Chechen poet Ruslan Akhtakhanov shot dead in Moscow

Chechen poet Ruslan Akhtakhanov file picture 3 October 2001 Ruslan Akhtakhanov believed Chechnya should remain part of Russia

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A prominent poet from Chechnya, Ruslan Akhtakhanov, has been shot dead in Moscow.

Police said his death appeared to be a contract killing.

The 58-year-old was shot several times by an unidentified gunman as he left his car outside his home in north-west Moscow on Tuesday night.

Mr Akhtakhanov had opposed the Chechen separatist movement, believing Chechnya should remain part of Russia.

"An unknown person shot at Akhtakhanov twice: first in the leg and then in the head," the Investigations Committee of Russia said in a statement.

The Interfax news agency quoted police sources as saying that Mr Akhtakhanov was shot at about midnight and that the killer escaped in a car which was later found several blocks away.

A pistol with a silencer was found in the car.

'Proud of Chechnya'

Mr Akhtakhanov was a professor at the 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, he describes himself as an educator and an advocate of Chechnya remaining part of Russia.

The Kremlin has been fighting insurgents in the North Caucasus since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

It waged two wars against separatist rebels in Chechnya, in 1994-96, and in 1999-2000.

Since the second Chechen war ended in 2000, the rebels have waged an insurgency, with the unrest spreading into other areas of the North Caucasus.

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