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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Protesters Storm Cherkessk Building

Itar-TassProtesters ramming metal police barriers into the glass doors of the government building in Cherkessk on Tuesday before entering and seizing the president's office.
Hundreds of people stormed the government building in Karachayevo-Cherkessia's capital on Tuesday to protest the grisly murders of seven prominent residents and demand the resignation of President Mustafa Batdyev -- who slipped out a back door moments before his office was seized and ransacked.

Police fired tear gas into the crowd, which responded by throwing rocks. Dozens of protesters and 13 police officers were injured, regional officials said.

"We will not leave this room until Batdyev turns in his resignation," a protester said from Batdyev's office on Tuesday afternoon, Interfax reported.

NTV television showed footage of the ransacked office with scattered papers and smashed furniture. About the only thing left intact was a portrait of President Vladimir Putin above Batdyev's desk.

Batdyev fled through a back door, NTV reported.

By evening, most of the protesters had left the building, RIA-Novosti reported.

The storming in Cherkessk came amid growing anger over the multiple slayings and the arrest of Batdyev's son-in-law, wealthy businessman Ali Kaitov, as the chief suspect on Oct. 25.

The charred, dismembered remains of local businessman Rasul Bogatyryov and six of his associates were pulled out of a pit late Sunday. The men, all respected members of local clans, disappeared Oct. 11 in what appears to be part of a vicious property dispute between clans.

About 3,000 protesters rallied outside the government building earlier Tuesday at a demonstration demanding the government's resignation and the punishment of those responsible for the killings. Then protesters, many of them women, rammed metal police barriers against the building's glass doors and entered the building.

Dozens of protesters sought medical assistance after police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd outside the building after the storming, Cherkessk's ambulance service said, Interfax reported.

At least 13 police officers were injured, and a spokeswoman for the republic's Interior Ministry said by telephone that three were hospitalized with serious head injuries.

One officer was hit by a bullet, RIA-Novosti reported.

Last month, protesters seized the government building and demanded Batdyev's resignation after relatives of the dead men broke into Kaitov's dacha and found evidence of foul play. Investigators believe Kaitov invited the men to his dacha for business negotiations and his bodyguards shot them.


Rossia / AP

A woman attacking a law enforcement officer after protesters stormed the government building on Tuesday in Cherkessk.

Prosecutor Boris Karnauhov, who met protesters shortly before Tuesday's storming, said the men's bodies had been dismembered and burned in a bonfire of car tires before being thrown into the pit.

NTV showed limp plastic bags being carried from a truck and said the remains will have to be identified through DNA tests.

"My son was a giant at 2 meters, and what I am supposed to bury now? A piece of him?" a middle-aged woman, crying and stretching out her arms, said on NTV.

Karnauhov, a deputy head of the North Caucasus branch of the Prosecutor General's Office, said a tape from a surveillance camera in Kaitov's dacha was also retrieved from the pit and investigators will try to find out whether the killings are recorded on it.

Federal prosecutors took over the investigation from local police after coming under intense pressure from the then-missing men's relatives. In addition to Kaitov, they have arrested 14 of his bodyguards, who include local police officers.

The bodyguards suspected of shooting the seven and disposing of their bodies -- Tamerlan Bostayev and Azamat Akbayev -- were arrested in St. Petersburg on Sunday. The men's remains were found in the pit shortly afterward.

Staff Writer Oksana Yablokova contributed to this report.