ROSTOV-ON-DON, June 22 (RIA Novosti) - The president of Russia's southern republic of Ingushetia remains in a serious condition in hospital after an assassination attempt earlier on Monday, but his life is not in danger, the presidential spokesman said.
President Yunus-bek Yevkurov, 45, was injured when his car hit an explosive device believed to have been planted on the roadside or in a car parked along his motorcade's route near the city of Nazran, the volatile republic's Interior Ministry said.
The ministry's latest reports say the president's brother and three bodyguards were also injured in the blast, which was equivalent to 70 kg of TNT.
"The president's life is now out of danger," Kaloi Akhilgov said, adding he was still in serious condition. "Yevkurov's liver was operated on. He suffered shrapnel wound... Doctors said the operation was a success."
Health officials earlier said Yevkurov had also suffered head injuries and burns.
Akhilgov said the president and the other victims would be flown to Moscow for medical treatment later on Monday. An emergencies ministry plane has taken off from the capital to collect them.
Investigators also said the explosive-laden car might have been driven by a suicide bomber.
An unidentified security official in the region said earlier that at least four people had been killed and five injured in the blast, which he claimed was equivalent to about 200 kg of TNT.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the federal Interior Ministry and the FSB security service to carry out an investigation into the blast, and has also sent his envoy to the region, the Kremlin said.
Medvedev qualified the blast as a terrorist attack linked to Yevkoyev's efforts to end a spiral of violence in the republic.
"The president has done much recently to bring order and ensure peace in the republic. Criminals do not like these efforts," he said at a meeting with top security officials.
Yevkurov, a former military intelligence official, became president of the republic last October. In a recent RIA Novosti interview, he said he would offer amnesty to remaining militants, but pledged "to eliminate" those who would not lay down arms.
Ingushetia, which borders on Chechnya, witnesses frequent militant attacks on officials and police.
Also on Monday, a senior Ingush investigator had his leg ripped off after an explosive device believed to have been planted in his car went off. A top judge and a former deputy prime minister were also shot dead in the republic in separate incidents earlier this month.
Russia's North Caucasus republics have been swept by a wave of violence recently, two months after the government formally ended its decade-long counterterrorism operation in Chechnya, which witnessed two brutal separatist wars in the 1990s and early 2000s.