Chechens Accuse Kremlin

VIENNA — Chechen immigrants protested Thursday in Vienna against what they said was the Kremlin's hand in the killing of a political refugee last week in the Austrian capital.

Around 100 people, some in masks and wearing gun targets on their backs, gathered in front of Austria's imperial palace as police surrounded them.

The group unfurled banners calling for an investigation into the Jan. 13 shooting death of Umar Israilov, 27.

"It was a dark day for Europe," said Ruslan Abdurzakov, 58, the Chechen group's spokesman, a six-year resident of Austria who said he knew Israilov. "The Kremlin extended its violent reach into the heart of Europe."

Israilov was gunned down in daylight after seeking refuge in Austria from the Chechen government. Chechens in Vienna said a Russian agent had been asking about Israilov's whereabouts since June.

Austrian Interior Ministry officials said they also were approached by the agent, the Austrian Press Agency reported.

Stanislav Markelov, a lawyer representing Israilov, was shot dead Jan. 19 in Moscow.

Israilov, who had worked for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, had been tortured and witnessed the torture of other dissidents, according to Amnesty International.

After the Israilov killing, Austrian police arrested a Chechen they suspect of driving the getaway car used in the crime, a spokesman said. Police are looking for the two killers who fled the crime scene.

Since the Chechen conflicts in the 1990s, around 30,000 Chechens have fled to Austria.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the allegation of a Russian government role in Israilov's death, according to a spokesman who requested anonymity in line with ministry policy.