Anti-immigrant mass riot rocks Moscow

moscowriotMoscow police detained some 380 people during the mass rioting in a southern district of the city. A mixed crowd of nationalists and locals attacked a warehouse run by natives of the Caucasus, blaming a migrant for the fatal stabbing of a local.

Authorities lifted the emergency plan codenamed “Volcano” after midnight, several hours after public order had been restored. The plan, put into effect in the afternoon, involved sending scores of riot police to the scene of the clashes, and placing police officers across the city on high alert.

By midnight the streets were practically deserted, except for police officers and a couple of bystanders discussing the day’s events. Meanwhile the 380 detained during the unrest were being interrogated in a criminal case over hooliganism – thus far as witnesses, police said.

Residents of the Biryulyovo district in southern Moscow took to the streets following the fatal stabbing of Egor Shcherbakov, a Muscovite, earlier in the week. Late on Thursday evening, when Shcherbakov and his girlfriend were on their way home, the young couple were attacked by an unidentified man who stabbed Shcherbakov with a knife.

Shcherbakov’s girlfriend described the attacker as a male native of the Caucasus and said that he had assaulted her boyfriend after trying to harass her.

On Saturday a group of about 40 people gathered for a protest in the area, urging the police to find and punish the attacker. They demanded that the district’s police chief resign, and that a local vegetable warehouse, where many migrants work, be closed.

The locals also lashed at the the authorities, accusing them of covering the wave of migrant crime and the illegal immigration in the area. The protest was followed by an unsanctioned rally on Sunday, which turned violent as hundreds of angry protesters attacked a shopping mall – attempting to set it on fire and breaking windows. A group of people among the crowd reportedly broke into stores, ransacking them and looting goods.

Ethnic tensions in Moscow have been high on politicians’ agenda in recent months, with the issue of illegal migration a key theme in the city’s mayoral election last month. Some 3 million migrants from former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus are estimated to live in the city, many working in low-paid jobs in food markets without legal residency permits.

The city’s ethnic dividing lines are also overlaid with religious ones, as the Russian Orthodox majority is challenged in many neighborhoods by a growing Muslim population – both from Russia’s North Caucasus and from outside Russia’s borders.

Meanwhile, authorities in Moscow’s Southern Administrative district have decided to set up an operation headquarters to counter illegal migration. The body – comprised of police, federal migration service representatives and voluntary people’s guard – will gather daily.  The new foundation will focus on identifying flats rented to illegal migrants, patrolling streets and organizing sweeps on reports from citizens, the prefecture’s press service told Interfax.

Egor’s girlfriend said she was against such protests, since she did not want “interethnic conflicts” to be inflamed. “I know this crime won’t remain unpunished,” she told Moskva 24 TV channel.

According to statistics announced in spring by the Federal Migration Service, there are over 3 million illegal immigrants in Russia and 11 million legal visitors. However, unofficial estimates put the number of illegal immigrants at 10-12 million.  – RT