November 16, 2011 / 5:21 PM / 7 years ago

Chechen poet shot dead in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A poet and academic from Russia’s volatile region of Chechnya was found dead Wednesday outside a Moscow apartment building in what investigators said appeared to be a contract killing.

Ruslan Akhtakhanov was shot in the head in north Moscow around midnight before his killer escaped in a car, police said. They later found the burned-out vehicle on the southern edge of the city, Russian wire agencies reported.

“The way the crime was committed ... allows the conclusion to be drawn that the crime was a contract killing,” said Vladimir Markin, spokesman for the Investigative Committee, Russia’s main federal investigating authority.

Violence from Chechnya has spilled over into Moscow since federal forces fought two separatist wars there from the 1990s.

An Islamist insurgency, rooted in those wars, is still raging in Chechnya and much of the rest of the North Caucasus.

Markin said on Russian news television channel Vesti 24 that

investigators were looking at his circle of friends and acquaintances.

Akhtakhanov, who had won a prize for his poetry, was an administrator at Moscow’s Modern Humanitarian Academy, where he awarded Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov an honorary professorship.

Rights groups say Kadyrov’s Chechnya relies on heavy-handed law enforcement techniques including torture, kidnapping and extra-judicial killings to battle the Islamist insurgency.

Reporting By Thomas Grove, edited by Richard Meares

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