WASHINGTON The United States on Tuesday urged Russian authorities to investigate the killing of a journalist while in police custody in the turbulent Caucasus region of Ingushetia and to hold to account those responsible.
"It's very disturbing," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said of the death of opposition journalist Magomed Yevloyev, who died on Sunday after being shot in the head.
Police said he was shot after lunging for an officer's gun but his supporters and human rights groups said he was killed to snuff out dissent in Ingushetia, which neighbors Chechnya and North Ossetia in Russia's volatile Caucasus region.
"We're still gathering the details and some of the facts regarding this issue, but apparently this individual was in the custody of officials and ... was shot in the head," McCormack told reporters.
"So it is something that needs to be investigated. Russian officials need to get to the bottom of it. And there needs to be people held to account for what happened," he said.
Bombings, killings and police crackdowns have gripped Ingushetia over the past year and analysts say the instability could spread. The area is just north of Georgia where Russia fought a brief war last month over the separatist region of South Ossetia.
McCormack said Washington was still deciding how to make clear to Russia the "real costs" of its military intervention in Georgia. Washington was also considering what it might to help Georgia's economy recover, he said.
Yevloyev was owner of the opposition Web site www.ingushetiya.ru, which Russian authorities have tried this year to close. He was the highest-profile Russian journalist to be killed since assassins shot investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya at her Moscow apartment in October 2006.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)