The former head of one of Chechnya's shadowy security forces was fatally shot in Moscow by law enforcement officers who were trying to detain him on suspicion of abductions and killings in the violence-plagued southern region, officials said.
Movladi Baisarov was shot on Saturday while resisting officers on a main avenue in Moscow, city prosecutor's office spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said. A prosecutor present at the scene, Irina Bobinova, said he had pulled out a grenade when police tried to arrest him after he stepped out of a car.
Baisarov had headed a force that reportedly provided security for the separatist Chechen leadership in the late 1990s and later for the region's first pro-Moscow president, Akhmad Kadyrov, who was assassinated in 2004, but had been on increasingly bad terms with Kadyrov's son Ramzan, Chechnya's influential and powerful prime minister.
The body of a man resembling Baisarov lay in the street on Lenin Avenue in Moscow late on Saturday, his face bloodied and a pool of blood around his head and shoulder. Police milled around the corpse, which was still clad in a leather coat and a light scarf.
Baisarov's history reflects the volatile web of shifting allegiances and rivalries that contribute to persistent violence and tension in Chechnya, the site of two devastating wars in the past 12 years pitting separatist rebels against Russian forces and their Chechen allies.
According to the weekly newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti, Baisarov's force in recent years had been under the control of the Federal Security Service -- the main successor of the KGB -- and was formerly headed by President Vladimir Putin.
However, the newspaper said that the unit the force was attached to was dissolved early this year, and last month police and prosecutors in Chechnya said they were seeking to detain Baisarov on suspicion of involvement in the killings of 10 people. According to Ekho Moskvy radio, the alleged victims -- all of whom were members of a single family or acquaintances of that family -- were abducted in two years ago and their bodies finally found last month.
Major fighting has died down in Chechnya since the second war started in 1999 and the separatists were driven from power, but the mostly Muslim region is plagued by rebel attacks as well as violence blamed on federal troops and forces of the Moscow-backed Chechen government, many under Ramzan Kadyrov's control and many including former rebel fighters.
Baisarov's death appeared to underscore the increasing power of Kadyrov, who has close contacts with the Kremlin and is more influential than the Chechen president, who is technically his superior. Ekho Moskvy radio said that Baisarov had reportedly come to Moscow in order to get away from Kadyrov, while the Russian media cited prosecutors as saying that a special police force in Chechnya had taken part in the operation on Saturday.