NAZRAN, Russia (Reuters) - A senior Russian rights activist said he and a television crew had been abducted and beaten by security agents in the southern region of Ingushetia, just hours before a protest against police brutality.
Oleg Orlov of rights group Memorial told Reuters he and a film crew from the REN-TV channel were snatched from their hotel rooms in the Ingushetian town of Nazran by a group of masked and armed men who said they were from an anti-terrorist unit.
Ingushetia borders Chechnya, where Russian troops have fought separatists in two wars since 1994, and is increasingly plagued by kidnappings and murders. Russia has reinforced its security presence as a result.
“They kept us in a truck for several hours, then took us out of the truck outside the town and beat us. Then they drove away leaving us in a field,” Orlov told Reuters.
Ekho Moskvy radio station reported that one of the TV crew members had concussion.
Orlov said the kidnappers were from the security forces or the police, whom he accused of employing scare tactics before a planned mass opposition demonstration across the country.
“It was a blatant action of intimidation, they get paranoid,” he said.
The police were not available for comment.
Later on Saturday, 200-300 people protested in Nazran against police violence, part of a national wave of demonstrations that also saw 3,000 protesters gather in Moscow. They accused the police of violence and corruption.
“Stop the killings,” the crowd chanted. “The murderers of the Ingush have to face justice.”
Earlier this month a 6-year-old boy died from a gunshot wound when police raided a house, the latest victim in a low-level conflict that has seen masked gunmen kill ethnic Russian and other non-Ingush families.
The authorities blame rebels for the murders but locals accuse renegade security agents who want to stir up unrest.
The protesters threw stones and wood at police who carried guns and were armed with batons.
“They beat us,” a protester who gave his name as Uslan said.
“I saw a man hit on the head with a baton. He fell to the ground. I thought he was dead but he got up again.”
Police detained dozens of people at the rally and stopped journalists from filming the protest.
Writing by Tanya Mosolova and James Kilner; editing by Oliver Bullough