Moscow: Russian rights activists were targeted with eggs on Thursday as they held a news conference in Moscow to condemn the torching of the homes of relatives of suspected Islamist insurgents in Chechnya.
Two burly young men threw eggs at Alexander Cherkasov of the Memorial human rights group and Igor Kalyapin of the Joint Mobile Group watchdog that tackles abuses in Chechnya.
The men shouted slogans in support of Chechnya`s Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who last week said families of Islamist rebels in the North Caucasus should be banished and have their houses destroyed, prompting the torching of several houses.
Kadyrov was speaking after insurgents launched an attack on Grozny on December 4, storming buildings including a school in a raid that prompted a massive security operation in which 14 police died along with 11 rebels.
The egg-throwing attackers shouted: "Ramzan dragged this country out of the abyss!" and "How else can we fight them?" before walking out of the building.
The organisers called police who only arrived over an hour later.
Memorial had called a news conference to present a detailed report on Chechnya 20 years after the first Chechen war broke out.
The group said in a statement distributed on Thursday that between December 6 and 9, at least eight houses of people with family links to insurgents were burnt down, citing its own information and media reports.
The rights group said that in four cases the houses belonged to relatives of insurgents killed in the December 4 attack in Grozny.
Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram account: "If a fighter in Chechnya kills a policeman or another person, the family of the fighter will be banished immediately without the right to return and their house razed to the foundations."
Rights activists have condemned Kadyrov`s call for revenge attacks on relatives.
"In Chechnya, there is no Russian constitution. There is one law: Ramzan`s order," Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the migrant rights group The Civic Assistance Committee, said at the news conference.
"They set on fire the homes even of relatives who were not in touch with those who had joined the rebel movement," Cherkasov said, calling the tactic "ineffective and criminal."