January 26, 2008 / 10:46 AM / 11 years ago

Russian police clash with protesters in Ingushetia

NAZRAN, Russia, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Russian riot police fired warning shots into the air and beat demonstrators who tried to rally on Saturday against alleged vote-rigging in the Muslim region of Ingushetia, a witness said.

Russia is fighting a growing insurgency in the region that borders Chechnya, where Moscow has fought two wars against separatists since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Opponents of Kremlin-backed leader Marat Zyazikov planned to protest in the regional capital Nazran against the official results of last December’s parliamentary election which gave the pro-Kremlin party 99 percent of the vote.

Nazran’s central square had been sealed off by police but about 30 to 40 mostly young protesters tried to break through police cordons, the witness said.

Riot police used batons and teargas to push back the protesters who pelted police with stones and Molotov cocktails, the witness said.

Police detained most of the activists but some set fire to the office of a government-owned newspaper nearby.

A freelance photographer at the scene told Reuters by telephone that he was beaten by police and detained. Moscow’s Ekho Moskvy radio station said two of its reporters were detained by the police in Nazran.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) on Friday declared parts of Ingushetia a "counter-terrorist operation zone", giving the authorities the right to ban rallies and restrict travel.

"There was an attempt to hold a rally," a local FSB spokesman said by telephone from Nazran. "The situation is now under control." (Writing by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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