Canadian killed in anti-terror raid in Dagestan: report
In this file photograph taken in the restive Dagestan region, a police officer guards the site of a powerful explosion on the outskirts of Makhachkala, southern Russia, on Friday, May 4, 2012. (AP / Abdula Magomedov / NewsTeam)
Published Monday, July 16, 2012 4:21PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 16, 2012 4:58PM EDT
A former boxer from Ontario was among seven suspected insurgents killed in an anti-terror operation in the Republic of Dagestan in the restive North Caucasus region, Russian media reports say.
A report in the Moscow Times says local police and Federal Security Service forces conducted a joint raid on a group of suspected militants near the village of Utamysh late Friday night.
According to the report, seven of the suspects were shot and killed, including William Plotnikov, a 23-year-old man who held a Canadian passport and went by the nickname “the Canadian.”
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs remained tight-lipped about the case Monday afternoon.
“Consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather information regarding reports of a Canadian citizen killed in Russia,” spokesperson Ian Trites said in a statement provided to CTVNews.ca.
“To protect the privacy of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released.”
Trites said officials will provide consular assistance to anyone who may need it.
The report quoted Interfax news agency as saying Plotnikov lived in the Tyumen region, but had studied at Toronto’s Seneca College in 2009 and 2010. It also said he trained at Toronto’s European Boxing School under coach Boris Gitman.
Reached at his home Monday, Gitman said he saw online news reports of the raid and Plotnikov’s death on Sunday, saying pictures that identify Plotnikov look like the young man he trained as a teenager.
Gitman said he had not seen his former pupil in “maybe two or three years, even more,” and had no idea that he had gone back to Russia.
“It’s hard to believe, but what can I say?” Gitman told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview.
Coach recalls training Plotnikov
Gitman said he last trained Plotnikov when he was in his late teens. He described the young man as a “talented” boxer for whom he had Olympic dreams after he won a silver medal in the welterweight division at the Ontario championships.
“When I see a talented guy, I dedicate to him, I start working with him,” Gitman said. “And he grew up, and he was very promising to become a champion of Canada and I thought that in a couple of years he would be an Olympian.”
Gitman said Plotnikov was not violent. When he began training the teen, he listened intently and did as he was told. However, later, he became distant and one day he stopped training.
“As far as I remember he was inside of himself,” Gitman said. “From the beginning it was OK, but later on it was hard to discuss with him something. Whatever you suggested and told him to do, he listened very politely but I saw that it goes from one ear and goes through the other one.”
He thinks Plotnikov went to another boxing club, and when he returned to Gitman’s school he was out of shape and had lost his technique. Gitman trained Plotnikov for a handful of sessions and then never saw him again.
Gitman said he did not know who Plotnikov may have been associating with at the time he fell out of boxing, and it is unclear how he may have fallen in with suspected militants.
According to the Moscow Times report, Plotnikov’s profile on the Odnoklassniki social network site said he attended school as late as 2005 in the oil town of Megion in western Siberia, about 760 kilometres northeast of Tyumen.
The story quoted police in Dagestan as saying that Plotnikov’s name had been in their system since 2010, when his fingerprints were taken for an unknown reason in the city of Khasavyurt.
The report said officials had set up a special anti-terror squad in Dagestan’s Kayakentsky district, where Friday’s raid unfolded.
One police officer was killed and a second officer was injured in an ensuing firefight.