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Hundreds arrested in Moscow anti-migrant riots

Unrest, Conflicts and WarRussiaImmigration

MOSCOW -- More than 20 people, including 6 police officers, were injured during ethnic riots that began Sunday in a southern Moscow suburb and continued overnight, authorities said.

Thousands of young people took to the streets in Biryulyovo, demanding the eviction of migrant workers from the Northern Caucasus and from outside Russia. The protests came in the wake of the killing last week of a 25-year-old resident, Yegor Shcherbakov, reportedly by an attacker who appeared to be of Caucasus or Central Asian origin.

The angry mob upturned cars, broke  windows in street kiosks and attempted to break into a local market run by migrants. Protesters chanted "Russia for Russians, Moscow for Muscovites" and threw stones at riot police who arrived on the scene.

"On Sunday, extremist persons decided to take advantage of the situation. ... Many of them were drunk,” Anatoly Yakunin, a senior Moscow police official, said during an urgent meeting at police headquarters. "They were young people, unfortunately women among them too. They began to cross the legal line in actions bordering on mass disorders."

Yakunin said 380 people were arrested overnight.

Shcherbakov was stabbed with a knife Thursday and died a short time later near his home after trying to protect his girlfriend from an attacker of "non-Russian" appearance, the girlfriend told television network NTV.

“This non-Russian man took out a knife and stabbed him in the heart,” Shcherbakov's girlfriend, whose name was not disclosed, said in the interview. "We called the ambulance, but we couldn't save him, and he died on my knees."

The suspect's face was caught by a surveillance camera over the entrance of Scherbakov's house. Police are conducting an investigation and searching for the attacker.

Television reports Sunday showed groups of young men randomly attacking and beating up people of non-Russian appearance in the streets of Biryulyovo. Thousands of police officers in full riot gear and armed with clubs were patrolling the streets overnight after the protests subsided.

Early Monday, police raided a vegetable market protesters had tried to storm overnight, detaining about 1,200 workers and traders, RIA Novosti reported.

People also brought flowers and lighted candles Monday morning at the spot where Shcherbakov was killed.

The riots were the largest in Moscow driven by ethnic conflict since Dec. 11, 2010, when over 5,000 people rioted in Manezhnaya Square in front of the Kremlin, angered by the death of a soccer fan killed by a man from the Northern Caucasus.

Large-scale anti-immigrant riots also occurred in 2006 in the northern Russian town of Kondopoga, where one man was killed and dozens injured. The violence forced hundreds of immigrants to flee the town in fear of violence.

Since then, conflicts fueled by ethnic discrimination have occasionally flared up across Russia.

In Moscow alone, more than 2 million migrants work in the municipal, trade and construction sectors.

“The state does very little to socialize these migrant groups and help them adjust properly in cities and towns across Russia,” Alexander Cherkasov, board member of the Memorial Society, a Moscow-based rights group, said in an interview with The Times. "Thus, markets where they work often turn into migrant enclaves, which the authorities fail to control properly. As a result, they appear incapable to prevent local incidents from deteriorating into mass riots like the one in Biryulyovo, richly colored with ethnic intolerance.”

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered a thorough investigation to be conducted into the death of the young man and the subsequent riots, Interfax reported.

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sergei.loiko@latimes.com

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