A notorious Russian antigay ultranationalist, Maksim Martsinkevich -- also known as 'Tesak' (Machete) -- has been found dead in the cell of a detention center in the Chelyabinsk region.
The Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) said on September 16 that it has started a preliminary investigation after the 36-year-old Martsinkevich, who was serving a 10-year prison term, was found dead earlier in the day.
Some media reports quoted unnamed law enforcement sources in the Chelyabinsk region as saying that Martsinkevich had committed suicide in his cell.
Martsinkevich's lawyer, Ivan Sidorov, rejected the reports, saying his client had no reason to kill himself, adding that if suicide is officially announced as the cause of death, 'it will mean that somebody assisted him' in dying.
According to Sidorov, Martsinkevich was in transit in the Chelyabinsk region on his way to Moscow, where he was expected to testify in an unspecified case dating back to 1999.
A leader of the neo-Nazi organization Format 18, Martsinkevich founded a homophobic group, Occupy Pedophilia, whose aim was to 'cure' homosexuals.
Russian authorities opened an investigation after several videos showing Martsinkevich and his followers humiliating and beating gays circulated on the Internet in 2013.
After a criminal case was opened against him in 2013, Martsinkevich fled to Cuba, but Cuban authorities arrested Martsinkevich for a visa violation in January 2014 and deported him to Russia.
In late December 2018, a court in Moscow found Martsikevich guilty of robbery and hooliganism and sentenced him to 10 years in prison
Before that, Martsinkevich was convicted three times on extremism charges.
Kremlin critics have said the government used Martsinkevich's group to counter opposition protests.
With reporting by TASS and Interfax
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036