On November 15, 2011, Ruslan Akhtakhanov, a prominent Chechen poet, was shot dead in Moscow in what the authorities believe to be a contract killing. Akhtakhanov, who was known to be a vocal opponent of the Chechen independence movement, had previously been kidnapped by separatists and detained for nearly seven weeks. The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened a full inquiry into the killing. PEN International is seeking further information.

Background Information

On November 15, 2011, Akhtakhanov (58) was shot several times by an unidentified gunman outside his home around midnight. The gunman fled in a car which was later found abandoned several miles away. A pistol and silencer were discovered in the vehicle. The poet was a professor at the Modern Humanitarian Academy in Moscow and member of Russia’s Writers Union. He was reported to have outraged Muslim separatists in the North Caucasus on several occasions due to his staunch attacks on the Chechen independence movement.

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PEN is currently seeking further information on the killing and on the investigation being carried out by the Russian authorities. An update will be issued if further action is required.