Chechen poet gunned down in Moscow: official

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A Chechen poet with anti-separatist views was gunned down in Moscow in an apparent contract killing, Russian investigators said Wednesday.

Ruslan Akhtakhanov was exiting his car just before midnight Tuesday near his apartment building in north-western Moscow when an unidentified gunman fired several shots at him, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

"The nature of the crime -- the criminal after wounding his victim fired another shot into his head -- allows to conclude that the crime is probably a contract killing," said the statement.

58-year-old Akhtakhanov was a professor at the little-known Modern Humanitarian Academy in Moscow. He received a special journalism prize in 2009 for a book of poems called "I am proud of Chechnya, which gave heroes to the world."

On his website Akhtakhanov describes himself as an educator and proponent of Chechnya as a part of Russia, who began to write poetry while held in a pit by separatists.

The Kremlin has been fighting insurgents in the North Caucasus since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, waging a war in 1994-1996 against separatist rebels in Chechnya.

After a second war in Chechnya in 1999, the rebellion's inspiration moved towards Islam with the aim of imposing an Islamic state in the region.

Although the war ended in 2000, rebels have waged an increasingly deadly insurgency, with the unrest spreading into other areas of the North Caucasus.

© 2011 AFP

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