Women in Russia's volatile Muslim Chechnya region said on Friday that police had targeted them with paintball pellets for not wearing headscarves, outraging rights activists.
The attacks highlight tension over efforts by Chechnya's firebrand Moscow-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, to enforce Muslim-inspired rules that in some cases violate Russia's constitution.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
"A car carrying men in military uniform slowed down to approach us, one started filming on his mobile phone, and when they sped away we noticed paint all over our clothes," a woman in the Chechen capital Grozny said on condition of anonymity.
Several witnesses told Reuters that men in camouflage, which is worn by many Chechen police and security officers, had fired paintball guns at women from cars with tinted windows in multiple incidents this month.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which handles the police force, declined to comment on Friday about the reports.
This week, fliers from the self-proclaimed paintballers appeared in the city of Gudermes, site of Kadyrov's opulent residence, warning women that if they did not cover their heads the attackers will be "forced to resort to tougher measures".
"Isn't it nasty for you, while dressed defiantly, with your head uncovered, to hear various obscene 'compliments' and proposals? Think again!" it read, according to a copy posted on Internet news agency Caucasus Knot.
Police also declines to comment on the fliers, some of which were posted on state buildings and bus stops.