharp contrast with his predecessor.
But violence linked to Islamic militants has continued to plague the impoverished, mostly Muslim province. Yevkurov himself barely survived a suicide car bombing in June.
Opposition and officials in Ingushetia wouldn't comment on possible reasons behind Aushev's killing.
His death follows the killing in July of Natalya Estemirova, a prominent human rights activist who was found shot dead in Ingushetia after being kidnapped in Chechnya earlier in the day.
Estemirova's reporting on rights abuses had angered Chechnya's Kremlin-backed regional president, Ramzan Kadyrov. Earlier this month, Kadyrov won a defamation lawsuit against a Russian rights activist who blamed him for the killing of Estemirova whose murder sparked international outrage.