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US ‘peace cyclist’ killed by Russian drunk driver

An American “peace ambassador” travelling around the world on his bicycle was run over and killed by a Russian drunk driver in a hit-and-run accident, officials said Friday.

Ron McGerity, a 60-year-old who had travelled 120,000 kilometres (75,000 miles) over the past 15 years on his bike visiting 61 countries with a message of peace, died on Thursday on a country road in central Russia.

Police in the Ivanovo region said they have arrested a man who was driving a truck while drunk, and who fled the scene without stopping after killing McGerity.

McGerity, an American who had been living in Geneva, has been a solo cyclist bringing “peaceful and spiritual civic messages” to different corners of the globe since 1998, a mission that started as a charity project, said his website Biker on the Road (http://bikerontheroad.com)

Since the beginning of the year, he travelled through Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, among other countries, but his trips have also taken him as far as Japan and South Korea.

He last posted pictures on his Facebook page on Tuesday, posing on his reclining recumbent bike in front of the Lenin Mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square, and various other landmarks in the capital.

On Wednesday he was in Kostroma, a city on the Volga river about 280 kilometres (174 miles) northeast of Moscow, known for its ancient monasteries. He met with the mayor and other officials, had a tour of the sights and left the next morning, a city spokeswoman said.

“He was travelling completely alone,” she told AFP.

“Even the short time of our meeting was enough to understand how open, sincere, honest, and joyful this man was,” mayor Viktor Yemets said in a statement posted on the city’s website.

“We’ll remember him as a true enthusiast who had inexhaustible energy and enormous love of life and people,” he said.

Earlier this month McGerity went on local radio in the town of Novgorod, where he professed his love for Russia in a mix of Russian, English and French.

He said he had lived in Russia in the early 1990s and had come back to visit the country again, planning his trip on the hoof and relying on the kindness of people he meets. He was looking forward to biking to Astrakhan, a southern city near where the Volga river empties into the Caspian Sea.

“Today everything is booked in advanced. There is nothing unexpected, and the unexpected is very important to me,” he said on the show.

“I need no planning, I leave everything open.”