Hooliganism case opened after attack on journalists and rights activists on Ingush-Chechen border

Caucasus Map of Chechnya and Caucasus Environs

MOSCOW. March 10 (Interfax) – A criminal investigation has been opened after unknown persons attacked a minibus carrying human rights activists and journalists on the administrative border between Ingushetia and Chechnya, in Russia’s North Caucasus, last night, a spokesman for the region’s security services told Interfax.

“A criminal case has been launched under Article 167 (deliberate destruction or damage of property) and Article 213 (hooliganism) of the Russian Penal Code,” he said.

According to him, four people were hospitalized after the incident, including the minibus driver, who is a resident of Ingushetia, a Norwegian reporter, a radio station director from Sweden and a female interpreter from Nizhny Novgorod.

Ingushetia’s Interior Ministry told Interfax earlier that a minibus carrying a group of people was stopped by unknown persons near the town of Sunzha on the 595th kilometer of the Caucasus federal motorway at around 7:30 p.m. Moscow time on March 9. Several people injured as a result of the attack were admitted to Sunzha’s central hospital. The vehicle was also damaged.

“The latest information available suggests that eight people were injured as a result of the attack. Three of them were hospitalized. They include two journalists – from Norway and Sweden – and one Russian. They are in satisfactory condition. They are being treated at one of the hospitals in the Sunzha district of Ingushetia,” a source with law enforcement agencies told Interfax.

The incident occurred on the administrative border between Chechnya and Ingushetia, as unknown masked assailants presumably holding wooden sticks arrived in several cars and stopped the minibus and a Priora car that was accompanying the bus. According to preliminary reports, the assailants removed those on board, beat them up, damaged the vehicle and then fled.

Eight people were injured in the incident. The Priora car is believed to have been destroyed by fire.

“The preliminary information available indicates the assailants obviously knew that the human rights activists were heading to Chechnya because they had already travelled there more than once previously, and, the assailants, by their act of hooliganism directly on the two republics’ administrative border, could disrupt the rights campaigners’ next visit to Chechnya in such a way,” the source said.