Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 8 Issue: 10

Nearly 10 gambling establishments were vandalized by unknown persons in Maikop, Adygeya, Kavkazky Uzel reported on March 5. The website cited the city’s prosecutor, Andrei Fatin, who told Itar-Tass that more than 100 people were involved in the attacks on the gambling establishments on March 4. The perpetrators, he said, had traveled around the city in automobiles without license plates. The Associated Press reported on March 5 that more than 100 people wielding baseball bats and metal bars had wrecked 10 gambling halls in Maikop and smashed dozens of slot machines, and that police had arrested 12 people for allegedly instigating the vandalism. The news agency quoted police as saying that groups of people aged 20 to 25 had traveled to several districts in the city in unmarked cars and on foot and smashed slot machines, destroyed electronic gambling games and ransacked halls over the course of an hour. Some wielded rubber-bullet-firing guns, police said. Adygeya’s Interior Ministry said preliminary damage totaled up to 10 million rubles ($381,000).

According to the ministry, the violence may have been instigated by Adygeya-Khase, a radical group that earlier called on Adygeya’s leadership to get rid of all gambling facilities in the region. But the ministry also said the vandalism may have been perpetrated by someone who lost a lot of money gambling. Kavkazky Uzel on March 6 reported that a meeting of public groups organized by Adygeya-Khase condemned the vandalism, but also said it was provoked by the republic authorities’ inaction in closing down gambling establishments. Last year, eight gambling establishments and two of Adygeya’s 54 casinos were closed down for various infractions.

On March 5, Kavkazky Uzel quoted an unnamed eyewitness as saying that bystanders, who watched the attackers smash up one gambling establishment, had expressed approval of the vandals’ actions. Kommersant reported on March 6 that police in Maikop the previous day had broken up an unauthorized demonstration in support of those arrested for involvement in the attacks on the gambling establishments.

Meanwhile, RIA Novosti reported on March 1, that 10 people entered a casino in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, asked the patrons and guards to leave and then proceeded to smash up the gambling machines and other gambling equipment. In February, North Ossetian President Taimuraz Mamsurov introduced a bill into the republic’s parliament that would ban gambling in North Ossetia. In February 2006, three homemade bombs exploded almost simultaneously in casinos and gambling clubs in the center of Vladikavkaz, killing two people and wounding 25. The Islamist Ossetian Jamaat organization claimed responsibility for the attack (Chechnya Weekly, February 9, 2006).