Amnesty worker says abducted, beaten in Russian Caucasus

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Moscow (AFP)

An Amnesty International researcher said Monday he was abducted and brutally beaten by men claiming to be from the Russian security service after he travelled to the North Caucasus to monitor peaceful protests.

Oleg Kozlovsky was in the volatile Ingushetia region, where thousands have protested in recent weeks over a Moscow-backed deal that would hand over territory to the neighbouring region of Chechnya.

A man claiming to represent a leader of the protest movement came to Kozlovsky's hotel on the evening of October 6 and led him to a waiting car, Amnesty said in a statement.

Once the researcher was in the vehicle, two masked men entered, one of whom punched him in the face, before driving him to a field outside the regional capital Magas.

"They held a gun to my head and told me they were going to kill me," Kozlovsky said.

"The men identified themselves as being officers of the local Centre for Combating Extremism, a special police unit.

"They demanded to know the names of my contacts in Ingushetia and threatened to kill my wife and children if I reported what happened."

In a Facebook post, the Russian national said the men also threatened to rape him.

But he added: "I won't be bullied into silence. It's imperative that the world knows the risks that human rights defenders and activists face in Russia."

The attackers staged two mock executions and took photos of Kozlovsky naked, which they threatened to release if he told anyone about the ordeal, according to the statement.

They later took his phone and camera before driving him to the nearby region of North Ossetia and releasing him near an airport.

Amnesty said it had complained to the Russian authorities.

Rights workers in Russia and particularly in the Caucasus region regularly report attacks and harassment.

The head of the Chechen branch of Russia's top rights group Memorial was detained in January and is on trial on drugs charges that campaigners say are trumped up.

The group's office in Ingushetia was also torched in January in an arson attack.