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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 November, 2004, 19:29 GMT
N Caucasus president 'flees mob'
Protesters have stormed government offices in Cherkessk, in Russia's troubled North Caucasus.

Thousands of people gathered in the capital of the Russian republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, demanding that President Mustafa Batdyyev resign.

Russian correspondents say the president fled as people broke into his offices and stole items from his safe.

Tension has been high since the bodies of seven prominent local businessman were found dumped in a coal mine.

The men had reportedly disappeared after a meeting at the house of Mr Batdyyev's son-in-law, Ali Kaitov, a local businessman.

Envoy's mission

The bodies were said to be mutilated.

Mr Kaitov has been arrested in connection with the men's murder.

On Tuesday protesters gathered in the main square of Cherkessk, the capital.

The president refused to meet them and left his office by the back door, the reports said.

The protesters were said to have overrun police lines and stormed the offices.

"I have ordered the local interior minister to take tough steps to end disorder," Interfax quoted Mr Batdyyev as saying.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the North Caucasus has already visited the region twice in recent weeks, in an attempt to defuse tension in the area.

North Caucasus: At a glance
08 Sep 04 |  Europe

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