The Moscow police announced today that they had detained twenty people so far for involvement in incidents yesterday that have been described by various media as “brawls” and “pogroms” and which left two people dead and twenty-two injured. According to press reports the fighting, which began at a market in Moscow’s Tsaritsyno district and then spread to other parts of the district and beyond, involved young “fascists” who targeted members of Caucasus ethnic groups and other minorities, including citizens of Armenia, India and Afghanistan. The police are investigating whether the far-right extremist group Russian National Unity (RNE) was involved in the attack given that many of those who were involved in the fighting were reportedly wearing the RNE’s swastika-like emblem.
The fighting reportedly began around 8:30 p.m. yesterday evening, when a crowd of youths aged 15 to 20 and armed with sticks and metal bars burst into a market near the Tsaritsyno metro station and attacked persons they apparently believed were from the Caucasus, including market traders. One trader died on the spot from head injuries, while another died later in the hospital. Regular police and OMON riot police were dispatched to the market and, according to eyewitnesses, were forced to fire in the air to break up the fighting, after which more than 100 youths ran to the metro and boarded a train headed toward the city center. While aboard the train, the youths attacked passengers, twelve of whom were later hospitalized. The youths, described by some eyewitnesses as “skinheads” and “football [soccer] fans,” then disembarked and attacked people near the Sevastopol Hotel, including Indians and Afghans, five of whom had to be hospitalized. Police who arrived at the hotel were also forced to fire in the air to end the fighting. A 17-year-old has been charged with murdering the Tsaritsyno market trader; others have been charged with hooliganism (Polit.ru, Gazeta.ru, October 31).
A large number of traders in Moscow markets hail from the Caucasus regions, and on a number of occasions over the last decade they have been targeted for attack by ethnic Russian organized criminal groups and ultra-nationalists, not to mention the police. Many Moscow residents charge that the capital’s markets are controlled by mafia groups from Azerbaijan, Chechnya and other Caucasus regions.
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